California School for the Deaf: Losers?  Not Any More

By Shlomo Maital

    Do you like underdog stories? I do. 

    Here’s a good one, by Thomas Fuller, in today’s New York Times – about a high school football team of deaf kids,  mocked, 7 losing seasons, until this year – when they are scoring as many as 84 points – with second-stringers playing the second half of the game!

    It is the California School for the Deaf, Riverside.   Here is what Fuller has to say about them:

RIVERSIDE, Calif — The athletic program at the California School for the Deaf, Riverside, has suffered its share of humiliations and harassment over the years. There was the time that a visiting team’s volleyball coach mocked the deaf players. And another time a hearing coach for the girls basketball team listened as opponents discussed how embarrassing it would be to lose to a deaf team.  It did not help morale that the varsity football team, the Cubs, recently suffered seven straight losing seasons, leaving the school with the sinking feeling that opposing football teams came to the Riverside campus expecting an easy win.   No one is disparaging the Cubs anymore. This season, they are undefeated — the highest ranked team in their Southern California division. Through 11 games, they have not so much beaten their opponents as flattened them. On Friday night, the second round of the playoffs, the Cubs trounced the Desert Christian Knights, 84-12, a score that would have been even more lopsided had the Cubs not shown mercy by putting their second-string players in for the entire second half.”

Two more wins – and they win their league championship!

      And what is their secret?   Communication!   There are no huddles.  All communication is done in sign language.  Opponents, of course, don’t decode it.  It is very rapid.  And very thorough – not only does the quarterback call a play, but other players quickly communicate too, in a way that the opposing team cannot read or intercept.  And of course, talent – many of the deaf players have played together for years; some suffered humiliation in trying to play with hearing players, at the hands of Neanderthal coaches – and now, united with non-hearing teammates, they thrive. 

    Trevin Adams, the Cubs’ quarterback with long brown hair, said playing with fellow deaf teammates is liberating and has fueled the team’s winning chemistry.

    Fuller concludes:  “We can express ourselves completely,” said Trevin, a junior who is Coach Adams’s son. “We can be leaders. We can be assertive.’  When he was younger, Trevin played in a league with hearing people.    “That just felt like a team,” he said.  “This feels more like a brotherhood.”