I’ve lived in Texas my whole life, and I’ve been to a fair number of high school football games. This year, we have season tickets because our daughter is in band. Recently, when we played a non-conference opponent, I saw something I’ve never seen on a high school gridiron—a male dancer.
A little background. This high school is located in a really bad part of San Antonio, what my father-in-law calls “Victory Fellowship territory,” after the ministry of Freddie and Ninfa Garcia, who do a lot of work with addicts. The school could not afford proper band uniforms. Everyone wore matching polo-style shirts and their own pair of khaki sorts. The clothes blended, but they didn’t exactly match. And when the dance team took the field, there were only six members. One was a guy.
“Oh, he’s gotta be good,” I thought to myself. Because in order for a boy to make a dance team in Texas in a rough part of town, he better be good.
He was beyond good. He was awesome. He was better than all the girls. I used to dance and do drill team, so I can recognize a good high kick when I see one. His kicked—.
At the same time, I had another thought running through my head. It went like this: “OhmyGod, OhmyGod, OhmyGod, OhmyGod, OhmyGod.” And you can fault me if you want to, but it was a prayer. A prayer that no one on my side of the field would say anything mean about this young man.
We were sitting in the reserved seating section, but I still worried about the people around us: men, women, parents and grandparents who might not have a high opinion of a teenage boy who danced. I worried about the student section, where I refused to turn my head to look too closely because I didn’t want to see a sneer, a point, even a chuckle. My husband, who is tall and was standing on the top row, did look, mainly to see if anyone related to us was saying anything inappropriate. (They weren’t.)
There was a moment when the dance team dropped down into the splits. The young man dropped right down, too, all the way, in one swift, perfect movement. A collective cry of pain—“Oh!”—went up from some males in the front row.
“Oh!” is OK.
I thought of the musical “Billy Elliot,” even though I’ve never seen it. It’s one I want to see, about a British boy with a talent for ballet and a miner father who is on strike. I don’t know how this kid’s background compares to Billy Elliot’s. I don’t know if there was teasing that I didn’t hear. I don’t know if he gets bullied at school. I don’t know if, like Billy, he can throw a good punch.
But I know that every Friday night in Texas, he steps onto a football field and dances. And he’s really good.