Football as a melting pot

Names of Pitt football players

Ok, so I am at the Georgia Tech game on Saturday. We are playing Pitt at home for the first time, well, ever! Now that they are in the ACC, I will see them every other year. My seats are right behind the visiting team’s bench so I get to look up and close at our competition.

Well, this weekend, I noticed something strange. It wasn’t how much bigger or how much smaller their team looked compared to our team. It wasn’t their uniforms or the cute punter with the nice hair (don’t all punters have nice hair?).

No, instead, I noticed their names, the ethnic diversity of football. There were some Jones’, Smith’s, Johnson’s, and Lee’s. But, there were a lot more names like Barthelemy, Bisnowaty, Caprara, Ezell, Yoklic, Giubilata, Ibrahim, Lukasak, and Voytik.

It’s not that all teams don’t have a vast mix of players of all ethnicities, races, religions, etc.,  it was just that Pitt had more than the average share of a team that plays in the South. This is not a political statement or anything like that. It was just something that stood out to me.

It reminded me of some of my first work experiences on projects in Chicago and Milwaukee and my first trips to Philly and New York where I witnessed so much more of the neighborhoods that we just don’t have in Atlanta. There are the well-known areas like Little Italy and China Town in these big Northern cities, but there are also the less-known areas where there are Polish neighborhoods, Ukrainian neighborhoods, Pakistani neighborhoods, etc.

I suppose it goes all the way back to when folks from other countries immigrated to our great country to seek the American dream. I know my great grandfather came here from the Ukraine without anything. In order to come over, he had to have proof of a place to live (usually a family member willing to take you in), a job (usually a family member willing to give you work) and $100. He ‘borrowed’ the $100 from a loan shark who he paid $1. He then was able to show the $100 to the people in charge and then he promptly returned the $100. I loved that story.

But, because of the other requirements, many immigrants came to this country and had to move where there were people they knew, could give them a place to live and a job and people who spoke their language and could help them integrate into the US. These areas became ethnic neighborhoods and they are still here and I love that. I love the sense of community that must come with the neighborhood and the sense of belonging. A place where people can enjoy their future without forgetting their past.

Since the South is just not as ‘old’ as the northeast and since more immigrants to the South were from Western Europe, we just don’t have as many of these neighborhoods that seem so unique. Anyway, I’m  no historian (as you can tell) but looking at these jerseys on Saturday just got me to thinking. I thought I’d share.

Pitt Panthers Apparel

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