An Open Letter to Mark Ingram

BCS Championship Football

Mr. Ingram,

Thank you.

Your performance during the BCS Championship game should be praised.

When I speak of your performance, I’m not speaking of the yards from scrimmage, or the two-touchdowns, or even the honorable prayer thereafter each touchdown…When I speak of your performance, I am referring to the post game interview.

The reporter asked if  you were to communicate a message to your incarcerated father, what message would you communicate?

You looked directly into the camera and said:

” We did it. I love you.”…and then you sat quiet. solid. confident.    

In a world where the most eye-opening statements, emotional sound bites, and visually stimulating clips are blown out of proportion and used as news pegs for mass media outlets to retain viewers and generate revenue, you gave them no ammo.

Not a word they could twist. Not a clip they could replay and analyze. not an inkling of a doubt that the best player in college football is also a good human being.

The TV in my dorm on Howard University’s campus illuminated as the national coverage of the BCS Championship game ended, and the local coverage of ABC news in Washington DC began to air. The story of Gilbert Arenas’ banner on the side of the Washington Wizard’s Verizon Center being removed was the top headline. As his image literally got tore down, they broadcast for the world to see.

Mr. Ingram, as a great athlete, you have the great burden of being a role model in society, and you carry that burden better just as well as you carry the football.  I had to point you out as a highlight in the midst of many athletic low-lights: Tiger Woods’ infidelity, Mike Jordan’s divorce and gambling issues, and even the image of Oregon State’s Legarrette Blount punching Boise State’s Byron Hout; an image that symbolized off the 2009 NCAA Football season…until last night.

Mr. Ingram, I want to thank you for the respect you have garnished in the media field, and congratulate you  for the respect you have gained on the football field.

I can’t help but believe that life is full of deep signs hidden in shallow places. The football game is but a game, full of statistics that don’t matter to the rest of the world. But inside of jails all across America, there are statistics of Black men feeling as though they don’t matter to the rest of the world.  

My father, who I’ve never met, is also incarcerated, ironically in Alabama. I found this out 24 hours prior to watching Alabama vs. Texas game, while speaking with his younger brother for the first time in my life. My uncle told me, “If you can do one thing to help your father, it would be to come down here and show him the one thing he got right in his life: you.”

After being invited by my uncle to come see my father, and after being inspired by your message to your father, I give my word I will be Alabama bound as soon as I finish my championship game: completing my degree. 
 
With great sincerity and respect, I leave in the way that I greet: thank you.
 
Pendarvis Harshaw  
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