Captain Nelson

After the game, his Pulaski soccer teammates refuse to shake hands with the opposing team.  Infuriated by what they see as the ref’s racist calls, his tolerance of violence from the suburban team and his overreaction to their simply defending themselves, the Pulaski team, mostly Latino, stalks off the field to their bench where they pull on their sweats and begin to pack up their bags.

Captain Nelson stays on the field.  He is tall, brown, and very thin, his dark hair is curly with sweat; he is differentiated from his team mates only by the name Snyder on the back of his jersey. Captain Nelson walks over to the other team, lined up next to their coach, and shakes hands with each player, explaining that his team mates can be hotheads but are basically good sports.  He leaves the field, walking with his head down to his team’s bench where the other players are gathering their equipment to leave the field.

A police squad pulls up on the track surrounding the soccer field while the suburban parents form a line of defense to protect their sons who are leaving the field.  The Pulaski team watches from across the field in disbelief, obviously surprised and insulted.  Told by the ref to allow the other team to exit first, the players begin to pace and complain and their angry voices can be heard across the field in the visitors’ bleachers.

Slowly the Pulaski players hoist their gym bags over their shoulders and begin to move across the field.  Led by the angriest players, the team begins a slow deliberate walk, forming a phalanx of young Latino men that includes Captain Nelson on the end, his eyes on the ground.


This was written in 2003 for the first assignment in a writing class. The episode was pretty fresh in my mind, watching my Nicaraguan son with his Latino teammates play their best on a suburban field where, at that time, they were clearly not welcome.

Photo by Connor Coyne on Unsplash

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