Almost nobody yells for my favorite football team. Their coaches never give them a single encouraging word. Their cheerleaders rarely make a peep.
That's because my favorite football team is California School for the Deaf at Riverside, which is 9-1 and plays like a light-rail train. The Cubs are fast, noiseless, and you definitely don't want to get hit by them.
Only when they celebrate do they get noisy. CSDR won the San Joaquin League title last week for the first time in the school's 51-year history, and the players partied by slamming into one another, waving their hands like Al Jolson and turning the bass up on 50 Cent one crank past WINDOWS SHATTER and dancing madly to the vibrations.
"Teams really hate to lose to us because they think we're a handicapped team," signs coach Len Gonzales, who is deaf too, as is his coaching staff. "But we're not handicapped. We just can't hear."
They sure put up some loud scores. Last Friday CSDR thumped Twin Pines High from Banning, Calif., 34-8. It was so bad, Pines asked for a running clock in the fourth quarter. Said their coach, Jim Bridgman, without irony, "They do all their talking on the field." Uh, Coach? They don't do their talking anywhere.
Oh, well, that's not the dumbest thing anybody said that day. The dumbest thing was said by me, seeing the big bass drum CSDR uses to send instructions in warmups and asking, "Do you have a band?"
No, but they do have cheerleaders, who dance perfect routines on the sidelines to music only they can hear, while their crowd applauds with jazz hands. Hell, last season in Hawaii they won a competition in which CSDR was the only deaf school entered. "The good thing about being a group of deaf cheerleaders," says their coach, Stacy Hausman, "is that if the music cuts out, we just keep going."
There are advantages to being a deaf football team too. The receivers don't hear footsteps. There are no coaches screaming. And you don't have to listen to local sports-talk yokels rip you when you lose.
Oh, and there's this: When CSDR quarterback Mark Korn got creamed near the sideline in the first quarter, the Twin Pines defender came up jawing, "All day, baby! All day!" Korn just flipped the ball to the ref without a glance. Damn. Nothing deflates a trash talker like a deaf ear.
Up in the stands Korn's deaf mother, Wendy, was talking to another mom, who hears. "Oh, I hate hearing those terrible hits," the mom signed to Mrs. Korn. "I get so worried they're going to get hurt." Mrs. Korn's face fell like a bad souffl�. "You can hear the tackles?" she signed back. "I really didn't want to hear that."