The party, that night she kicked off her shoes, was a celebration in a couple of ways. First, Hamilton had beaten neighboring Crenshaw High in football, and second, Moon, the Hamilton quarterback, was still alive. There had been a death threat during the week. A Crenshaw player had told Felicia that if Hamilton won, Moon was going to be killed. Simple as that. In other places on the national high school map, this perhaps could be dismissed as pregame trash talk. But in L.A. in 1973 the gangs had begun their lethal rise—the Crips and the Bloods and all the rest—and this Crenshaw player was a known gang member. When he talked, it paid to listen.
Moon, for one, had listened. Felicia pointed out the guy on the street, and Moon went straight for him. Felicia thought there would be trouble, a fight. Moon put out his hand to shake. "Hi," he said. "I'm Warren Moon. Good luck on Friday night." So different. Following a sensible discussion with the Crenshaw player, he had nevertheless sensibly informed his mother, his coach and the appropriate authorities, and then he proceeded to play the game in which he sensibly cleaned Crenshaw's clock.
Now there was the victory party. Felicia danced and Moon danced, and at some point in the festivities, some kids from Crenshaw arrived. Moon stopped dancing. Were they here for him? No. A Hamilton kid was dancing with a Crenshaw kid's girl, and as the fight began, as the kid from Crenshaw grabbed a lamp and swung it at the Hamilton kid's head, Moon grabbed Felicia's hand and pulled her out the front door. He started running down the street and she ran with him, and when the sound of pistol shots came from the house, Moon and Felicia dived to the sidewalk together.
"My shoes," she said. "They're still back there."
"I told you not to take off your shoes," he said. "Maybe now you'll learn."
Daddy. Daddy Warren. She never saw the shoes again and never went to another party for the rest of the season. Daddy Warren wouldn't allow it.
He is the father. Always the father....
This was not a normal postgame moment in a locker room. The son was crying, and the father had fathering work to do. The newly enriched quarterback of the Houston Oilers, the All-Pro, had to conduct an extemporaneous lesson on racism. The night was Dec. 2, 1991, or maybe it was the early morning of Dec. 3. Whatever. The Oilers had lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 13-6. The week before, he had thrown five interceptions against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The quarterback was married now to Felicia, and they had four children. Joshua, 9, was the oldest. He was sitting in the stands with his mother at the Astrodome, and the crowd became ugly. The quarterback was on the verge of signing a five-year contract extension, and the news was public. The Oilers could not cross the goal line, and the boos increased. The words became nastier. On the way out of the stands, Joshua heard a man say, "I can't believe they gave that——nigger $14.3 million." Joshua had never heard the second bad word before. He wasn't really sure what it all meant, but he knew it was bad.
His father had to explain. There were cameras in the room. There were reporters. It was the worst possible situation in which to talk about deep and disturbing subjects, but that did not matter.
"I am the type of person who confronts things when they arise," Moon says now. "This was something to confront."