Are the people of Plainfield ready to make this stop?
Danny Maranda, the senior quarterback at New London High School, managed to live the first 17 years of his life without being called "N-word lover."
Until last Friday night in Plainfield.
Many of Maranda's teammates, of varying cultures and backgrounds, said Monday they've heard plenty of racial epithets and stereotypes. Just never so overt and personal.
Until last Friday night in Plainfield.
Last Friday night in Plainfield: Two former Plainfield High School athletes, Zachary Coons and Teaque Carginan, were arrested and charged with breach of peace. Their arrests followed a postgame altercation between several Plainfield fans and New London High School football players, provoked by racial slurs, as the players walked to the team bus with little to no security.
"I really didn't expect it, because we didn't hear that kind of stuff from the players. It was the fans," Maranda said. "We were walking to the bus. I was talking to the Plainfield quarterback (Steve Jankowski) at the time. All of a sudden, it was 'Wow, what the heck is going on?'
"I was talking to my mom on the other side of the field, so I was late to get to the fight," Maranda said. "I was chasing after a kid on my team to hold him back. As I was chasing him, I heard 'N-word lover, N-word lover, N-word lover.'"
Other New London players said Monday they were called "monkeys," the N-word, "dogs" and told "to go back to our cages."
Sadly, this is nothing new in Plainfield. New London senior J. Hunter Roman said he was expecting to hear racial slurs Friday night, stemming from his experience playing in a football game at Plainfield from his sophomore year.
"We heard racist things from some of the players but mostly from the fans sophomore year," Roman said. "We were called (the N-word) and other racial slurs. Talked down upon."
Former Fitch basketball player Jamar McClellan saw the story of the Friday's incident and reached out, recalling his playing days from 10 years ago:
"The same things were being said when we played at Plainfield," McClellan said. "N-words, monkeys. What's worse, though, is there were coaches, parents and I'm sure school officials that heard them and did nothing."
Former Fitch basketball coach Tom Doyle echoed McClellan, saying Monday, "Plainfield is one of the worst crowds we ever played in front of. Jamar was about to inbound the ball. It was real quiet and all of a sudden you heard, 'look at the little black boy.' Jamar stopped. I called timeout. But nobody heard anything. I said, 'you've got to be kidding me.' One of our parents wanted to go clean out their whole side. But there's no denying it happened. None."
And so I ask the people of Plainfield: Are you ready to make this stop?
I ask the people of Plainfield: How does this make you feel? How does it make you feel to live in a town with so many segments of intolerance?
I ask the people of Plainfield: How does it make you feel, knowing high school kids come to your town and expect to hear racial slurs?
I ask the people of Plainfield: How does it make you feel, knowing the same slurs uttered 10 years ago were spewed again Friday night?
I ask the people of Plainfield: How does it make you feel, knowing you are mocked in other communities, stereotyped as a bunch of racists?
I ask the people of Plainfield to make themselves heard above the roars of intolerance. If you hear something, say something. Because I'm guessing intolerance is a learned behavior. It's like the old song from South Pacific:
"You've got to be taught to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made, and people whose skin is a diff'rent shade. You've got to be carefully taught.
"You've got to be taught before it's too late, before you are six or seven or eight, to hate all the people your relatives hate. You've got to be carefully taught."
Seems they are being taught all the wrong things.
I understand there are thousands of forward thinking, decent people who live in Plainfield. Lest a persecution complex begins, I understand intolerance doesn't end at the town borders. But the evidence suggests Plainfield leads the league.
Moreover, I ask the rest of the Eastern Connecticut Conference, particularly schools with student-athletes of varying backgrounds: Are you comfortable sending your kids to play at Plainfield, knowing there might not be adequate security available as your players walk to the bus after the game?
Plainfield High School principal Jim Worth told The Day's Colin Young on Monday that the school is examining its security procedures.
"We have police officers who do come to the games, but this is the first time we've had an incident like this in the nine years we've been in our new school," Worth said. "We were criticized in one newspaper because the buses don't pick the student-athletes up at the gate, so we're looking at all of those things.
"We are looking at our operations here to make sure we are addressing everything that we can. Any time an incident like this occurs, we look at what we can do to improve the situation and make things safer for the athletes and the fans."
New London High School principal Tommy Thompson said he's not necessarily leery about sending New London teams to Plainfield in the future, provided security measures are clearer.
"Or we'll bring our own security," Thompson said.
I hope Mr. Worth, other Plainfield administrators and town officials understand they have a problem in their town.
It needs to be addressed.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.