Football, Fear and Family in Florida
The unemployment rate in Belle Glade, Fla. varies between 25 and 40 percent. In the 1980s, it had a sky-high HIV infection rate. Belle Glade, known as Muck City for the drained Everglades soil where sugar cane flourishes, has also turned out 30 professional football players from its high school since 1985. Austin author Bryan Mealer followed the Glades Central Raiders during the 2010 season in pursuit of another state championship. Former Raider and NFL star Jessie Hester coached the team. Mealer talked with KUT’s Jennifer Stayton about the book, including how segregation and migrant culture contributed to the football phenomenon in the city.
One year the Heinz Co. started going to the South and recruiting these high school kids to go pick vegetables up north. The coach for the Lakeshore Bobcats said that, if my guys are going to go away anyway, I might as well have them go together. He signed the whole team up, and they went out into Michigan and started picking vegetables, and they began this thing where they’d practice football in the afternoons as a team, and work during the days, picking cucumbers and such, and they came back and had this championship team. So football became very important around that time.
Click on the player above to hear the full interview. Mealer will appear at BookPeople in Austin tonight at 7.