Matthew Davis Mongolia 2000–02) writes . . .
IN ORDER TO SURVIVE, Gallaudet University has to blend a diverse student body from very different backgrounds: Deaf Culture and Hearing Culture. Can football players show the school how?
The homecoming game falls on a brilliant, unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon in late October 2016. The sun streams through the multicolored leaves of oak trees and dapples thousands of alumni and fans in patches of light and shade. Pop-up booths have been erected behind the football stadium: The Class of 2019 is selling crepes; the Class of 1992 is selling T-shirts; writers for the student newspaper, The Buff and Blue, are hawking the latest issue. Little kids terrorize the person dressed as the school mascot, a bison, by pulling his tail and then squealing in delight. The smells of fraternities grilling cheeseburgers waft through the air. Previous classes gather in anticipation of their march around the track, where they will be honored for their fifth, 10th, or 25th class reunion. Despite all the enthusiastic activity, everything is just a bit quieter than you might expect, like the volume has been turned down a notch or two.
The crowd raises their hands and shakes them in the air, applause in American Sign Language, and the Gallaudet University Bison, the country’s only college football team for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, takes the field for the opening kickoff.
Matthew Davis is an Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fellow at New America, where he is working on a book about the Gallaudet football program and deaf identity. He is the founding director of the Alan Cheuse International Writers Center at George Mason University. He is the author of, When Things Get Dark: A Mongolian Winter’s Tale, which won our 2011 Peace Corps Experience Award.