Friday, July 6, 2018

Books: "All The Dreams We've Dreamed" On Chicago Hoops

All the Dreams We've Dreamed: A Story of Hoops and Handguns on Chicago's West Side
By Rus Bradburd
Chicago Review Press, 288 pages, $26.99

As a graduate of Marshall High School and a former member of its storied men's basketball team, Shawn Harrington was excited to return to the school, located in Chicago's Garfield Park neighborhood, as an assistant coach.

Harrington was a talented point guard while a student at Marshall, and appeared in the iconic basketball documentary film "Hoop Dreams." His mother had dreamed of getting Shawn "far away from Chicago" and its gangs and gun violence. When he received a scholarship to play college ball at New Mexico State, it seemed he was well on his way to beating the odds of his circumstances.

The birth of his daughter brought him back to Chicago, and Shawn found a way to return to the school and pay it forward in his role as an assistant coach.

In January of 2014, Marshall’s struggling team was about to improve after the addition of a charismatic but troubled player. Everything changed, however, when two young men opened fire on Harrington’s car as he drove his daughter to school. Using his body to shield her, Harrington was struck and paralyzed.

Shawn Harrington.
The mistaken-identity shooting was followed by a series of events that had a devastating impact on Harrington and Marshall’s basketball family. Over the next three years, as a shocking number of players were murdered, it became obvious that the dream of the game providing a better life had nearly dissolved.

All the Dreams We've Dreamed is a true story of courage, endurance, and friendship in one of America's most violent neighborhoods.

Author Rus Bradburd, who coached Chicago high schools and 14 years in college at UTEP and New Mexico State, has an intimate forty-year relationship to Chicago basketball and a longstanding friendship with Shawn Harrington.

Bradburd tells Shawn’s story with empathy and care, exploring the intertwined tragedies of gun violence, health care failure, racial assumptions, struggling educational systems, union apathy, corruption in athletics—and the hope that can survive them all.

Here, Bradburd writes of visiting his mother while recruiting him to play for New Mexico State, "I had an appointment to visit Frinda Harrington, Shawn's mother, later that day. When I met him the next week in Missouri, I could use all this as leverage, emphasize that I was the first one principled enough to spend time with his mother and high school coach.

"Frinda Harrington lived on the block of 1100 North Kendrick, in an area known unofficially as K-Town because of the street names: Kildare, Keeler, Karlov, Kilbourn. Technically, the block is now considered West Humboldt Park, but it sits near the border of three other neighborhoods: West Garfield Park, East Garfield Park, and Humboldt Park. Real estate agents rename neighborhoods for their own benefit, so parsing out the boundaries can be confusing. Shawn says nobody ever called it anything but Garfield Park or just the West Side. Much of the area is known for its poverty and violence (and exceptional basketball) but the Harrington's block was relatively stable.

"Shawn was Frinda's only child. She was also a Marshall graduate, and his closest relatives had gone to Marshall as well, which still had around twenty-five hundred students when his mother graduated. So deep was Shawn's connection to the school that he had actually been there before he was born. Frinda was pregnant as a senior.

"Frinda was petite, and she had a welcoming smile. In my experience, the majority of urban black recruits were raised by single moms, and this was true for Shawn. Frinda made no mention of Shawn's father, and I didn't ask. She offered a choice between strawberry and grape soda and set out a bowl of potato chips. A good sign, I thought, and a welcome surprise. What was unsurprising was Frinda's indifferent-yet-opinionated stance on her son's college recruitment. She seemed to be reading from the same script as nearly every other Chicago mother I'd meet over my fourteen years as a college coach.

"'I don't care which school he goes to,' she told me, 'just as long as it's far away from Chicago.' Far away from Chicago, she said over and over that day.

"The visit with Shawn's mother left me feeling confident as long as I was able to tune out my memory of (Marshall High School Head Coach) Luther Bedford's manner. As always, I'd brought along a souvenir media guide, which featured a map on the last page. I showed her the expansive distance between Las Cruces, New Mexico, and her town. She seemed disinterested in our winning team, overflow crowds, sunny weather, ESPN Big Monday TV contracts, or even our graduation rates and tutoring structure. What got her attention was that her son would be safe, a world away from Chicago's West Side."

All the Dreams We've Dreamed is an incredible read for basketball fans, but also people interested in studying society, and what it's like for those in Chicago trying to do good.

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