Bronchitis, DC, DMV, Duquesne University College of Education, Fear of a "Black" America, Pneumonia, Presidential Classroom, Silver Spring Maryland, Sleep Deprivation, Uninsured, Washington DC, Work Ethic Mythology
This summer marks 20 years since me and my wife of now more than 19 years moved down to the DC area, specifically Silver Spring. I had visited and lived in the DMV and in the Shepherd Park neighborhood in DC in the years between 1992 and 1997, mostly to visit friends like Laurell or Marya, for previous job searches, or to do my dissertation research. I lived in DC in 1995 for two months, between February and April 1995.
But other than a few days here and there, I hadn’t experienced the full onslaught of a DC summer until the summer of transition from Pittsburgh to DC and Silver Spring in 1999. I’d just accepted Presidential Classroom’s offer for the full-time gig as their Director of Curriculum, but was still obligated to teach my summer grad course in History of American Education at Duquesne University. Part of my obligation upon saying yes to the Presidential Classroom job was spending a week in DC with the high school students and with their instructors for the week, going around town to the key events of a week of civic education in Washington. It made sense that I would need to see programming at ground level before working on the curriculum and any new ideas I might have to improve it.
Although it made sense in theory, in reality, the job was a test of how well I’d perform with serious sleep deprivation and center-right White folk as my constant companions. I cleared my schedule in mid-June to be one of the instructors with the students. I should have cleared my lungs and sinuses for this part of my new gig as well.
I already knew from previous visits and stays that DC flora caused me some serious allergic reactions. In May 1994, I couldn’t breathe for five days, my nose was that stopped up. This was and remains the land of drained swamps and marches, after all.
Between that and a group of government workers turned barely trained instructors who went on benders night after night, I didn’t sleep. Between sinus issues and corn-fed high school juniors and seniors looking to make out and hook up in violation of the curfew during the week, I couldn’t sleep. Did I also mention instructors had to share a room? It was a small hotel room at the Georgetown University Medical Center Marriott. My roomie’s snoring made my own seem like I wasn’t breathing at all. I doubt if I averaged five hours of sleep per night that first week.
While going between sweating on the mall or in line at the Capitol or at the White House in 95 or 99-degree heat and being blasted with bus and Georgetown’s air conditioning, I picked up a head cold. Hanging out on the next-to-last night with the other instructors until 2 am didn’t help. Nor did chaperoning the farewell dance until 5 am the next night.
My head cold died down as I moved into my own room for a couple of days while going around town to find a place for me and my then fiancee to live once my Duquesne course ended and we could pack up to leave Pittsburgh. But it didn’t quite go away. I started to cough, sometimes out of nowhere and for no particular reason. On Wednesday before I had to leave to go back to the ‘Burgh to teach and begin the wind-down process for moving, I found a nice luxury apartment just over the DC border in Silver Spring. It was the so nice it made me want to cry. The staff seemed wonderful, if overdressed for daytime and maybe not quite there detail-wise. But I know I sounded like shit that triple-H afternoon.
It didn’t get any better the rest of the summer. I taught for five weeks with aches, chills, and a window-rattling cough that would stop my lectures for at least two minutes at a time while I waited for the coughing fit to subside. I have no idea what my students thought. That summer, I had a soon-to-be mainstream Black actor who talked way too much and a bunch of future and in-service teachers in that class. Really, they were probably more concerned about earning A’s than whether I passed out in the middle of class.
It occurred to me that I might have asthma, and that the cold I caught in DC had severely exacerbated it. Maybe I would’ve gone to see a doctor, that was, if I had any health insurance. Bronchitis, though, was far from my mind.
I assumed that all I needed to do was rest. But who could rest with a move coming up, starting a new job, turning in grades after grading papers, signing leases, buying engagement rings, and finding an agent for Fear of a “Black” America? That was my July and August 1999 when I wasn’t in the classroom earning my hacker’s license.
So I muddled through the heat of my fiancee’s apartment, the cold of Duquesne’s classrooms, the humidity of the DMV, the exertion of packing and moving boxes, and so many other things that summer. By the time I started working in the office at Presidential Classroom in Alexandria the third week in August, I was sucking Halls lozenges like they were orange-cream popsicles and I was six years old again.
Then, my future wife intervened. She correctly guessed that I had bronchitis and that I was on the verge of pneumonia. “You are not leaving this apartment! You are not getting out of bed!,” she said to me when I came home from work at the start of Labor Day Weekend. I didn’t have the energy to fight her, although I did whine, “What about our dinner plans?” somewhere in her bossing me around.
Well, I did leave the bed that three-day weekend, to go to the bathroom and to watch Tiger Woods win yet another tournament. Otherwise, hot soups, hot water, no air conditioning (my partner kept it off for me that weekend), VapoRub, a ton of Benadryl and Advil and NyQuil and Theraflu. Between Saturday night and Monday afternoon, I regularly coughed up the yellowest and greenest mucus I’d ever seen come out my body. My significant other would go, “Yuuuccckkk!” every time I showed her the concoction of sickness my lungs pushed out. In my head, I agreed.
I literally could have died 20 years ago. Seriously. Bronchitis and pneumonia are serious illnesses, even for the relatively healthy 29-year-old I was in 1999. The lack of health insurance and a single-minded commitment to getting out of Pittsburgh and academia, to finding a real job, made me sick. I was a half-dead man walking in August 1999. Another month like that could have killed me.
I meant to write about this a month ago, but after the Toronto Raptors’ not-so-surprising Game 6 win against the Milwaukee Bucks to make it to the NBA Finals for the first time, it’s still relevant. Last month made 20 years since the last time I’ve been north of the border (but not in Alaska, as I was in 2001). Last month was also the 28th anniversary of me finishing my bachelor’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh, and the subsequent decision to spend my first post-baccalaureate summer in Pittsburgh working and securing funding for my first year of graduate school. April 20 also marked two decades since Columbine, something that was very much on my mind during that Toronto trip and presentation at OAH there in 1999.
I can say that there are only a handful of times in my life since the end of first grade and being sexually assaulted in the summer of ’76 that I have felt “free.” By that, I mean free from the toxicity that is the US, on race, on gender, on class, on religion, on family, on friendships, on breathing, on eating, on walking, on daydreaming, on talking, on being contemplative, on laughing, on merely being myself. Those five days in Toronto to present my research on multiculturalism, to meet up with a couple of friends, to hang out in different neighborhoods and catch their subway. That was one of those times. Maybe the six months my Mom and my deceased idiot ex-stepfather Maurice spent separated between October 2, 1980 and April 13, 1981 was one of those times. Certainly when I proposed to my wife and then moved to DC and Silver Spring later on in 1999 was another. And, how can I forget the sheer ecstasy of watching my son emerge from my wife’s womb in 2003 at Sibley Hospital?
But while all of those and more experiences brought happiness, even orgasmic joy, I’ve spent more than 40 years of nearly 50 looking over my shoulder. In the back of my mind, the idea that the other shoe’s going to drop is never that far away. Even with the lack of American toxicity during my times in Toronto, I knew that this cosmopolitan city had its own unique edge. This despite the poutine, maple syrup, and Molson’s.
Plus, even with going to vegan restaurants, confirming my 1994 research on public housing policies in Toronto, seeing the diversity and freedom of movement sans the gaze of American Whites, it was still a very White city. And that Canadian Whiteness left room for a different (or really, indifferent) kind of gaze. It meant dealing with questions about Columbine and gun violence as if I could explain the actions of narcissistic White males steeped in patriarchy and entitlement. It meant remembering in subtle ways that while Canadians I met were both far nicer and kinder than most Whites in the US, they were still White. And Whiteness, like Arya Stark’s many-faced god, takes numerous forms.
I was free in ways that I couldn’t have been in the States. I walked in White neighborhoods without police following me around. I noticed how most folks didn’t lock their doors at night. I sensed that no one looked over their shoulders for a mugger. Everything was written in metric-system English, which I was happy to use in real life for the first time. It was just different, as if White Canadians hadn’t spent four centuries sitting around and figuring out even more ways to grind down Black people. I sensed that this wasn’t the case with White Canadians and First Nation tribes, though.
I didn’t feel anywhere near this free when I graduated with Degree #1 in April 1991. The immediate need of reporting to my $5.20 per hour job at Western Psych, three weeks of starvation, and the miracle that Dr. Jack Daniel performed meant that I was pensive and then relieved by May 26. I knew more twists and turns awaited me.
I want to visit again, this time with my son, and hopefully before the Fall Semester begins. I want him to see Caribana there, to breathe freer air, and to get away from the Lower 48, if only for a few days. But that’s not all. I want him to go overseas, to visit South Africa, and Nigeria, and Tanzania, and Ghana, and Mali, to see himself in everyone around him.
As for the Raptors, congrats on drudging your way to the Finals! Your organization is finally free to play for an NBA title. With Kawhi Leonard, I wouldn’t bet against you. But I’m not exactly rooting for you, either. Know that win or lose, I love your city, and the questions about freedom that it generates for me.
There are so many things I could think about regarding my cosmic jump into independent adulthood in the fall of 1988. The five days of homelessness, almost ending college for me right at the start of my sophomore year at the University of Pittsburgh. The nearly three months of financial crises that followed, including six weeks of giving plasma to Sera-Tec for an extra $25 per week (it left a scar in my right elbow-bend vein that most medical professionals interpreted as me having been a drug user — talk about racism and assumptions!). The end of my eating things like tuna fish sandwiches and pork neck bones and rice, and drinking grape Kool-Aid. My changing my major from computer science to history, to my mom’s disapproval.
But another way to look at my journey would be to look at the two items in my life that survived that fall. A red beach bath towel, and an EKCO steak knife. The towel I bought on Labor Day 1988, after my Mets beat the Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium. Darryl Strawberry hit two home runs that game, after a thirty-minute rain delay, in which the upper deck folks dumped beers on some of us (not me, though) in one of the mezzanine sections behind the wall in left center field.
I had walked the four miles or so between where I lived in South Oakland (off Bayard Street and Welsford Avenue) to the stadium, getting rained on along the way. On my way back, I noticed the Downtown Kauffman’s was still open for its Labor Day sale. I went in and walked around for twenty minutes, mostly to longingly look at all the things I couldn’t afford. But I did know to go into the baths section, and saw that the beach towels were on sale for $17.99.
I thought about buying a wash cloth, but after rent and the game, I only had $50 on me at the time, and no bank account or credit cards. I thought about buying an “in-between wash cloth,” which was what I called hand towels back then (I thought they were bigger towels for people with bigger hands, like me!). It would be a few days before I got my refund money from Pitt, but I knew I was in need of a shower after the homelessness ordeal and the Pirates game.
I bought the towel, and spend the rest of the fall using it for everything. Especially after that second Friday in September, when Pitt, after deducting nearly $900 of my refund for last year’s room and board charges. After accounting for my books, I had $205 left to work with for at least the next two months.
So I budgeted down to the penny. After I cashed my refund at Pittsburgh National Bank, I went downtown to Ralph’s Discount Store, across from Kauffman’s. I bought a Sony Walkman on sale for $55, the most I’d spend on anything other than rent for the next two and a half months. I then caught a bus back to Oakland, and went to the South Oakland Giant Eagle (yes, post-millennials, South Oakland used to have its own Giant Eagle, on Forbes Avenue, where CVS and Jimmy Johns are today). That’s where I bought an orange creamsicle plastic plate, a soup spoon, a dinner fork, and that EKCO steak knife, for something like eight or nine dollars. That would have to do.
My red towel did the work of two tea towels, a wash cloth, a hand towel, a half roll of paper towels, and a dozen napkins every week through the end of 1988. I’d shower with it, of course. But I also used a corner of it for washing up. If I made a heavy dinner, like spaghetti and meat sauce (with a pot and iron skillet I saved from my freshman year), I used the towel to dry my pot, pan, dish, and utensils. It was my go-to for everything. I had to wash it every week, because how I was using the towel back then was nothing short of disgusting.
I finally bought two wash cloths and a hand towel in 1989. But the red towel remained my one and only bathing towel. I didn’t buy a second one until the summer of 1994.
After that, my reliance on old reliable declined. Once I moved in with my eventual wife at the end of 1998, my red towel became part of a rotation. It still had enough heft to be reasonably good at drying me off from a shower. It had shrunk a bit from its original 30″ x 54″ size, though. By now, I would have gotten rid of it. But my red towel reminded me so much of what I had overcome. It was my tangible link to an unbelievably shaky past.
My red towel got more use when my son hit school age in 2008. For the next nine years, Noah would use the towel for showers and baths. A “Made in the U.S.A.” towel manufactured during Reagan’s last year in office was still in use in the age of Obama, and my son, born in the early 2000s, was the one using it! Life is funny.
Now sad and worn to the thickness of cheesecloth, part of me knows the red towel is no longer of any use. I mean, I still use the EKCO knife, mostly for cleaning and cutting up chicken. I’m not sure the red towel could dry the baby version of Noah anymore. But it doesn’t matter. Because it was there for me when I needed it the most.
Of all my Independence Days growing up, two stand out above the rest. One was Friday, July 4, 1986. It was the grand re-opening of the Statue of Liberty, courtesy of one-time Chrysler head Lee Iacocca and The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, which had raised hundreds of millions to restore both symbols of American inclusion (via European immigrants, at least) to museum-quality glory.
Not so for me. I took my older brother Darren, and my then near-seven year-old brother Maurice and nearly five year-old brother Yiscoc to Shea Stadium to watch the Mets play. It was either a 1:05 pm or 1:35 pm start, I don’t remember. It was a beautiful eighty-five degree afternoon, beautiful because it wasn’t particularly humid, and there were no storm clouds to be found that Friday. Dwight Gooden was on the mound for the Mets, starting against the all-time great Nolan Ryan. It was built up to be a duel, and it was.
Keith Hernandez drove in a run in the first, and that was it until the top of the seventh inning, when Dr. K gave up a home run to Kevin Bass. Other than that, fly balls, walks, double-plays, and strikeouts were the order of the day. Lenny Dykstra drove in the game-winning run with a double to right-center field at the bottom of the seventh inning off of a reliever, as Ryan was out after beginning the bottom of the sixth giving up a walk and a hit. Despite giving up five walks and only striking out four, Gooden got a complete-game, 2-1 win, and 30,000 saw the Mets go to 54-21, well on their way toward their World Series title for 1986.
But that day was so much better with three of my brothers there, away from 616 and Mount Vernon, hanging out, without an adult to supervise, or rather, abuse us in some way. It was one of the first times I actually felt like a fully responsible adult. I took the four of us down to the city on Metro-North at the Pelham stop, rode into grimy Grand Central, took the Shuttle train to Times Square, and then the 7 Subway to Shea. Maurice and Yiscoc were so enamored with the trains and the city that it seemed all they did was stare out at skyscrapers and out of train windows when we weren’t at the game. Darren, though mostly quiet, at least wasn’t staring off into space plotting some revenge on me for my “5” on the AP US History Exam while doing the Wave.
It was so cheap to do what we did that day. The four upper-deck, slightly left-of-home plate tickets we bought cost $4 each, but each hot dog was $3, and the sodas were $2. apiece Given my $3.40-per-hour job with Technisort, though, the $50 excursion wasn’t so cheap that I wasn’t thinking about sneaking a Sabrett hot dog from a street vendor in before we got to the stadium. To be sure, the hot dogs at Shea were better than my usual fare on the street or at Gray’s Papaya.
It was probably the best day I had during my Boy @ The Window years. There were others to be sure, especially in 1986, including my Mets winning the World Series that October and my AP US History exam results. But on this day, I was with innocent family members, watching my favorite team and one of my favorite players. I was lost in the humongous human mob of New York on a double-whammy of an Independence Day weekend. I slept well that evening, knowing that I’d drawn a 10 am-2 pm shift that Saturday. I planned on buying a new Walkman at the Cross County Mall in Yonkers that afternoon. A normal three-day weekend for many sixteen-year-olds was a small eye-wall in the chaotic hurricane that was my life back then.
Contrast this with Wednesday, July 4th, 1979. My mom’s friend Mrs. Ralph was hosting a 4th of July party at her house off Wilson’s Woods in Mount Vernon, with kids included. She had hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill, tons of ice cream and drinks, and an ice cream cake to top it all off.
I just couldn’t help myself. I became a nine-year-old version of Pac-Man. I devoured two hamburgers and two hot dogs, had some red drink, and a slice or two of the vanilla ice cream cake. All within the first half-hour of us getting to Ms. Ralph’s house.
I couldn’t have been higher if they had injected me with heroin and then had me snort some Oxycodone. I was running around the house and laughing for no reason whatsoever, my older brother Darren staring at me like I was an alien. My mom had grabbed me by my shoulders at one point. “Stop acting up!” she said.
But I didn’t stop. At least not until I ran into one of Ms. Ralph’s dividers in her living room, knocking it down along with some half-empty cups and plates on an adjacent table.
My mom took off one of her square-heeled flats and proceeded to beat my ass with it for the next minute, in front of a crowd of twenty or twenty-five guests. The ass-whuppin’ hurt, of course. The fact that it was a public one hurt even more. I was crying well after the party went back to normal. Ms. Ralph, though, came over to me later, reminded me that what I did was wrong, and then gave me a hug and told me that she loved me.
Looking back, I definitely deserved some punishment, maybe even an ass-whuppin’. The public spectacle and the shoe was probably a bit excessive. Was it a good day? No. But it was a day that made the 4th of July 1986 and so many other days easier to appreciate and savor.
If my 25 year-old self and my 48 year-old self met in the same hotel bar on Rolling Rock Beer and Wings night in Pittsburgh, Buffalo, or Cleveland, they would have so much in common (or explode space-time). But they would have one hell of a disagreement about the quality, purpose, and feeling of being a sports fanatic. We’d both be ex-baseball fans, courtesy of the sports’ over-inflated view of itself, its long history of racism, exclusion, and paternalism, and George Will’s ludicrous books on America’s so-called pastime. We’d both watch NBA basketball, NHL hockey, a fútbol match or a tennis tournament or a golf major here and there. But the reasons for watching, the rationale for whom to root for and why, the purpose for either of us to indulge in such athletic delights? We would be at an obtuse angle, at least 120 degrees apart.
My history of sports fandom began pretty much in middle school, even though I’d been exposed to all of New York’s underdog teams from the womb. Mets, Jets, and Knicks (Mom still doesn’t watch or understand hockey, by the way) were her teams by the time she and my dad conceived me. But me being me, I reinvented the wheel between the end of ’81 and the spring of ’84. I watched/listened to Yankees and Mets games, as well as the Knicks and Nets, the Islanders, Rangers, and Devils, and the Jets and Giants.
I picked my childhood teams based on low expectations, the balance between them being underdogs and being doormats, the players I’d most likely would want to emulate if I ever wanted to be a professional athlete. And, mostly important, based on that team’s ability to help me forget about all that was wrong in my world, for at least three hours per day (in baseball), or six hours a week (between the other sports combined).
That gradually began to change once my teams started winning championships, or at least, regularly competing for them. The change accelerated once I left the New York area for Pittsburgh and its Western Pennsylvania ways. Between my Mets winning a World Series and my Giants winning two Super Bowls between ’86 and ’91, I found myself no longer a fan of hometown underdog teams. Sports weren’t an escape from my reality anymore. Especially as I began regularly working out and playing sports myself.
But I still saw sports fandom as a good thing, something that could unite people and cross the barriers of racism, classism, and even sexism (depending on the sport). That was my next phase of fandom, beginning around ’93. This view was what fueled my divorce from baseball after the ’94 MLB strike and lockout, and what caused me to begin watching more golf and international soccer, and not just falling asleep to it.
I still rooted for my Giants, Rangers, and especially the Knickerbockers. Too bad only the Rangers broke through in the ’90s, although the Knicks had their chances between ’93 and ’99. With living in Pittsburgh, though, I also began to cheer for the Steelers, the Penguins (except when they played the Rangers), and sometimes the Pirates.
But even in this phase of my fandom, I recognized the basic truth. I was cheering for athletes and their talent and will to shine in competition. That they happened to be a linebacker for the Giants or a pitcher for the Mets was a bonus, but I would’ve enjoyed their talent on other teams and in other athletic contexts anyway. I recognized this already with Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield in the ’80s, and I saw another glimpse of it in ’96, when Dwight Gooden, at this point with the Yankees, finally threw a no-hitter. I wasn’t even a baseball fan anymore, but I was so happy for the diminished Gooden to achieve this feat.
I think that’s why I started rooting for Venus (who does not get nearly enough credit for being an elite athlete and tennis player) and Serena Williams, Tiger Woods, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, and so many others while they were still in their teens. I’m sure that’s why I stopped putting up with cockamamie excuses from other fans about too much money in professional sports, about free agency, about the difficulties of running a franchise, when I’d see the same teams losing year after year. It didn’t help that the athletes I rooted for growing up or in the ’90s began to retire, often with a vocal and unappreciative fan base trying to shove them out to door.
Most importantly, I saw the greed and narcissism and conservative politics and racism and misogyny and homophobia that is embedded in the ownership of teams and in the building of franchises. That sports are no more divorced from the politics and malignancies in society than our choices in food and clothing, or the decision of most Americans to berate the poor for their poverty. That sports teams and franchises are about as “clean” and “merit-based” as legacies in college admissions (the ultimate form of affirmative action) and the American election process at any and all levels. Despite this, a hundred million people still entertain this naive view that sports fandom is an essential good, a form of escape, a place for camaraderie. It is not. It’s escapism, a form a narcissism that allows millions to feel a bit better about their lives without doing anything to change their lives and the lives of untold others for the better.
Maybe my jadedness comes from nearly two decades in the DC area, where I regularly root for the local teams to fail, because I love it when the fans here are disillusioned. Maybe it’s because of the poor quality of most of the sports I watch (or in the case of the NFL, have stopped watching for going on three years now). Or, maybe it’s because my Knicks haven’t a title since Nixon was president! Whatever it is, I will continue to root for athletes, but not for teams. Especially those who take a stand, those who have a purpose beyond their athleticism, those whose bodies make me a bit envious, but only envious enough to keep working out, to keep running, to keep draining Js. Also, the NFL is still blackballing Colin Kaepernick!
In late-October 1994, I had a wonderful steak dinner with my friend and former high school classmate Laurell in DC. It was during my first ABD (all-but-dissertation) visit to the area to conduct some official initial research on my multiculturalism-in-Black-Washington, DC-doctoral thesis. It was also a couple of weeks before the midterm elections, the cycle that would sweep in Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House and the rest of his cronies as part of the Contract With (really, on) America, the gift that has kept on giving for the past twenty-three years.
As part of our three-and-a-half hour dinner and dessert, we talked about the Clintons, their failed attempt at universal healthcare, the Contract With America, and the ongoing politics of racial resentment. Laurell said, not for the first or last time, that she was “apolitical,” that she didn’t “adhere” to “either party’s platform.” This was because she was “fiscally conservative” and “socially liberal.”
Even in ’94, I could’ve picked apart Laurell’s hair-splitting with a hot hair comb. But here’s the part that got me then and really irks me now. Being apolitical is a political stance and perspective. Being apolitical is like being agnostic. You may not believe in someone or something exactly the way most people in the crowd do. You may have some serious doubts. But you are still a human being. And since you are human, and have beliefs, you also have a political point of view. Otherwise, your apolitical stance is the equivalent of selling bullshit to others and lying to yourself.
A few weeks ago, I watched BBC World News and saw a young White actress on the telly promoting her new summer film, declaring it “apolitical” as it delved into serious issues around feminism and potentially other -isms. Here’s a news flash, folks. Every movie, piece of art, song, poem, every article, book, or TV show, contains a hidden agenda, a specific set of beliefs, an ideology. By definition, every piece of entertainment or art has a political message, no matter how gentle or subtle. Even if a movie like, say, Rough Night is just about women “laughing at themselves” and “having a good time,” the idea that White women have the right to both feminism and femininity is embedded in these otherwise rather banal phrases. And that’s a political statement, whether people are willing to see it or not.
But the realm of politics goes well beyond the world of entertainment and leisure. Politics is everywhere, in everything, and with everyone, all the time. Calling yourself “apolitical” doesn’t change this truth. If you eat steak and potatoes, you obviously aren’t a vegan, and that reflects your personal politics around food. When you buy clothes, wear perfume or cologne, take a vacation overseas, call a young person in your neighborhood an “all-American boy” or “all-American girl,” you are unwittingly expressing your politics. Even in declaring yourself a Christian, atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, or Jew, this isn’t just an admission of your love for God, Yahweh, Allah, or a lack of belief in a higher power at all. It is a worldview with political implications, one that colors how you see the world, humanity, and governance. We are all political animals, no matter how little some of us pay attention to the machinations of the Democrats and Republicans.
This is also why the common refrain among racist sports junkies about not combining sports and politics is also total bullshit. Of course the political implications of sport are intertwined with the actual sport in question! How else can you explain the blackballing of former 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick for his Black Lives Matter kneel-downs during the National Anthem at NFL games in 2016? It’s certainly not based on Kaep’s performance or merely about a kneel-down. The politics of American racism, of faux-hyper-patriotism, of money and fandom, were and remain in play here. That some continue to doubt this is yet another example of the penchant of millions to crave willful ignorance of anything that would make them think beyond their own perceived superiority and simplistic views of an always political world.
So no, you can’t away from politics in this world. One would have to take a time machine back to before the Agricultural Revolution to find humans in a world without politics. But even then, there would be domestic politics, gender politics, tribal politics, and food/water politics. Not to mention, religion and the politics thereof. But, keep believing that you’re apolitical, and see how that works out as your worldview comes crashing down.