May 9, 201708:05 AM
Full Sport Press
'The games we play in New Orleans and beyond'
The Statues of New Orleans
all photos by Scott Colesby
As a kid in Burlington, Kentucky, I had a shelf lined with trophies. I had basketball trophies, football trophies and even a perfect attendance trophy. It wasn’t that I was anything special, I just happened to be a part of some teams that were really good. I would say the trophies gleamed but I’m pretty sure they were all just painted plastic. Easily broken, yet how they towered off of the shelf like small toy gods. I recalled the trophies of my youth as I watched the connections of the Kentucky Derby winner, Always Dreaming, wave a far shinier, not-so-plastic trophy around an overcast Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
Derby Party, Uptown
After the race, the party turned off its TV eyes and moved on to the other requisites of a Kentucky Derby party — good food, great folks and a lake of bourbon. I followed along as well, but the entire time I couldn’t shake a thought:
What did I do with my trophies?
Conversations flowed on from betting the ponies into the expected, “What do you do,”’ and “how do you know so and so,” that are requisites in parties where new acquaintances are met. A dog pulled a ham off of the dinner table. It was a great time, except for that damn unanswered question and I guess for the ham lovers within our ranks.
In what seemed like a month’s passing, but it was only a day, Lee Circle filled with protestors — some in support of keeping the trophy — I mean monument — while others were there to #TakeEmDownNOLA.
The monument supporters, much like the General Lee statue, were dressed for battle and screamed about heritage (and other things not fit to print). They flew Confederate flags and wore baseball helmets, others wore Nazi regalia, and waved the flag of the League of the South, a modern white supremacist group. They are joined by men wearing military-style helmets and flak jackets chanting, “C.S.A.”
Their opposition brought a brass band.
Up St. Charles Avenue, 15 or so blocks away, sits the old house of famed jazz cornetist Buddy Bolden, a New Orleans heritage site if there ever was one. It is in a state of neglect.
Derby Party, Uptown
Late in the night I’m talking to a resident who is mourning not buying more New Orleans real estate right after the hurricane. I realize I have no such attachment to, or need to own, inanimate objects.
Tensions are high as the two groups converge. Both groups shout over one another, a din of opinion, in which no one will be swayed. Fists fly and some are bloodied, but the New Orleans Police Department, on a day with few examples of class, expertly handles the crowd.
The Kentucky Derby trophy was first awarded to Aristides in 1875, nine years before the dedication of the Robert E. Lee statue. The trophy was finally given a standard design in 1925, but that design was changed and then changed again. Improvements were made over time.
Less than a mile away — or is it a million? — sits the statue in honor of Sophie B. Wright, an actual resident of the city of New Orleans. Wright’s life, while not filled with war victories, was one filled with repeated acts of valor and sacrifice.
Wright opened a school for girls as a teenager. A few years later she operated a free school for boys and men who could not read. Wright, a civic leader, worked to create playgrounds and parks for New Orleans. She devoted herself to the sick and needy.
She sits quietly, with book in hand, looking out over Magazine Street.
Miniature Superbowl trophies, autographed by modern “heroes,” can be purchased for a few hundred dollars. Are you still aching to have an autographed replica of Mark Ingram’s Heisman Trophy? It will only set you back $512 dollars. As a matter of fact, you can buy all sorts of trophies, trinkets and monuments on the site.
I barely remember what I did with my trophies. Like so many other things in my past — in all of our pasts — some things just fade away into history creating simple mysteries when we try to recall them. Some we recall while with others we just shake our head and smile realizing that, “whatever it was,” couldn’t have been that important.
Then we go on with our time, another day, another week, another year.
Our days will be filled with people — flesh and blood — who at best we’ll get to spend a few decades with. More than likely, just a few years of experience, then we move on to other folks, other friends who we bring into our lives.
In that time, we will pass thousands of strangers on the street, with which we share a smile, a quick hello. Maybe even a joke as we wait for the streetcar and just maybe, if we’re truly lucky, a new friendship.
And friendship has no color; friendship knows no hatred. Friendship doesn’t scream and its only heritage is one of giving, one of helping. Friendship is the opposite of oppression.
With one fell swoop, I pushed my trophies, those tiny monuments, over the edge of the shelf into a non-descript garbage can.
I realized they were just part of the past and I was moving on.