Deaf Football Team Brings Pride to Riverside Community

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RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Every once in a while a story comes along that prompts a reporter to drop everything, cancel appointments, forget the notion of a weekend, hug family members goodbye — and dash.

For me that story was about a high school football team. Last week, I drove seven hours from my home in the East Bay to the California School for the Deaf, Riverside. I was not disappointed.

After a long string of losing seasons, the football team was undefeated and, for the first time in the school’s history, vying for the division championship. The article I wrote about the team, which is known as the Cubs, was published this week.

When I arrived at the campus, the school’s ebullient superintendent, Nancy Hlibok Amann, graciously gave me a tour. Through a sign language interpreter she told me about the team’s coach.

“His blood runs pigskin,” she said of Coach Keith Adams.

That evening Coach Adams and his players pummeled their opponents in the second round of the playoffs. The lopsided result was not a surprise. The Cubs had outscored their opponents, 642-156, during the regular season, lifting the spirits of a community hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday I accompanied the players and coaches to the N.F.L. game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Minnesota Vikings, where stadium announcers celebrated the Cubs’ victories. Dressed in their red jerseys, they watched as their faces showed up on the enormous videoboard. Friends texted to say they had seen them on television.

There are many explanations for why the team is doing so well this year — the particular cohort of players is very talented, swift and disciplined. And the athletes play hard.

“I love being physical, the hard hits and the tackles,” said Tevin Adams, the team’s quarterback. He is also the coach’s son.

But what struck me most was how comfortable and confident the players seemed to be together as a deaf team with deaf coaches. It was their world on their terms.

When they were younger and played in hearing leagues, they were often put at nose tackle because the position required less communication. Now they played whatever position suited them best.

“They have a very special bond, a chemistry,” Amann told me. “They’re able to read each other.”

I asked Laura Edwards, the athletics supervisor at the school, about the longstanding debate over whether deaf children should attend mainstream institutions or all-deaf schools.

Edwards is deaf and was born into a hearing family. She told me that she recently brought an interpreter to a family gathering because she wanted to capture as many conversations as she could.

“Growing up as a deaf person I never went to a deaf school,” Edwards told me. “It was a struggle to make friends. It was very lonely.”

At the Riverside campus, Edwards says she watches deaf students who transferred from mainstream institutions blossom. “The communication barrier is eliminated and there is inclusion and social interaction.”

“Our student athletes are the same as any other hearing students in terms of physical and mental skills and athletic talents,” she texted me later. “The only difference is they are Deaf.”

Edwards noted that she had capitalized the word “Deaf.”

“It’s not a typo,” she said. “We have a culture of our own.”

Thomas Fuller is the San Francisco bureau chief for The New York Times.


Doing 300 minutes a week of moderate exercise may help ward off cancer.


Today’s travel tip comes from June Oberdorfer, who recommends the newly restored covered bridge at the South Yuba River State Park in Nevada County:

The bridge, built in 1862 for transport from northern mines, was closed in 2011 for safety reasons. Due to a very active local citizens’ group (SOB: Save Our Bridge) that raised money and lobbied the Legislature for funding to restore the bridge, it was reopened on Nov. 4, 2021, to pedestrian traffic. The bridge is the longest-surviving single-span, wooden-covered bridge in the world. Its preservation is a wonderful legacy for many future generations.

In summer, small children play in the water along the sandy beach just downstream. Any time of year is a good time to hike the Buttermilk Bend Trail (which follows the path of an old water supply ditch) upstream or the Point Defiance Trail loop downstream, with views of the river around each curve.

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.


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