Pubdate: Sun, 21 Sep 2003
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2003 The Dallas Morning News
Author: Kevin Blackistone
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


Tulia Native Believes Football Can Ease Racial Tension Caused By Sting

TULIA, Texas - After all that had gone on, after all that you'd heard, this was
an unexpected sight, really. It unfolded just down main street here last Friday
evening, past the scattered, empty looking storefronts that give this spit of a
dusty panhandle town its The Last Picture Show look, past the tan courthouse
and brick jailhouse where all the tumult took root, and up Dallas Avenue at the
high school football stadium. But then you listened to Trampas Goodwin talk
about why he bothered to come back home to Tulia, and you understood.

"This is a football town," said Goodwin, a Tulia Hornets coach, quite
matter-of-factly. "This is the most athletic-influenced town I've ever lived
in. As long as we win ... if we're doing well in athletics, everybody seems to
be happier, in a better disposition."

Goodwin returned last year to the place he was born, to the school he once
starred at, to the place most of his family still lives. He came back to spread
balm on sores still fresh from a miscarriage of justice here that was so
difficult to fathom that it brought the town, home to no more than 5,000 people
stuck between Lubbock and Amarillo, international notoriety. The wounds came
from a sham of a drug sting in 1999 run by an undercover white cop that lassoed
46 people, 39 of them black and mostly men, tossing them in prison with
sentences running into hundreds of years.

Last September, the state criminal appeals court began to review the
convictions after media inquiries raised questions about their legitimacy. In
April, a retired judge who reviewed the cases for the appeals court recommended
they be overturned.

Meanwhile, the cop, Tom Coleman, was indicted for perjury. This summer, Gov.
Rick Perry pardoned most of the wrongly convicted.

Not surprisingly, the affair brought racial tension - some long-seated, some
new - to the fore. The city, most of which is white, was painted racist.

Goodwin, who is black, was in Amarillo coaching at Tascosa High as it all

"I just got tired of hearing about it, about how bad black males are," Goodwin

So he called his mother and sisters and told him he was coming back with his
wife and four children.

"You come back, you crazy," Goodwin recalled his family's sentiment.

Tulia was now a place for young men to leave, right along with the agricultural
jobs that started drying up years ago. It was a place to escape, if you could
gain flight with an education and some skills. That was the reason Goodwin
hadn't looked back since he left in '88 to play college football.

But he was being pulled back.

"When I was a child, everybody played with everybody," he recalled.

It didn't matter whether you were poor or rich, black or white. He grew up in a
patch of Tulia mixed with Mexicans and, as result, is fluent in "Tex-Mex," as
he called it with a chuckle. He went to school with the daughter of the Tulia
sheriff, who is white and whom he calls a friend. He played Hornets' football
with some of the wrongly convicted, some of whom he still counts as friends.

So he dismissed his family's concerns and got a job coaching at his old high
school last season. Then, he really went to work.

"I just started going around asking people: 'Where'd the prejudice come from?
When did people start calling each other" racist names.

How bad had things become? Goodwin looked up in the stands last season and
realized that the town had stopped turning out for Hornets' games. The few
black Tulians were staying away because they were angry about the drug bust.
Some of them, like one black player's parents, couldn't come out had they
wanted to. They were caught in the sting.

White Tulians stopped coming out in part to avoid having to talk about the
unpleasantness of it all. If there had been a schism between black and white,
now it was as wide as the nearby Caprock Canyons.

It didn't help that the Hornets won but one game last season, either.

Goodwin went back to the black church across the railroad tracks, Jackson
Chapel, that he grew up in. He played on a coed softball team with a friend
whose son, daughters and nephews were busted in the sting. They called
themselves the Outcasts. He tilled his old stomping grounds. So when the
Hornets took the field for the home opener Friday against Lubbock Roosevelt,
they did so before a renewed crop of maroon-clad hometown folk, young and old,
and, most important, black, white and in between.

The Hornets weren't even supposed to be much better this season than they were
last year. They stood at 1-1 going into Friday's game, but they jumped to a
13-2 lead early in the second half. One of the Hornets' three black players,
Kavin Powell, caught a long pass deep inside Roosevelt territory. Then another
of the Hornets' black players, its star, Terrance Powell, ran the ball into the
end zone.

With each play, Hornets' fans, mostly white, were on their feet, shaking
noisemakers and calling the names of their teenaged football heroes. The
Hornets held on to upset Roosevelt, 13-10. Goodwin leaped into the air and
pumped a fist when the clock hit zero, and Hornets' fans hung around to sing
the school song before milling around the front of the locker room waiting for
the triumphant players.

"What'd you think about Tulia now?" asked a smiling principal Bobby Hudson.

"That's what keeps this town going," Goodwin said.

As corny as it sounds, a little winning football could be what gets it back
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