Since this COVID era began and hit the San Quentin population with its brutal force and unrelenting prominence, sports at The Q have been a missed presence on the Lower Yard.
Normally there would be all sorts of games happening — baseball, soccer or football on the Field of Dreams. From head-to-head matches happening between the SQ Warriors and the SQ Kings on the basketball court, to tennis matches with outside volunteers. They are not happening now and haven’t been for way too long.
There were over 3,000 volunteers who frequented the prison annually and many different sports franchises that would be coming into the prison to compete with the incarcerated, including the Golden State Warriors. COVID has basically all but stopped that from happening.
Nowadays the incarcerated sports enthusiasts involve themselves with pickup games in their favorite sport just to fill in that void of sports indulgence. In a pickup basketball game there might be anywhere from a two-on-two to a five-on-five. A basketball pickup game is similar to the cofounder hip-hop mogul Ice Cube’s “The Big 3” — a basketball league that faces off against other teams in a three-on-three matchup.
Usually in a baseball game it takes the entire nine players to have a good game. But whatever your sport is and you decide to pick up a player, that is what defines the term “pickup game.” That is what’s been happening at The Q since the COVID era.
Different housing units with different team players being locked down has led to creating skeleton crews or filling in the blank positions just to have the pickup games. The matchups are not age or ethnically-biased, neither.
Remarkably, when you look out on the field or on the court of the Lower Yard, you would find an array of all shades and diversities of people. Sports allow people to interact regardless of any racial differences.
Sports give people that excuse to traverse the boundaries of indifference. Sports have their own way of playing the middle ground or being the bridge for someone to cross, whether it is one person or an entire race.
So when this COVID era thought that it was going to defeat the athletes at The Q, it had another think coming. It wasn’t expecting the athletes to be as resilient as they are. COVID wasn’t expecting the idea of the incarcerated to have the pickup game.