San Quentin sports programs produce many replay-worthy highlights, and while everybody has their personal favorites, the size of the crowd for each suggests a ranking order.
Judging by the size of the crowds, sports enthusiasts’ top sports team here is likely the SQ Warriors because they are sponsored by the Golden State Warriors, who visit the prison regularly. The NBA Warriors have mingled with residents and even shared their championship trophy with the population — truly a big deal!
Whenever the Golden State Warriors visit, their coaches and staff play a friendly yet highly-competitive scrimmage against the SQ Warriors. Even with General Manager Bob Myers dropping threes and former NBA players bringing their game, the SQ Warriors managed to beat their NBA rivals in 2017. Apparently, Stephen Curry was chirping in Myer’s ear afterward, making sure he wouldn’t forget the loss.
We also have the SQ Kings basketball team, a competitive 40-and-overs whose team name is a nod to the Sacra-mento Kings. But they don’t receive the notoriety the SQ Warriors do, and they don’t consistently beat the Warriors in head-to-head games. Altogether, in combination with the intramural basketball leagues, basketball can be considered the main attraction among San Quentin sports.
Another San Quentin sport that draws big crowds is football. The coaches honored John Madden by naming the flag football league All Madden in his honor. Football can be deemed the second most-admired sport in the prison.
Taking third place is one of America’s oldest pastimes, baseball. The San Francisco Giants sponsor the SQ A’s baseball team. The MLB franchise refurbished the Field of Dreams on the Lower Yard, where baseball games are held along with football and soccer, more than 20 years ago. Also swinging bats on the Field of Dreams is SQ’s Hardtimers softball team.
Many outside teams come to play The Q’s teams. A program called Prison Sports Ministry is a faith-based organization that brings outside basketball, baseball, and football teams into the prison. Along with the competitive sports battles, the Ministry ministers to the residents about character, faith, and spiritual healing.
The fourth most cherished sport is fútbol, also known as soccer. When a match is going on, or the San Jose Earthquakes come to battle the men, everyone knows when a goal is scored from the loud cheers echoing across the yard.
Another Lower Yard sport is running. While the runners might not draw the crowds, they certainly have the best endurance and maybe the toughest assignment when they run their 26.2-mile mara-thons. If you were to take a jog around the Lower Yard along with the SQ 1000 Mile Club’s athletes, you would see a symphony of sports played in their respective areas, including tennis.
SQ has a tennis court and a team that plays matches against retired tennis players who come in for matches against the men-in-blue.
Other sports at San Quentin might not bring crowds but are always exciting to those who participate.
In the horse-shoe pit you can hear the clang of the metal shoes hitting the iron when the throw-ers chase ringers. On the handball court you can hear the blue rub-ber balls smacking the wall with the force of a slap from an open palm.
Those who play cards and dominoes make plenty of noise slamming down their pieces or cards on the tables and trash-talking each other in their never-ending rivalries. The mental wars waged during chess matches are silent but no less competitive.
Aside from the competition and the crowds, the sports programs have a unique rehabilitative aspect. Athletes benefit from playing sports and from the social skills that result from being part of a team.
Leadership skills and discipline are developed from participation in competitive athletics. Unity, togetherness, and teamwork are attributes of athletic experiences.
So no matter the size of the crowd or the wow factor of the latest, greatest highlight play, always remember that we all win through the character-building benefit of sports — all sports, from the most prominent to the least.