Sports are back in season all over the world except in San Quentin prison. Fans of all sports are able to cheer on their favorite teams and players now that all professional sports leagues are in the swing of things again.
LeBron James can showcase his monster dunks, Serena Williams can swing
a racket on the world stage of tennis courts, Madison Bumgarner can strike out some hard-hitting batters up at the plate trying to take it out of the park.
Fans have to enjoy their favorite sports from the virtual lens of their monitors while sitting at home, of course. The NBA and all other franchises, except football, have a no-fans-in-the-arena policy to abide by. All sports franchises have to quarantine in a bubble or away from the public for two weeks in order to compete on the platform of choice. “It’s no different from being inside our cells or in sports—we still caught the virus,” said Cuevas, former SQ Warriors sports coach.
Some professional sports teams have been unable to play their rivals due to a member testing positive for COVID-19.
SQ sports had to be totally shut down for officials to handle the outbreak within the prison. COVID-19 swept worldwide at the beginning of the year and forced the stoppage of all sports everywhere. Now that cities and states are figuring out how to cope with the new normal, coaches and sport leagues have opened up partially, except for SQ.
San Quentin athletes are eager to figure out some way to bring sports back to the prison as well. “Just resume normal program,” suggests Cuevas.
Michael R. Pulido, equipment manager of all sports at the prison, wants the prison to hurry up and move the tent off of the baseball field because he thinks they are messing up the mounds.
“Sports is everything to me,” said Pulido. “I miss just watching the teams and all the guys play. I miss the brotherhood. It don’t matter what race you are, we’re all in this together when it comes to sports.”
Pulido had advice on how to get through this and back to normal. “Although it’s hard right now,” he said, “this is where exercising what we learned in all those self-help groups comes in. It’s gonna take a team effort.”
Since the virus hit the prison it has been on quarantine lockdown. Officials placed big tents on the baseball field to spread the residents out and socially distance them. Still, the virus proved fatal for 29 people at the prison, including one staff member. Pulido knew that staff member and got emotional about the loss of such a good man.
“When I look back, he was the first officer who spoke to me when I got to West Block. Officer Polanco’s death hit me hard because he was one of the good ones,” Pulido said sadly.
San Quentin, known as “The Q,” has many different varieties of sports to
watch when it’s functioning at normal capacity. Many professional teams from the outside bring in volunteers to compete in friendly games with the incarcerated residents.
Defending champions Golden State Warriors visit the prison annually to play the SQ Warriors in a competitive series. The SQ Warriors beat the champs front office in the last series they played, which was featured
in a documentary produced by then Warriors superstar Kevin Durant.
The commentator for QBall was San Quentin’s own sports announcer, Aaron “Showtime” Taylor. Taylor called the plays and kept the game moving at a fast pace that reminded many of a true legend, sports announcer Howard Cosell. “I miss that the most,” Taylor said humbly. “Calling the games and seeing the players’ faces.”
Taylor explained the impact of the absence of sports and what it means to those who were involved. “Since the sports programs have been gone, I see the men not as excited as they were around here when we had sports on the yard,” he said. “Sports are the way men get to express themselves.
They would break their necks to show up for practices and the games. It means a lot to them to be able to play sports. It’s therapeutic.”
Taylor spent 26 plus years in prison and is now returned to society, where he vowed to continue showcasing his skills in media broadcasting.
Cuevas was a Q-Ball star and then contracted COVID-19 during the pandemic, but the mental depression from quarantines, lack of physical exercise and being frustrated didn’t bother him as much as this: “COVID
tore down my momentum of being able to use my prosocial skills,” Cuevas said. “Before COVID, sports was a way of recreation, community building, mentoring and teaching each other communication skills.”
The Q has other sports that also were used in the community to achieve the things Cuevas mentioned. It had soccer, hard and soft baseball, tennis, flag football, another basketball team called the SQ Kings and the 1000 Mile running club. There is no easy fix for getting out of this crisis and back to normal, but Cuevas has an idea that he thinks would be at least a way for sports to open up in some sort of capacity.
“Idealistically we’re all safe to a degree because we’re all isolated. We don’t
have to worry about the virus unless the staff brings it in. So the prison should put the staff all in a bubble and they should rotate and that would be a start,” Cuevas humorously concluded.