American Samoa: Football and Fortitude

You guys should watch this video – it’s really interesting/touching.

The embedded video is from YouTube, but this at CBSNews is better quality.

This clip, from 60 Minutes, is about American Samoa, where my grandmother is from. It’s called “American Samoa: Football Island” because so many football players come from Samoan heritage. There are actually several videos that you should watch, including the Haka War Dance, which all my cousins do, and the video on Troy Polomalu, probably the most famous Samoan player in the League right now.

I’m including the clip of Troy’s video here for Jamie, his biggest fan. 🙂

Honestly, the reason I’m posting this is just as some food for thought. These kids grow up with nothing. They are poor; their home has recently been devastated by a natural disaster; they don’t have a lot of opportunities available to them in life. What do they have? Football. They know that football is a way to a better life for them and their family. They have heart and they put their natural abilities of size and strength to work. A boy growing up in American Samoa is 40 times more likely to make it to the NFL than a boy growing up in the States. Why?

If you watch the video, you’ll see – the kids play without proper equipment, without resources, without all the things that are “necessary” for kids in America to develop into professional athletes – all the Select teams and the sharp uniforms. These kids literally store their equipment in a rusted out old bin. Their helmets are taped together; their jerseys are makeshift and their practice fields are such that American kids wouldn’t deign to scrimmage on – mud and rocks and dirt. But, they have heart, and it shows.

My mom’s mother was born in Pago Pago, Samoa. She had the good fortune to be sent to Catholic school in Hawaii when she was 10. While living on Hawaii in her teens, she met my grandfather (not Samoan), who was serving in the Navy. They moved to America, where my mom and her brother and sisters were born. I’m grown up eating palusami and doing traditional dances my whole life, but I’ve never been there and I’ve never witnessed firsthand the lives that these young people lead.

Samoans have huge hearts — my grandmother can trace a family or personal connection to every Samoan person we have ever met, whether at the Polynesian Revue at Epcot or at a small community church in Central Texas.

When I say that last thing, I’m not just providing a whimsical example. My grandmother was actually allowed to go backstage at the Polynesian Revue because people knew her. When an article about Samoan dance was featured in a newspaper I read for work at my previous job, I emailed the pastor who was quoted in the article. I literally said, “I grew up in East Texas. My grandmother still lives there; she’s from Samoa and I really enjoyed the recent article in XYZ paper.” He wrote me back and said, “Is your grandmother Malia who owns XYZ in [East Texas city]?” It’s crazy.

The connections, the drive, the sense of family – they’re all such important parts of this portion of my heritage. I am so proud of these kids and the way they take nothing for granted in their lives. We can all learn a great deal from their perseverance.

Talofa and thanks for reading! 🙂

5 responses to “American Samoa: Football and Fortitude

  1. What a beautiful post! And what a great heritage. I’m so glad you keep a part of that with you. It is so important.

  2. Wow. This is an amazing post. I love it. First of all, I think it’s a beautiful culture and heritage. You are so lucky to share it!

    Second of all, I think it’s sad that we in the states don’t pay more attention to our territories. It’s sad that we do not afford them the rights, privileges and protections of the states. I don’t know if the people in these territories have any desire for statehood, but I think when something happens (like a tsunami or losing one of their major sources of economic sustenance), we need to do more as a nation to step in. To do otherwise stings of imperialism. But that’s just my personal political belief.

    Finally, the football. Wow. I love what you said about how they don’t have all the “necessary” stuff but they more than make up for it with heart. I’m sooo sending this to my nephews (who live in an area where are 4-6% budget cut for athletics to help finance a new school was considered a “slap in the face” to the football program). And Troy is AMAZING! I love how he prays before every play. He is such a deeply spiritual person, and knowing more about where he comes from, it’s completely possible to see why he is so grounded! Thank you for sharing!!!

  3. Wow, what an interesting post! And how cool that you are part Samoan.

    In regards to Samoans and football- am often impressed that people who start with less are able to achieve so much. It’s the same with baseball in the Dominican Republic. I think it speaks volumes to the power of perseverance.

    It makes you wonder if sometimes kids are actually held back by getting everything they could ever want and more? I want to be very careful when I have kids to not just hand them everything on a silver platter, for this reason…

  4. I really love this. I think it would be great for students to see how hard they work, with very little, and how far they get. Kids today want everything handed to them and they don’t want to work. Their sense of entitlement baffles me. I also love that your grandmother has a connection to so many people. I think it makes this world a little smaller and a little more personal.

  5. Pingback: Troy Polamalu = Awesome | Legally Married

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