BOWLING GREEN - When the ball goes in the air tonight, Louis Orr will focus on Bowling Green State University's home game against Miami.
But in the hours leading up to the important Mid-American Conference contest, the Falcons' coach might be thinking about - or even stepping away from his game preparation to watch - what people around the world will be thinking about and watching Tuesday: President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration.
"It's a big event in my lifetime," Orr said.
Orr, 50, an African-American, spoke from the heart yesterday - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day - during his weekly press conference about Mr. Obama's election and inauguration as the Unites States' first black president.
A Cincinnati native, Orr said he never thought an African-American would be president in his lifetime until Mr. Obama's election. From that night on, Orr said he's thought of what this moment in history would mean to his late parents, Lindsay and Mildred Orr, and has shed a few tears of joy and reflection.
"When [Mr. Obama] spoke in Chicago [on election night], and you see the passion and the excitement and the diversity of the crowd, to me that's America," Orr said. "That's the beauty of this country, its diversity. It was touching to me. I looked out there and said wow, this is a beautiful sight."
Orr said his mother was an avid reader and a culturally conscious and active person. He said she wrote letters to the editors of newspapers, kept books in the house on MLK, and was the head of the family's local community council.
Orr said he was aware as a child of the lessons his mother was trying to teach, but didn't truly understand their meaning until he was an adult.
"She'd be grinning from ear to ear," Orr said. "She'd just be pleased. My dad, too."
Orr mentioned several times yesterday "the beauty of this country" when talking about Mr. Obama's election, and said he was "at a loss for words when I think about just what it represents."
"You see the Cosby Show or you see something [like] that and you look at your own family," Orr said. "Just to see someone, a family, that kind of looks like your own, and you see they're going to be in the White House. It just tells you God is good."
Orr said he hasn't had any formal discussions with his team over Mr. Obama's election, citing the politically charged atmosphere of the country in 2008 that had young people everywhere discussing the presidential candidates.
It sounds like the players held those talks on their own.
Brian Moten and Darryl Clements, two BGSU seniors who are both African-American, said the team engaged in "heated" debates in the locker room during election season. They wouldn't say who the Republicans in the room were, but Moten said the Falcons' GOP backers "made some good points about why they were voting for [U.S. Sen. John] McCain."
Moten, from Saginaw, Mich., said some of his friends from school left Sunday for Washington, D.C., for today's historic event, and if not for basketball he would be right with them.
Clements, from Detroit, said he voted for the first time in 2008 and cast his vote for Mr. Obama for reasons other than his skin color.
"I've never been into politics, but when I first watched him speak, there was just something about him," Clements said. "He just grabs your attention. I can't explain it. When I first watched his speech I knew I just had to go vote."
Moten said that Mr. Obama's election and upcoming presidency transcends race.
"Hopefully this will make everybody, not just black people, see that they can be what they want to be," Moten said. "They don't have to sell themselves short. If you have a dream, make that dream a goal and go after it."
CLEMENTS SPEAKS: Clements said the confrontation he engaged in with assistant coach George Jackson during a game this month was "just a misunderstanding."
Clements and Jackson argued in a game against Fordham. The argument continued when Clements was benched, and after Jackson grabbed Clements' jersey while talking to him, Clements stood, took off his jersey, and headed for the locker room.
"Everything's back to normal," Clements said. "Actually, it's not even back to normal because we are closer than we were before."
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