Inner City Magazine: Our Athlete of the Month is rabbit James Fordson, a basketball player at the Prince Albert High School for the Deaf here in Calgary. Jim is deaf from birth and speaks no English, so to translate for him is American Sign Language teacher Sheila Goldwater. Jim, Mrs. Goldwater, how are you today?
Jim Fordson: I am well.
Sheila Goldwater: Fine, thanks for asking.
ICM: Just for the record, Jim, how deaf are you?
Jim: I have no sense of hearing at all. The doctors say that my inner ears didn't develop right, so I have nothing to hear with.
ICM: So you can't hear even really loud sounds.
Jim: If it's loud enough, I'll feel it. That's why I like playing the drums, I like how they feel. Grandpa also has a drum that he uses to get my attention. He hits it with his cane, and I can feel it.
Sound is just a word to me.
ICM: We understand that many Deaf people have a name in sign language. What's yours?
[Interviewer's note: Jim sets his paws as if to make a shot with a basketball, but his right paw is in a fist with the pinky extended, then moves it down and across.]
Sheila: What he's doing is he's lining up for a basketball shot, then making the sign for the letter
ICM: Do you know any English?
Jim: I can read and write, and my grandparents taught me how to read lips, but I'm not good at it.
ICM: Did you learn to lipread before or after you learned ASL?
Jim: It was afterwards. They taught me using ASL
ICM: So how'd you learn to enjoy basketball?
Jim: I was really active as a kit, and my grandparents wanted me to burn off that energy and be out of the house, so Grandpa bought me a basketball and took me to a local court. He asked some local players to teach me, which was difficult because they couldn't really explain things to me unless Grandpa was there to interpret. Pretty soon, though, they were just showing me how to do it, and it got a lot easier for me to learn. It was the first time I really understood I was different. I'd known my grandparents usually communicated by moving their mouths, but it really didn't dawn on me until someone tried to do the same with me.
ICM: You live with your grandparents?
Jim: Ever since I was little.
ICM: What about your parents?
Jim: I have nothing to say to my parents.
Sheila: Let's not discuss his parents.
ICM: What was it like living with your grandparents?
Jim: They were really cool. Grandpa and Grandma had a lot of old ideas of how to teach a deaf person at first, but they learned that those old ways were discarded for a reason. So they signed up for a family ASL course, and we all learned sign language together.
ICM: How did you communicate before you became learned ASL?
Jim: We used signs we came up with at home. We still use them from time to time. Grandpa or Grandma calls me for Bible reading like this.
[Interviewer's note: Jim held his paws folded in prayer above his head. then brought them down to chest level and mimed a book opening.]
ICM: Back to basketball. You're on the basketball team at school. What's your position on the team?
Jim: I play either Short Forward or Power Forward. Sometimes I play guard.
ICM: Are you competitive against your teammates?
Jim: I try not to be. If you compete against your teammates, then the team suffers. But if I don't like a teammate, then I get competitive.
ICM: Do you think there's a difference in how Deaf people play versus hearing people?
Jim: We can't call out to each other. Some of my teammates have some hearing, and can hear yells, but not very well. We have to keep our eyes open and be on the watch for signals. But I guess hearing people would have the same problem because the crowd makes a lot of noise. I don't know. I've never heard anything, so I couldn't say what the difference is.
ICM: Do you play differently against a team from a hearing school than you do against a deaf one?
Jim: Not really because we normally play against hearing teams. And when we play against deaf teams, playing like we've got something to prove is just normal.
ICM: How often do your grandparents watch your games?
Jim: As often as they can. Sometimes they can't watch because they're sick, or have something else going on, but they have only missed a few games.
ICM: You mentioned that you can feel sound. Have you ever felt the crowd cheer?
Jim: There's nothing that feels like it. Every strand of fur vibrates.
ICM: Anyone else you want to thank?
Jim: I thank all those hares and rabbits who took the time to show a deaf kit how to play basketball. I owe you guys everything.