BANGOR, Maine — For fans of Gallaudet University football, Saturday afternoon’s game at Husson University ended with a disappointing 49-0 loss for the visiting Bison of Washington, D.C.
Putting aside the defeat, however, it was a memorable day for about 150 supporters of Gallaudet, one of the top universities in the world for hearing-impaired students. The Gallaudet fans, including local members of the hearing-impaired community, had a chance to mingle and take in the game with help from local interpreters.
Husson organized the event, which drew people from as far away as New Hampshire. Some of the spectators were Gallaudet alumni who wanted to watch their team make a rare appearance in northern New England.
Courtney Washington, a Bangor resident who studied at Gallaudet for three years, made sure to be at the game. She played soccer for the Bison.
“We have a big, strong deaf community here, and I am here to support that,” the 28-year-old seamstress said through sign language interpreter Sarah Tanner. “And [being at the game] shows the Gallaudet players our support. We’re here.”
Tanner works for Bangor Interpreting Agency in Hampden, which provides sign-language and foreign-language interpreters in Maine and beyond.
Tanner and other interpreters stood on platforms in the stands, signing as the announcer spoke at the Winkin Complex stadium. She was wearing yellow-gold knit gloves, which helped the crowd see her hands as they moved. Interpreters are supposed to be neutral and not wear school colors during such events, but Tanner said the fact that Gallaudet’s colors are blue and gold didn’t escape her.
Tanner’s father played high school football at the Georgia School for the Deaf.
“They like the feeling that they can do just what the hearing can do,” Tanner said. “Sometimes people look at the deaf and think, ‘Oh, sorry.’ But the deaf want people to know, ‘Look, we are just as competitive.’”
Gallaudet has an illustrious history. In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill into law authorizing the institution to confer college degrees.