Archive for November 2009
Sure, Minnesota youth sports organizations, right now you’re counting your $6.7 million that’s coming to you as a part of the Twins’ new stadium. But be warned that what major league sports and new stadia can give, they also can take away. The kids of Arizona are getting a hard lesson in that right about now.
From the Arizona Republic:
The group that operates University of Phoenix Stadium [home of the Arizona Cardinals, not the Internet university, which has no football team, thus making the Cardinals the only team that moved out of a real college stadium into a faux college stadium] has scaled back funding to tourism agencies, the Cactus League and youth sports as revenues drop.
The Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority’s priority, which is to pay off the debt from building the stadium, remains unchanged. It will this year make its $16 million debt payment on the $455 million dome.
But for the first time since the agency’s inception [after voters approved it in 2000], it will not fully fund its other obligations. That means less money to market the region to visitors, to help cover renovation costs at Scottsdale and Tempe spring-training ballparks and to support youth- and amateur-sports projects.
on Maricopa County hotel-room and car rentals, which has shrunk as fewer people visit the Valley.
Its budget, approved in June, estimated $35 million in revenue and a $3.4 million deficit if all obligations were covered.
The latest projections peg revenue closer to $31.5 million this fiscal year, and Sadler said the deficit remains about the same because of the cutbacks. …
The big loser is youth sports: The amount placed into grants will shrink from $1.8 million to $150,000.
But youth-sports funding is doled out in grants every two years; the agency has $1.3 million in funding for grants in this cycle, Sadler said.
To shame people into visiting Phoenix, the city will start running Feed-the-Children-type ads in which a somber, bearded man will walk up and down the streets of the city, saying how for just $150 per day, little Johnny can get back on the baseball field. Won’t you help?
Tiger Woods’ car accident outside his Windermere, Fla., home is going to unearth some embarrassing details about his personal life, whatever they may be. So what are we supposed to tell the children who look up to him?
The same thing Woods’ buddy, Charles Barkley, told everyone in a controversial 1993 Nike advertisement: that athletes aren’t role models, and it’s not up to them to raise your kids.
Unlike Woods and the golfer’s good friend, Michael Jordan, from the beginning of his career Barkley smartly positioned himself as a loon. Eventually, an athlete can’t keep up the image of a robotic, perfectly corporate all-things-to-all-people icon.
John Branch of the New York Times visited tiny Medora, Ind., to find a high school boys’ basketball program he calls the anti-Hoosiers, as in the bizarro world where the Medora High Hornets are doing this for all the small schools that never sunk this far. It all makes sense, except that Branch doesn’t spend enough time on the more boring, important reason why a small Indiana high school struggles so much in the supposed Hoosier birthright: it’s a small school in a small district.
Players for Medora High School have taken the court wearing work boots because their families cannot afford basketball shoes. Most smoke cigarettes. Some talk openly of drug use. All but a few come from broken homes.
Of the roughly 400 schools in a state that reveres boys high school basketball, none lost more last season than the 0-22 Medora Hornets, under the first-year coach Marty Young, the youngest head coach in the state.
Now 23, Young is not expecting many, if any, on-court victories during the season that starts on Saturday, either. But he counts wins and losses differently from most.
“If they’re in the gym these two hours, then I know they’re not in trouble,” Young said.
Poverty rates are high here, college graduates few. Drug use is rampant, several said, and many residents live in ramshackle trailer homes strewn about the hills that surround the checkerboard streets of the town. In these depressed times, there is little to cheer but the high school basketball team.
Except it does not win.
The lone basketball championship banner hanging in the gym dates to 1949. There has not been a winning season in decades. Counter to those sepia-toned images that outsiders have of small-town Indiana, the boys here rarely dream anymore of starring for the local team.
That is the unexpected predicament confronting Young, the kind of Indiana boy who grew up sleeping with a basketball. Indiana, after all, is the home of “Hoosiers,” the 1986 movie loosely based on the small-town 1954 Milan High team that beat all the bigger schools to win the state championship. Medora, about 65 miles west of Milan, could be this generation’s anti-Hoosiers.
“It used to be such a big deal,” said Maria Powell, born and raised in Medora and now the mother of one of the basketball players. She recalled postgame parties with classmates at a pizza place called The Covered Bridge — long since closed — when she was in high school. “Basketball was just what you lived for.”
Medora, with 16 members in the senior class, is the fifth-smallest public high school in Indiana. It is slowly shrinking, like the town of about 500 itself. Two of three large feed mills are gone. An automotive plastics factory employed several hundred until it closed in 1988. A brick plant on the edge of town died in 1992.
Now, if Branch has watched “Hoosiers,” he knows that one of Norman Dale’s bigger shocks in coming to small-town Hickory, Ind., is that only seven boys, counting the manager, come out for the basketball team. Also, he might have noted that there is an undercurrent to the whole movie about the future for schools like Hickory — consolidation and being erased from existence in the name of educational progress. (Recall, if you will, Ollie reading definitions of progress in Coach Dale’s history class.) In that context, Medora is Hoosiers II: The Downer Sequel.
Medora High: the inspiration for Matthew Perry in “Hoosiers 2.”
Medora survived the first round of consolidation in the 1950s and 1960s, during which time the number of members in the Indiana High School Athletic Association dropped from a peak of 820 in 1942 to about half that by the dawn of the 1970s. Nationwide, the number of school districts dropped from 119,000 in 1939 to 16,000 in 1975 — a drop of 13 percent a year, every year, for 36 years.
Now Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is trying to undertake Consolidation II: Educational Boogaloo. While a bill failed last year, Daniels again is expected to push that any district with fewer than 500 students be consolidated with a nearby district, while those between 500 and 1,000 students not meeting certain academic standards also be consolidated.
It’s part of the Republican Daniels’ so-far-unsuccessful effort to follow a report issued in 2007 by a commission, chaired by a former Democratic governor and a Republican-appointed Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice. Its recommendations talked about reducing government spending by reducing small but politically powerful jurisdictions like townships and school districts with fewer than 2,000 students. Hence, why they’ve been unsuccessful. (Though Daniels was able to get Indiana to adopt highly unpopular Daylight Saving Time and still get re-elected.)
Not all tiny school districts are created unsuccessful. Dewey Township schools in LaPorte County, in northern Indiana, with 161 students the state’s smallest district, has a basketball team that hovers close to .500 and offers programs like biomedical science. Of course, its student poverty rate of 7 percent is less than half of Medora’s 17 percent, and it also spends nearly $13,000 per student compared with Medora’s $7,500, which is well above the $5,500-$6,000 per student nearby, larger districts to Medora would spend. Dewey Township is an exception, though. Most tiny school districts are like Medora: a double-digit poverty rate, higher-than-usual per-student spending, and an isolated, rural location with a declining population.
Medora’s poverty rate is not much higher than the other schools in Jackson County, Ind., John Mellencamp’s home base. It’s just that with 278 students, every troubled student in Medora makes the school district that much more troubled. And with Medora spending more per student than any other Jackson County school, buttressing Daniels’ argument that districts like it would be better off combined with larger districts for more efficient spending. Small districts aren’t planning to operate wildcat schools, as Onward, Ind., famously did in the early 1950s, its citizens surrounding the school to prevent authorities from consolidating it, but they aren’t terribly happy about the idea of this second wave of consolidation.
But forget about academic or fiscal arguments for a moment. We’re talking basketball! And in those terms, it’s also getting harder for the tiniest districts to compete.
Indiana split its basketball into four classes starting with the 1997-1998, presumably to give the Medoras of the world a chance to get some trophies for their cases. (It so happened that Medora won its last sectional — the first round of the all-comers postseason tournament, in 1997, the final year of single-class basketball.) However, the IHSAA’s membership is starting to shoot upward again because of charter schools from the big cities and small private schools from everywhere (particularly established schools who stayed away from the single-class IHSAA for fear of being stomped), thus providing the tiny schools competition of equal student size by not equal athletic ability.
And particularly in these charter schools in urban districts, the players might have some of the same pathologies at work as they do in Medora, maybe worse. Except that they’re 6-foot-7 and can jump out of the gym. The idea Daniels has is not that small schools are bad — small school districts are. Milan, once home to the 1954 Miracle that inspired the movie “Hoosiers,” and which was not consolidated with other districts in the late 1950s and 1960s because of that success, now clocks about three wins per season.
So while it’s true that Medora’s economic problems and small size have turned Hoosier Hysteria into Hoosier Meh, the issue is a little more complicated than underwhelming kids being drawn from a community of ramshackle meth huts. The problem isn’t just that Medora’s basketball team has issues. The bigger problem is whether a tiny district like Medora is capable of fielding anything of quality when it comes to its schools, just by dint of its size. If Medora can’t prove itself, it won’t be long for this world, now matter how good or bad the basketball team is.
Yesterday (Nov. 28) was my 40th birthday. Thank you, thank you very much.
On my birthday, I got the present of not being kicked in the balls by an angry parent as I coached my daughter’s basketball game. No, the angry parent was not my wife.
In the second quarter, out of the corner of my eye I see one of my assistants rushing to push back what appeared to be an angry mother who rushed from the other side of court, around the north basket and in the direction of your humble blogger.
All I heard was: “I didn’t pay $80 to have my kid sit on the bench!” Then I saw one of my assistants restraining and pushing this mom back.
“Who was that?” I asked.
“That was my daughter,” he said.
Not what actually happened.
What happened was, I took one of my players out of the game. To rest. To give other players time because this is a fifth- and sixth-grade coed league where everyone is supposed to get equal time. And apparently his mother got ticked, particularly because, in her view, she was tired of seeing our team lose (we’re now 0-4, with two close losses and two blowouts, including one on my birthday) while other, suckier players than her son were on the floor.
I’ve been fortunate in my youth coaching career that I’ve overwhelmingly dealt with parents who are friendly and supportive. I guess this woman’s birthday present was to show me a little bit of all the horror stories you hear about from other coaches. Gift accepted!
Via Badjocks.com, your one-stop shop for athletic antics, comes a story from Mooresville, Ind., about a coach who apparently always seemed a little creepy, and then moved into the creeptastic stratosphere when video emerged of him have his toes licked — on a school bus — by a 14-year-old junior varsity softball player. Hey, I thought the school bus was only for 13-year-old girls giving hummers in the back row!
Ha ha! Fooled you, fetishists searching for “toe licking”!
A battle is brewing between some parents and the Mooresville Consolidated School Corp. over a teacher some feel is involved too intimately with children.
A 41-second cell phone video shows a junior varsity softball player licking the toes of teacher Jody Monaghan, a former softball coach, 6News’ Jack Rinehart reported.”There were 14-year-olds on that bus. I know several of them. I’ve known them since they were little girls,” said parent Lenny Adair. “It’s inappropriate at best.”
Let me stop right there for a moment. Given what’s to come in the rest of the article, everything at the beginning sounds like massive understatement. A teacher having his toes licked by a 14-year-old in front of other kids on a school bus is “inappropriate at best”? Dude, with an attitude like that, R. Kelly is going to be stopping over at your house real soon. (To be fair, this was a dad who put a stop to Monaghan texting his daughter at all hours, so R. Kelly should know that inappropriate at best means you should try another house.)
Anyway, onto more of the story:
But that wasn’t the only incident parents consider inappropriate. Superintendent Curt Freeman was aware of another incident in which Monaghan sent inappropriate text messages to some students. In both cases, Freeman said Monaghan used poor judgment, but Monaghan now coaches the girl’s swim team.
Parents said Monaghan has been engaging in inappropriate contact with children for years. Sheila Reecer’s daughter said some of the behavior she had witnessed between Monaghan and her teammates happened to her, too. “She came home and she was real upset and she goes, ‘Mom, I need to talk to you about something that happened during softball,'” Reecer said. “She said she had walked past him in the dugout a couple of times, he would just rub his hand across her stomach.”
Rob Allen said incidents reached beyond the softball field and that Monaghan disciplined his daughter in a classroom in front of her classmates. “He bent her over his lap and spanked her, and I didn’t find this out until later on down the road,” Allen said. Sheila Helton said she pulled her 15-year-old daughter off the softball team after Monaghan began sending her text messages she felt were inappropriate.”She came to me one day and said, ‘Mom, I think my coach is weird,'” Helton said. “11:30, 12 o’clock at night, some of the messages were, ‘What are you doing? I’m bored.'” …
Helton said contact with her daughter went beyond texting and got uncomfortably physical after Monaghan allegedly told her daughter that she didn’t need her knee wrapped, but rubbed. … While Monaghan no longer coaches softball, his new position as swim coach gives some parents pause. “So they go from softball uniforms to girls in bathing suits. Go figure that, and I don’t like it,” Adair said. Freeman and Monaghan refused repeated requests to be interviewed for this story.
In a follow-up story posted today (Nov. 25), WRTV reports that the Indiana Department of Education is investigating to see whether Monaghan’s conduct went “too far.” If it didn’t, except a lot of shoeless teachers on girls’ sports team school buses. And yet, no word on the school itself investigating whether Monaghan’s contact was, well, inappropriate at best. Though I suspect the people running the Mooresville schools are worried about their own heads if they did a Catholic-style, transfer-the-priest-to-another-parish move by taking a creepy coach in softball and shuffling him to the girls’ swim team. Also, there’s no word yet on any criminal investigation, assuming there will be one, related to the video.
One lesson for you parents out there: if you think a teacher or coach is acting a little strange, it never hurts to ask the other parents if they’ve ever seen or heard anything, or see if parents of older kids ever heard of odd behavior, or bring it up to the school right away, even if it as apparently slow to move as Mooresville. Chances are, what you’re seen or heard isn’t the first time a teacher or coach has been inappropriate at best.
In an earlier post, I talked about youth sports injuries in light of the NFL’s public efforts to look less like it’s giving its players early dementia and death through greater review of concussions. The hope is that if the NFL takes them more seriously, others will at all levels of football. Maybe that will happen. But given the pre-concussion youth football videos all over YouTube, I’m not sure.
I hate to post any of these, because I feel like a preacher airing porn films over and over and telling people, “Would you look at that filth!” But I have to show you a few examples of what I’m talking about — video all over YouTube and elsewhere of small children knocking each other into next week, which given their ages, is a comparatively long way to get knocked.
These videos are posted by parents or others PROUD their kid is the baddest badass on the block, when instead they make Malcolm Gladwell’s argument that football isn’t that far removed from dogfighting.
For example, this one is THE HARDEST HITTING 6 YEAR OLD IN THE GAME!!!, a video that’s recently made the rounds on sports blogs such as Deadspin and With Leather.
The above video was a response for a two-year-old video, with 323,000 views (porn is popular), Football Hard Hits from a crazy 9 Year Old!!!!! (Note slo-mo replays, gratuitous “Bring the Pain” quote, and five, not three, exclamation points. Warning: Creed is the soundtrack.)
Here is one uploaded today (Nov. 24). Apparently whomever did this promised this 8- and 9-year-old if it won its championship, he would post a highlight reel of its biggest hits. So they won, and so he did. (More slo-mo, but no exclamation points. But some great shots of small children writhing in pain!)
Hey, I know football is a violent sport, and many of the hits in the above videos are well within the rules. But lest you think 8-year-olds don’t hit hard because they’re small, their hits can hurt bad if they are hitting other 8-year-olds.
I’m not going to pass judgment on any parents who would sign a 6-year-old or 8-year-old for tackle football. However, I do think any parents screaming, on YouTube or elsewhere, about what a pain-bringer their child is THE BIGGEST ASSHOLE ON THE SIDELINE!!!!!! (Yeah, that’s six exclamation points!)
John Buccigross at ESPN.com has a nice piece about the son of Toronto Maple Leafs general manager and overall NHL icon Brian Burke coming out to his family, and to the college hockey for which he serves as student manager — and about how basically nothing changed as a result.
Unfortunately, Brendan Burke’s story counts as news not only because of his father’s prominence but also because an athlete coming out as gay is news, and nothing changing as a result would be an even more unusual story. Look at all the amazed coverage when Corey Johnson came out to his high school football team in 2002, and his teammates supported him.
Even in Brendan Burke’s story, there is a key part that shows just how much homophobia still reigns in the lockerroom. He quit his high school hockey team before his senior year because of the pressure he felt over being found out. He suspected, like most gay athletes, that the response in a lockerroom ringing with offhand homophobic slurs would be more like Greg Congdon, the Pennsylvania football player run off his team for coming out, than Johnson.
On one hand, you would think that sports and homosexuality would be less of a big deal than it used to be. A 2005 Sports Illustrated survey showed that 78 percent of fans said it would be OK for openly gay athletes to participate in sports, and 76 percent of fans disagreed with the statement that they would be less of a fan of a certain athlete if the player were gay. On the other hand, the gay marriage debate has shown that people are worried about gay marriage because they’re not so big on gay people. Even if you live in Liberaltown, USA, there are still plenty of people waiting to make your life hell because you’re gay. Double that if you dare do that in the environment of sweaty, musky, shower-sharing, naked-wrestling, totally-not-gay-in-any-way environment of men’s sports.
(Women’s sports certainly has its own issues — cough, Rene Portland, cough — but to the society at large, there are still a lot of people who assume if a woman plays a sports it’s BECAUSE she’s gay.)
A few years ago, in a piece for MSNBC.com, I interviewed University of Missouri lacrosse coach Kyle Hawkins, who had recently come out of the closet after two years as “Frustrated_Coach” anonymity on the Outsports.com message boards. Hawkins comes from a Southern Baptist upbringing and was surely worried (as it turns out, with reason) what his family would think. But that wasn’t what Hawkins feared most.
“If you put yourself in a gay person’s shoes, the outright fear is not what people think of you, but what people can do to you,” Hawkins said.
That was before the 2006 season. After that year, a dozen players left the club-level team, and before the 2007 season started, Hawkins was fired — by his players, who have ultimate control in a nonvarsity sport. No one said any of it was because he was gay, but it seems hard to believe them, particularly after an Associated Press story that ran a month before Hawkins’ firing described explicit, homophobic langauge between high school players at a Hawkins-run camp and quoted a Missouri player and team vice president saying having a gay man as coach was “awkward.” Hawkins is now coaching lacrosse in Germany.
It’s not what people think of you, but what people can do to you.
So what is going to take to make youth sports more gay-friendly? I may as well ask, what it’s going to take to make society more gay-friendly? Of course, athlete sexuality generally isn’t an issue at the elementary level where I coach. However, what is an issue is the language that parents and coaches use. Not that fourth-grade coaches are calling their players fags, but homophobic language about players being girls and sissies can slip in. The first thing that can be done is that at least people coaching boys can stop defining manliness as something that’s not being anything a girl is.
The tougher issue is at the high school level, when sexuality of all kinds is a big deal. At the least, coaches should also not allow homophobic language in the locker room. But their fight is an uphill battle in a country where a large number of the population still thinks of homosexuality as a sinful abomination, and where “don’t ask don’t tell” is still the law of military. My guess is the reason most coaches don’t deal with it is because they just don’t want to step in sexual discussions in general. They ultimately get paid to coach and win. The next youth coach who gets fired for not putting the clamps down on homophobia will be the first.
What would help tremendously is if professional athletes would come out. Not after their careers, but during, or even before. That wouldn’t solve the problem of homophobia and youth sports, but it at least would send a message to all the mouth-breathers that some goddamn faggot can be the manliest of men after all. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though. In this excellent video below, news accounts of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier are edited to show what would happen to the first out player.