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Archive for October 19th, 2010

Star athletes: Wear purple for the bullied in your school

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It might be a little late to pick out outfits for the next day, but maybe you’ve heard of the effort to have people wear purple on Oct. 20. No, not in solidarity with Brett Favre and his dong, but as a way to speak out against the bullying of LGBT kids, a few of whom, as you might have heard, have been killing themselves as an endgame to the abuse they’ve taken from peers (and probably others). I’ll be wearing my purple underwear, the only purple I have that’s office-worthy, as long as I wear pants over it.

I don’t have the cache of Neil Patrick Harris, nor do I have a video in the first place. I don’t have a solution to bullying, not when the history of humankind is rife with those tearing the shit out a perceived other with ruthless efficiency. (Such as the ruthless efficiency bullies display in picking the most vulnerable victims.) I can tell you, based on what I’ve seen in my own schooling experience and that of my children and others around me (I’ll just leave it at that) that anyone holding out a simple solution — like the radio jagoff I heard locally who talked about self-defense classes as the be-all end-all to ending bullying — is wrong.

However, I can identify one powerful group of influence that could help, if at least not stopping the bullies, making bullying of any kind seem totally uncool. That would be the school jocks.

I don’t mean the track team — I can tell you as a former high school track athlete how little influence we wield. I mean the star quarterback, the top basketball player, the kinds of athletes that are the center of the popular crowd at every school, the kind that set the agenda (intentionally or unintentionally) for manhood, and womanhood’s relationship with it.

A lot of kids at school know bullying isn’t cool, and that the bullied and the bullies are two groups of profoundly unhappy people. But most are afraid to say anything, lest they become a target. However, the star athletes have established their place as school leaders, in that the school isn’t shutting down for a pep rally for the debate team. The jocks don’t have to like the bullied — and the bullies — or invite them to the cool parties, or ask them if they would like to be set up to shag a cheerleader (or the athlete himself).

All I ask is that jocks be — nice. I mean, if you’re the bully, stop. If you see a bully, pull him (or her) aside and make clear that’s not cool. If you see the bullied, ask if they’re OK, and let them know you have their back. If you want to stand up during a pep rally and declare you don’t care who sticks what part in what hole of another person, that’s great, too. The purple on Oct. 20 is being pushed with LGBT bullying victims in mind, but there’s no reason you can’t also stand up for whatever other Other is the target of ridicule.

Of course, I know this is easier said than done. Athletes are notorious for not wanting to make waves. (Michael Jordan: “Republicans buy shoes, too.”) And I’m going to guess that a lot of jocks have parents who would be pissed beyond belief for Johnny Quarterback to be standing up for the weak.

I don’t think having jocks speak up for bullies solves everything. But if anybody can make a bullying culture go away, it’s them.

Thanks to Wall of Paul for reminding me of a great song that talks about “manhood” and sports in school, from a guy whose parents sent him to electroshock therapy to get rid of his homosexual tendencies.

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Written by rkcookjr

October 19, 2010 at 10:29 pm

Calgary tells hockey parents: learn respect, or your kid doesn’t play

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How do you weed out the jerkbag parents that make life hell for their kids, your kids, their coaches, yourself, the vending machine filler, the skate sharpener, the old lady who has trouble opening the arena door, and the Zamboni driver? Hockey Calgary, which runs youth hockey in Calgary (just in case you thought it was Edmonton), figures it’s found a way: force parents to sit through a class on how not to be jerkbags. If they don’t do it, their kid doesn’t get to play — at any level from Timbits to Junior B.

Waiting for their parents to finish the course so they can get on the ice.

I am totally for this program. It should seem bloody obvious how not to be a jerkbag, and it might seem unfair to good parents that they have to sit through the hour-long online course.

However, I think setting up a mandatory class in respect communicates to parents sends the signal that you’re not going to take any shit. At the least, it sets clear rules and boundaries for behavior, and the consequences for not following them. With a mandatory program, no parents can say they weren’t warned.

Not that it should discourage parents from speaking up, but the point of the exercise appears to be making sure that when conflicts do come, they are handled in a respectful manner. And if somebody in the stands who may or may have taken the course (uncles, friends, future posse members aren’t required to do so), parents have cover to tell them to, respectfully, shut the fuck up.

Hockey Calgary president Perry Cavanagh said 11,190 hockey players had at least one parent complete the Respect in Sports course by the Oct. 15 deadline, while another 230 players had no parent do so. Cavanagh isn’t being draconian about it. He told the Globe in Mail in Toronto that in some cases there were “communication issues,” such as Junior B players living away from home who needed their distant parents to sign off. (Junior B is for 16-year-olds and up, and often means living away from home to play with the right team.)

From the Globe and Mail:

“Have I had calls from people saying they weren’t going to take the program? Yes, in words I won’t repeat,” Cavanagh said. “It’s a small number and we don’t have a goal to change that 1 per cent. Our goal is not to tolerate them any more. [The RIS program] is not a panacea, but it is a first step to change a societal trend that goes against the values we feel are important.”

In other words, go pound sand, jerkbags. And Cavanagh means that most respectfully.

Written by rkcookjr

October 19, 2010 at 9:44 pm