Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

High school coach suspended for whipping players

leave a comment »

And when I say whipping players, I don’t follow it with the phrase “into shape.” Marlon Dorsey, head coach of Murrah High School’s boys’ basketball team in Jackson, Miss., on Nov. 11 was suspended (for at least a month) after cellphone video surfaced of him whipping a player on the behind with a weightlifting belt. He has been accused of whipping other players as well. As a result, parents are suing the Jackson Public Schools district — which has outlawed corporal punishment since 1991.

The incriminating video.

Dorsey has admitted to whipping students, but he said in a letter that it was for their own good. A portion of the letter, as published in the Jackson Clarion Ledger:

“I took it upon myself to save these young men from the destruction of self and what society has accepted and become silent to the issues our students are facing on a daily basis,” the letter states. “I am deeply remorseful of my actions to help our students.”

The letter, addressed to parents and others, said the punishment was issued for a variety of reasons, including disrespecting teachers, stealing cell phones, leaving campus without permission, being late for class and not following the dress code.

That same article further stated that Dorsey had support from some parents for, well, whipping them into academic and athletic shape, by any means necessary.

Dorsey is a first-year coach, but he’s hardly the first coach in recent years to get in hot water over corporal punishment. Numerous Chicago schools a few years back were found to have coaches paddling or beating players, despite a ban on corporal punishment instituted in 1994. An investigation in Dallas found at least one case of corporal punishment by one of its football coaches, despite a ban there, as well.

I’ve never hit my kids, and I don’t imagine I ever will. Not because they’re such perfect angels (well, they are, of course), but because I don’t see how spanking is an effective form of punishment, although others don’t share my view that corporal punishment is effective the same way sending someone to the gulag is effective — the victim fears you, but they don’t necessarily love or respect you. A writer at the Dallas Observer reacted with repugnance to a case of a football player who was hit 21 times in the backside, but to him the problem was the degree of punishment, not the actual whacking.

But we wonder how our kids got so out of control? Where’s the respect for teachers? For authority? Where have all the hard-nosed disciplinarians like Bobby Knight and Vince Lombardi and Woody Hayes gone?

Easy. We’ve degenerated into a wussified country weakened by Downy-soft consequences, only to inexplicably react with aghast at the resulting hard times.

I don’t remember all the numerous groundings I incurred as a kid. But I vividly the recall the two times I got paddled.

By the way, to answer his question, Bob Knight and Woody Hayes were forced out of Indiana and Ohio State, respectively, after failing to control their tempers. Lombardi gets an unfair rap. While he was tough on his players, he never raised a hand to them. Meanwhile, Knight had his own controversies thanks his wielding a whip.

New York principal sabotages school sports

with 3 comments

There are plenty of schools around the country at which sports are being cut — regretfully — because of a lack of funds. By contrast, the New York Post on Oct. 24 highlighted a case of a high school principal who is cutting sports out of spite.

OK, maybe that’s not completely fair. Apparently Marilyn Shevell, principal of Martin Van Buren High in Queens, believes that chopping sports will go a long way toward improving the school’s 68.6 percent graduation rate, according to people who talked to the Post (Shevell not being among them.) However — and I am no educator here — I don’t get how giving students less of a reason to get excited about something at their school will actually make them more excited to stick around long enough to graduate.

Here is what is going on, according to the Post:

Last week, Shevell stormed out of a PTA meeting in the Queens school’s auditorium after announcing the girls and boys basketball teams could play no games at home this fall. Last year, she slashed home games to one for the girls and three for the boys.

Shevell also barred classmates and their parents from attending last year’s games to cheer for their “Vee Bees.” And just in case any specta tors showed up, she had the bleachers bolted to the gym wall so they could not be used.

She has also limited practice for all sports teams to three days a week, instead of the six other schools allow. “It seems like she just doesn’t want to sup port sports at all,” said Toni Gooden, a senior on the girls basket ball team, which made the playoffs 13 years in a row before last year.

Parents and students packed last Monday’s PTA meeting, where Shevell ousted a Post reporter.

The New York Daily News in January 2010 wrote a story about how Van Buren was playing all its basketball games on the road because of a broken partition in the gym. In that story, an assistant coach accused Shevell of intentionally refusing to fix the partition as a means of sabotaging sports programs. Even when Van Buren had played at home, only parents of players were allowed to attend because, Shevell had said, of a fight that had broken out in the stands.

However, the New York Post story reported that those explanations weren’t being accepted so easily.

Parents say Shevell has used various “excuses” for the cutbacks — including a broken gym divider, asbestos in the gym ceiling and fights at prior games.

But when questioned by The Post, city Department of Education officials said the wall had been fixed a month ago, there is no asbestos problem, and there have been no melees — or even any home games — this year.

“There will be home games. The bleachers will be unbolted,” DOE spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said in response to Post queries.

I don’t know of this principal, so I can’t speak to Shevell’s motives. I mean, clearly she has a bug up her ass about school sports for some reason. I realize there are a lot of excesses that come with school sports — the jock culture at some places can be oppressive, and often the excitement over The Team seems to overshadow the importance of academics.

However, I know my kids — who are all academic achieves, thank you very much — kick their asses out of bed for school not for the learning part, but for the extras. We all the learning part is important. But it’s the extras that can help students feel like their school is an important place, and not a prison in which they’re chained to a desk to solve quadratic equations all day.

My 13-year-old son, in particular, feels a very deep connection to his junior high school because he’s participating in choir, band, the school musical, setup for afterschool events, recycling club, strategy club, science club, and stuff I’m probably leaving out. He probably would do OK in school without that stuff, but that’s what makes him excited to be a part of the school, and I’m sure makes some of the most unbearable tedium more bearable. Even if he never goes to a basketball game (which he hasn’t).

Even if Martin Van Buren High School is a difficult environment, the principal has pressure on her to raise the graduation rate, I can’t see how cutting out activities that at least some students get excited about is a way to also get them excited about the other stuff.

One other thing: if the New York Department of Education is putting so much of a focus on a bottom-line number — one that can be difficult to control depending on the home lives of the students who feed into that school — and is doing so without giving principals any support or assistance, it’s a wonder more principals haven’t bolted the bleachers to the wall, or done something else nutty in the name of “education.”

Marilyn Sevell is expected to write a letter to the New York Post in response.

Angry football coach launches a moon shot

leave a comment »

Courtesy of Steve Griffith at Wacky Youth Sports Dad comes a piece from the New York Daily News about a high school football game that ended with many involved showing themselves to be asses, which inspired one assistant coach to show them his ass.

A wild melee at a high school football game in Queens ended ugly Saturday when an assistant coach dropped his drawers and mooned the opposing team’s spectators.

The Boys and Girls High School volunteer assistant bared his backside to fans of the home team, Campus Magnet, minutes after a shoving match erupted on the field between coaches and school safety officers.

“His fellow coaches were holding him back and he turned around and pulled down his shorts,” said David Sumter, 40, a Campus Magnet parent. “All I saw was his big [rear end].”

I believe Mr. Sumter said “ass,” although it’s possible he made air brackets when he said rear end.

As if it matters why a coach would drop his drawers on the field, apparently that coach — William Miller, as the Daily News identified him — and the Boys and Girls head coach were tossed out of the game after vociferously, non-nakedly protesting the referees’ calling good a Campus Magnet two-point conversion that put Boys and Girls down 16-6 with a few minutes to play. With all the ruckus, the refs shut the game down. Campus Magnet parents began heckling, and that’s why Miller went over to their section, screamed at the fans and, as the Daily News put it, “revealed his caboose.”

Hey, pull up your shorts! (NSFW, obviously)

Apparently Miller, a volunteer, lost his gig over this, according to the Daily News. I wonder if the school told him not to let the door hit a certain part of his body on the way out.

The war on school sports fees — can it really be won?

with one comment

A common way for school districts to get their costs covered when the local tax base won’t (or can’t) pony up for them is to charge fees, a tack particularly all the rage for school sports. However, the American Civil Liberties Union in Southern California, being the glorious freedom fighters or meddling commies they are (I seek to represent both sides), is suing the state, saying the fees violate California’s constitution, which states that public education is free.

The ACLU’s official video on the scourage of school fees.

Generally, most state constitutions have wording similar to California’s, yet we parents dutifully write checks for book fees, IDs, gym uniforms and, depending on where you live, participation fees for extracurricular activities. I would be more outraged, except what I have to pay for four kids still doesn’t come close to all the fees I had to pay sending my kids to Catholic school, so I’m still feeling giddy.

However, the freedom fighters’/meddling commies’ lawsuit does bring up an interesting point. Is it right for a school district to charge kids to play sports at a public school?

How you answer that depends on whether you believe extracurricular activities are an integral part of the school experience. I say they are. My 13-year-old, despite the experience of getting cut from a few teams, has connected to his junior high as more than just a place to learn algebra thanks to after-school activities that include theater, choir, podcasting club, band, strategy club (chess and role-playing games), gym setup (for Friday night activities) and stuff I’m probably leaving out.

The curriculum makes for a good school; the extracurriculars makes for a school to which students feel a real attachment. People who grump that school is only a place where students learn the basics are missing that it’s the other stuff that turns a drone into a thinking, feeling person.

Granted, the activities my oldest son is in are hardly the priciest out there. For example, none of them requires pads, helmets, assistant coaches, a marching band, a grounds crew and grounds, lighting and bus rides.

On top of that, and this is where the ACLU has a point beyond the constituional question, is that all these fees deny a true meritocracy in public schools. If you can’t afford the fee, you can’t play football. You can’t be in the band. You can’t be in strategy club. Heck, you can’t even get a science workbook.

However, even if the ACLU wins, it doesn’t answer the questions of how schools are going to make up that lost fee money. As, oh, every school district in the state of New Jersey has noticed, taxpayers aren’t concerned about your sob stories of having no school supplies. Suck it up, kids. Don’t you understand taxes are high, the economy sucks, and your union-bloated teachers are snorting eraser dust with $100 bills? (Hey, eraser dust is hard to get, now that everyone is using whiteboards and computers.)

The sad fact is, if the ACLU wins, the result likely is that California schools start chopping, and the families who were already spending big bucks on travel teams and just placating the prep team with their childrens’ presence will just double down on the travel teams, while other kids are left with bupkus. Hopefully, the podcasting club will survive.

Written by rkcookjr

September 15, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Is cheerleading a sport?

with 5 comments

TOKYO - AUGUST 24:  Members of the Nippon Spor...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

“Is cheerleading a sport?” isn’t some sort of semantic question, like “is bowling a sport,” “is auto racing a sport,” or “is challenge pissing a sport.” (The link is NSFW language, but it’s not what you think. Or hope, if you’re R. Kelly.)

“Is cheerleading a sport” is a question that will be answered in a courtroom, and it could have an effect on how boys and girls are counted when it comes to Title IX, the federal law guaranteeing equal access by gender for any student in any school that receives federal money.

A trial started Mon., June 21 against Quinnipiac University (the Fighting Pollsters!) of Hamden, Conn., which is being sued by six women’s volleyball players over the school’s dropping their program. The players contend the elimination, as part of budget cuts, violated Title IX federal guidelines. A judge has already sort-of agreed, granting a temporary injunction to keep women’s vollyeball alive at Quinnipiac and granted the lawsuit class-action status.

That’s all well and good. But more interesting is one way Quinnipiac sought to prove that its female athletic participation is in step with its 62-38 female-male ratio: by elevating competitive cheer, with its 40 female members, to the rank of “sport.” From the New Haven (Conn.) Register:

The trial could ultimately be a referendum on competitive cheer, the gymnastic-like sport that is neither recognized as a varsity sport by the NCAA nor listed as an emerging sport. Quinnipiac initially intended to replace the 11-member volleyball program with a much larger competitive cheer squad.

According to published reports, cost estimates for a roster of 40 in competitive cheer is approximately $50,000. The volleyball budget was over $70,000 for 11 players last year.

Competitive cheer has many of the qualities of gymnastics, yet to some, it’s just an extension of “sideline cheer,” which is commonly seen at collegiate sporting events.

Others see competitive cheer as a low-cost loophole used to inflate the proportionality of female athletes at a school.

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which sets the guidelines for Title IX student participation does not have a specific ruling to allow or disallow competitive cheer, but in 2008 issued a “Dear Colleague letter” which provided clarifying information to help institutions determine which intercollegiate or interscholastic athletic activities can be counted for the purpose of Title IX compliance. The letter indicates that when OCR conducts an investigation to determine whether an institution provides equal athletic opportunities as required by Title IX regulations, OCR evaluates the opportunities provided by the institution on a case by case basis.

Quinnipiac is currently in an alliance called the National Competitive Stunts and Tumbling Association which includes the universities of Maryland, Oregon, Baylor, Ohio State (club team), Fairmont State of West Virginia, Azusa Pacific of California and Fort Valley State of Georgia.

If this were a movie, there would be a climatic scene in which the competitive cheer team performs in court, and the judge, so moved, declares: “You ARE a sport after all!” And everybody hugs.

In 2009, the Wisconsin Supreme Court declared cheerleading was a sport — and a contact sport at that, in that competitors were in physical contact with each other. (And given the high injury rates for competitive cheer, you’d be safer on the football field instead.) However, that ruling wasn’t for Title IX purposes. It was to disallow a cheerleader’s right to sue the partner who failed to catch her, as well as the school and its insurance company to pay for treating her injuries.

In some states, the high school athletic ruling body includes competitive cheer under its jurisdiction, although often it seems like it does so to pull the same kind of Title IX shenanigans in which Quinnipiac is accused of engaging. For example, in 2009 the Florida High School Athletic Association had plans to cut back every sport but football (which it declared was coed because three girls played) and competitive cheer. Those plans were beaten back by Title IX activists, among others. And Florida’s inclusion of competitive cheer also seemed similar to why catchers have to report with pitchers to spring training. Somebody’s gotta cheer for the football team, and somebody has to catch the ball.

As of this writing, the Quinnipiac trial is ongoing.

Powerball winner funds prep softball field, undermines hard-work message

leave a comment »

Coaches (such as myself) like to teach that hard work is the key to success, that luck is only the sudden opportunity to take advantage of all the time and focus a player has brought to the game. However, what we fail to accept is that sometimes chance and dumb luck happens, whether we like it or not.

At Enka High School in Candler, N.C., outside of Asheville, members of the Sugar Jets (great nickname, isn’t it?) softball team will get a reminder about how hard work knuckles under to the whims of chance whenever they step onto their first-ever home field — funded and named after the Sugar Jet Daddy who just won a metric assload of money in the Powerball lottery.

From the Asheville Citizen Times:

Enka expects to break ground next month on the $700,000 Griffin Field at Sugar Jet Park facility along Enka Lake Road. Its amenities will include seatback chairs, a press box, locker rooms, a laundry room and space for video study.

Most of the money for the project is coming from [family spokesman Kevin] Griffin’s family — his daughter is junior Chelsea Griffin and her grandfather, Frank, won a $141.4 million Powerball lottery jackpot in February.

I’m imagining Chelsea Griffin is being recruited by every club in the school right now. “Hey, Chelsea — wanna join the French Club and bring $100,000 with you?”

Talk about dumb luck: Frank Griffin, a retired Asheville firefighter, bought his winning ticket one day when he had $5 left after pumping gas and figured, what the hell, why not play the lottery. He let the computer pick the numbers. He didn’t know there was a $141 million drawing the night he bought the tickets, Feb. 6, 2010. So, to summarize, Griffin did not participate in a weekly pool, where he carefully plotted what numbers he thought had the best odds. He just decided to piss away $5 for fun, and ended up taking $69 million in a lump-sum payment, or $47 million after taxes. (By the way, do people still complain that winning the lottery is great, but for the damn taxes? I’m guessing Frank is pretty happy to clear $47 million, no matter what the IRS share.)

[youtubevid id="h0LQypkDDlI"]

Frank Griffin’s lottery-winning message to the guy who told him not to buy tickets: “Fuck you, Larry.”

The school isn’t totally relying on Frank Griffin’s lucky break-fueled generosity. It’s selling naming rights for the individual seats. Still, it’s not like Enka High had to sweat to woo Griffin. It was the lucky school that had his granddaughter on the roster.

You know how in a lot of sports stadiums or locker rooms, there’s an inspirational quote to fire up the team as it hits the field? At Griffin Field at Sugar Jet Park (I’ll buy a T-shirt with that logo), the quote should come from one of Eddie Murphy’s early skits on Saturday Night Live:

…Life is luck. If you’re not lucky, you’re a bum. So go ahead, drop out of school. Get each other pregnant and play Space Invaders.

[youtubevid id="VczbbiRmDik"]

Go ahead, play it.

Carmel hazing update: The mayor says you hate because you're jealous

leave a comment »

A lot has happened in the Carmel (Ind.) High School basketball hazing case since I last posted about it, including my own self being interviewed by The Indianapolis Star about it in a quote that had the feel of, “Well, we talked to him, so we might as well use something from him.”

However, I’ve stayed away from the blow-by-blow detail of everything that’s happened since the four now-former players were indicted on misdemeanor charges related to abuse of their teammates, in part because I was getting a little tired of writing about it, a decision that came at great risk to my readership statistics, given Carmel-related articles make up four of my top 10-read posts.

However, Carmel Mayor James Brainard said something the other day that’s drawing me back in. From an interview with WRTV television in Indianapolis:

Carmel Mayor James Brainard said jealousy is fueling intrigue into charges against four former high school basketball players accused in assaults on younger teammates.Quantcast

“I think it gets sometimes more attention because it’s Carmel,” Brainard [said]. “I think that the community is an affluent community, so sometimes I think … when something doesn’t go perfectly, or doesn’t go right, that it gets more attention than that same sort of thing might get somewhere else.” …

Brainard said it is time for the community to move on and focus on other things beside the case.”We’re building a new community here,” he said. “All sorts of good things are happening.”

Carmel, where I graduated from high school, where my mother still lives, has been transformed under Brainard from your standard-issue bedroom community into a model of suburban development, with an emphasis on arts, green development and other strategies to make the city of 70,000 feel like its own unique place, rather than a mere, wealthier extension of Indianapolis. Yes, all sorts of good things are happening.

However, by his comments on the Carmel case, Brainard gave evidence of why my late father often referred to him as “Mayor Brain-dead.” Even if the community’s affluence helped to drive the intensity of the coverage on the hazing case, the maya sayin’ y’all playa hatin’ is a ridiculous statement. Another major factor in driving the intensity of the coverage is the shock of four senior basketball players who, allegedly, took it upon themselves to ram various items up the rectums of freshmen, for no other apparent reason than they were freshmen.

I haven’t believed that the Carmel school system, the Carmel police, the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office and the Illuminati have conspired to try to put a lid on the Carmel hazing case. However — same as I feel about whether David Stern bent an envelope to make sure the New York Knicks won the 1985 draft lottery so they could get Patrick Ewing — I don’t doubt that everyone involved WOULD like this case to go away. It’s a subtle difference. A conspiracy assumes that everyone knew what was going on, and tried to squash all word about it. In the case of Carmel authorities, I believe that they didn’t 100 percent of the time try to find out everything that happened. In some part, that might be because they couldn’t conceive of how awful it was, that “good” kids from their community would never be capable of doing such bad things.

As the Carmel case makes its way through the legal system, Mayor Brainard is best staying out of the discussion about it, and instead limit his public comments to subjects such as, say, roundabouts.

[youtubevid id="mn4kGw1rk-c"]

By the way, the fear of so many Carmel playa hatas is that because none of the four — Robert Kitzinger, Brandon Hoge, Scott Laskowski and Oscar Faludon — were indicted on any sexual assault charges, any punishment won’t have their desired effect of a tar-and-feathering, public hanging or, at least, a permanent spot on the sex offender registry.

However, that’s not to say that even the charges of battery (the worst any of them face) aren’t going to have some long-term effect, no matter what happens in a courtroom.

The Indianapolis Star on June 10 quoted a spokesman from DePauw University, where Kitzinger is supposed to be playing basketball next season, that it’s possible he won’t be there when the fall begins. Kitzinger is trying to follow in the footsteps of his father Kirk, a Carmel attorney (not representing any of the players in this case) who played at DePauw from 1976 to 1980.

At DePauw, university spokesman Christopher Wells confirmed that a number of alumni have contacted the school to express concern about Kitzinger, who is slated to play on the school’s basketball team in the fall. University officials want to talk to Carmel school leaders and Kitzinger’s family, Wells said.

“Anytime we become aware of a situation that occurs after admission, we’re going to try to get as much information as possible,” Wells said. “We have an expectation that our students are going to end their high school career as it began.”

University officials have not indicated when a decision will be made.

Kitzinger and the three other seniors were expelled but received their diplomas through online classes offered by the high school. Wells said DePauw also could halt Kitzinger’s enrollment if it finds Web courses weren’t equal to in-class work.

Written by rkcookjr

June 10, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Salinas football players lead march to fight city's gang image

with one comment

When my local youth baseball and softball players march through the streets of Oak Lawn, Ill., it’s to announce, “We’re ready to play!” When the local high school football teams march through the streets of Salinas, Calif., it’s to announce, “We’re not gang members!”

From the (Salinas) Californian:

“One City — Our City” read the sign carried by football players leading a first-ever peace march. Their goal? Show the community that its adolescents are doing great things.

Salinas police officers controlled traffic as they escorted an enthusiastic rally of about 500 people. The 12-mile walk [which went by all the city's high schools] began at 8 a.m. [May 24] from Alisal High School.

“Salinas is not full of kids who want to commit crime or be in gangs,” said Arturo Rodriguez, an Alisal High School football player who said he chose, on a day he could have slept in, to wake up early to take part in the effort.

[youtubevid id="F2Ki4UdltC4"]

And why did the football players feel compelled to have this rally? Because Salinas has gotten a reputation as gang-banger central thanks to a major spike in violent crime over the last four years. Salinas’ per-capita murder rate in two years, from 2006 to 2008, went from 4.74 per 100,000 to 17.42 per 100,000, or seven murders to 25. The rate only went up, to 29 murders, in 2009. Salinas has more murders than just about any large California city, save, say, Oakland.

The city of about 150,000 is in the midst of “Operation Knockout,” a federal, state and local effort of mass arrests (at least 100 so far) that hope to, at least for a little while, calm down the drug- and gang-fueled violence. (Authorities say the violence has its roots in gangs fighting to control Salinas, a port, if you will, into the San Francisco Bay area drug market.)

Salinas’ image has taken such a hit from all the violence, the PONY league from nearby Monterey refused to play games there, for fear of its players’ safety. A little harsh and rash, perhaps, but it gives you an idea of what Salinas is dealing with.

Hopefully the next time the football players lead a parade, it’s not to say, “We’re not gang members!” Just, “We’re ready to play!”

When cutting a high school gym means cementing a city's death

with 2 comments

You would think the Anderson (Ind.) school district, in a 40-year decline that is resulting in the shutdown of one high school and four other schools at the end of the 2009-2010, plus another 170 teachers cut from the schools that are left, might decide that now is the time to shut down its 9,000-seat basketball arena, which costs about $350,000 a year in utilities alone, or twice the cost of utilities for a whole elementary school. But shutting down the Wigwam, the acknowledged heart and soul of the Indiana high school basketball phenomenon known as Hoosier Hysteria, isn’t about money. It’s about a desperate town wanting to hold onto its last shred and symbol of pride and relevancy.

Again, the Wigwam survives, 13 years after the high school it originally was affiliated with closed, 11 years after a fire that burned down the old high school and would have burned down the gym had firefighters not made a heroic effort to save it, and 10 years after the idea of shutting it down was first broached in earnest after a school referendum failed. On May 11 the Wigwam dodged its latest bullet, when the Anderson school board voted 4-2 against a proposal to open the Wigwam up only to outside rentals, and have basketball games played at the 3,500-seat gym at the one high school that’s left — Anderson High School, sitting in what used to be Madison Heights High School (RIP), and next year to absorb the closed Highland High School.

There is an argument to keeping the Wigwam open beyond the long and storied history of Anderson Indians basketball. A few attached classrooms survived the fire, and they’re used for administrative purposes and special programs. But, really, the only argument for keeping the Wigwam open as Anderson, the city and school district, collapses around it is emotion.

Anderson’s population peaked at 70,000 in 1970, when the city had about 40,000 GM jobs. The population is sinking to 55,000, now that there are zero GM jobs. You could film a “Roger and Me” sequel in Anderson.

There are a few stirrings of economic activity, and Anderson did come back once from the decimation of the end of the Indiana Gas Boom in the 1910s. But riding through the city now is an exercise in watching slow death. The school district enrollment peaked in 1971 and has fallen even sense, with a continual 2-3 percent annual decline. To give you an idea of how bad things are for the Anderson schools, the new superintendent, Felix Chow, was hired in part because he had worked in this situation before — as superintendent of schools in Flint, Mich.

When a friend and I visited Anderson and its coach, Ron Hecklinski, in 2000 while doing a travel story for the Chicago Tribune on Indiana high school gyms (in Indiana, a 9,000-seat arena like the Wigwam or the No. 1 arena, New Castle’s Fieldhouse, is called a “gym”), Hecklinski was lamenting the decline in Anderson. “Every time I read the obituaries,” he said, “I say, there goes another season-ticket holder.” But the lure of Wigwam, the one that made him leave an assistant’s job at Ball State to coach high school ball, remained strong. Then, as now, he was sure that if the Wigwam shut down, he would have to leave Anderson. Anyplace else would be just a gym.

Even though everyone calls the Wigwam a gym, to Hecklinski — as to much of Indiana — the Wigwam is more special than that. “When people walk in here,” I remember Hecklinski saying, “they go, ‘Whoa.’” It’s not just the size of the Wigwam — it’s the intensity of the crowd, which remains even as its numbers dwindle. I suspect the continued use of Native American imagery — including a pregame chief and maiden dance — are held onto less out of mere tradition than as a reminder of the days when everyone in Anderson came to the games from their good-paying jobs.

That’s not something Anderson wants to give up on, even if the auto economy has long given up on Anderson. Richard Tompkins of Anderson wrote a letter to his local newspaper, the Herald-Bulletin, that sums up what the Wigwam means to so many in that city:

We lost our factories and that really devastated this city, but I can think of two great parts of Anderson tradition right now that has given us so much pleasure and is well known throughout the state: The Lemon Drop and the Wigwam.  These are two places we have enjoyed that have been around for generations and are part of the heritage and history of Anderson. This city has lost so much — the factories, far too many citizens, two great high schools, sectional and regional basketball; don’t continue to destroy what we have.

It’s sad, when you think about it, that someone feels all their once-thriving city has left is a famed diner and a gym. And when you feel that sadness, you realize why even when it seems financially wise to shut down that massive gym, it would be a psychic death blow to a city already pockmarked with large, rotting graveyards of what used to be jobs.

Would shutting down the Wigwam had saved some teachers’ jobs? Or a school? Maybe. But probably not. The declining enrollment, more than the Wigwam, has seen that those cuts would happen. But what about other entertainment options? Anderson is only about a 45-minute drive from Indianapolis — couldn’t people go see the Pacers or Colts, or Butler? Or won’t Anderson High basketball still be played in Anderson, but in another gym? Again, all true. But pointing the people of Anderson to entertainment elsewhere strips the city of its last piece of family-entertainment identity (there’s a horse track and casino, but you’re not going to bring your kids there). And no one is coming to Anderson from anyone else to see the team play in a smaller gym — but they’ll come to the Wigwam.

I’m not saying that keeping the Wigwam open while Anderson struggles is exactly the right decision. But I can understand why the people of Anderson want to hold onto it. At this point, it’s practically Anderson’s reason for being.

Football coach arrested for running prostitution ring

leave a comment »

As the philosopher Big Daddy Kane once said, anything goes when it comes to hos ’cause pimpin’ ain’t easy. It gets a little more complicated if you’re also moonlighting as a volunteer middle school football coach.

[youtubevid id="KGRoEfRJSGs"]

Yeah, this song sounded just as offensive in 1989.

27-year-old Christopher Wayne Foster, a coach in Springdale, Ark., was arrested in nearby Bentonville (Wal-Mart world headquarters) on charges relating to abduction and running a prostitution ring after a 23-year-old woman told police she had jumped from his vehicle. Police said she answered an online ad to work as an administrative assistant. She told police she met with Foster in his car to get money she said she was owed for her work, and she was horrified to learn his line of business — pimp. The woman told police Foster tried to drive away with her and abduct her, whereupon she jumped out of the car.

Apparently Foster had no criminal record before, or at least one that involved sex crimes, because nothing turned up when Central Junior High did his background check. Hey, the background check is a look at your past record, not “Minority Report.”

Police had some helpful advice for anyone not wanting to unwittingly work for a self-styled pimp — make sure your job interview is done at an office. From KFSM-TV in Fort Smith, Ark.:

“Obviously anybody that is asked to come for an interview with somebody who claims to a stock broker or attorney and wants to meet you at a restaurant and not their office, your curiosity should be raised a little bit,” said Chief James Allen.

One more bit of advice: if that person also violates another unwritten rule of job interviews and orders something sloppy like pasta with heavy cream and marinara sauce, just drop your napkin on the plate and walk out that door.

Written by rkcookjr

May 23, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.