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Parents told: Go to anti-drug meeting, or your kids don’t play school sports

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Swampscott, Mass., is an affluent community of 15,000 in Boston’s North Shore suburbs. It has had a notable drug problem, with 17 overdose deaths in the last few years among those in their teens and 20s, and numerous others not dead but apparently carrying on the message Swampscott natives Fran Sheehan and Barry Goudreau endorsed on the Boston song “Smokin’.”

Bad influences. Bad!

A new principal, Layne Millington, came to Swampscott High, and he decided, after seeing a “huge number of incidents landing on my desk involving drugs and alcohol,” that it was time to frog-march parents in for a meaning to shake them by their collective lapels and slap them upside their collective heads to make them aware of the problem. He did this with the superintendent’s support. From the Salem News:

Asked about reports that drugs are “all over the high school,” Superintendent Lynne Celli replied simply, “They are.”

But…

Recently, Millington’s approach included a surprise appearance by search dogs at the high school — he was heartened by how little contraband they found.

Ah, hell, let’s just go with the superintendent.

So Millington scheduled a meeting for Jan. 10, then browbeat parents into showing up by telling them their children that they (the kids) could not participate in any after-school activities, including sports, if they (the parents) didn’t show up.

Now, he hopes to form “a partnership with the parents, who are really the kids’ first teachers.” To do that, he sees the need for a meeting that carefully spells out the entire effort and the parents’ role in it.

In the past, Millington said, the announcement of such a meeting would draw only a handful of people. His decision to call a “mandatory meeting” won unanimous approval from the superintendent and the School Committee.

There are a lot of parents upset over this. Actually, the only one who appears to be speaking — or being asked — is Judith Brooks, the mother of a ninth-grader, who appeared in the Salem News and on local Boston television as a “concerned parent.” Because in the news, a parent “speaking out” is always a “concerned parent.” From the Salem News:

“The school has no legal right to compel parents to do anything,” said Judith Brooks, the mother of a ninth-grader [dang it, I mentioned that already]. Acknowledging the concerns of school officials, she expressed the need to be “treated like adults” and added, “We’re not under their thumb.”

As the hippie basketball player in Greensburg, Ind., may well learn, schools get to do all sorts of dastardly things, like make you cut your hair or send your parents to an anti-drug meeting, to let you play sports. So the parents of Swampscott, who either don’t give a shit or feel like it’s not their problem, are stuck.

Except that Millington might not have needed to be so drastic. From a 2009 article in the Swampscott Reporter:

The Swampscott Drug and Alcohol Task Force was pleasantly surprised when the Little Theater at the Middle School filled with parents that night in the first of two sessions planned to educate parents about the real problems in Swampscott.

So maybe they DO give a shit — even if their children’s sports are at stake! Maybe not enough to actually solve Swampscott’s drug problem, but maybe enough that they don’t have to be frog-marched to school on a single night during which they might have a legitimate conflict.

Alas, in his zeal, Layne Millington might have done more harm than good in his relations with the parents at large. Next time, he should propose a webinar. It is an affluent community after all; presumably they have computers.

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Written by rkcookjr

January 5, 2011 at 12:48 am

'Friday Night Lights' book star grows up to be unlikely hometown arrest

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friday-night-lights_l1Brian Chavez, the genius/tight end of the Permian Panthers in the book Friday Night Lights, was the last person in the book you expected to make his adult life in Odessa, Texas, and then get arrested there. And yet, both have happened.

A few hours after Permian lost 26-7 to crosstown rival at Ratliff Stadium, the often sold-out 19,000-seat field featured in Friday Night Lights, Chavez (No. 85, front and center on the book cover) was among four people arrested on burglary charges in Odessa. According to local news reports, Chavez and several others broke into a home and attacked an unspecified number of men inside it, with one man saying he needed stitches after he was beaten with statuettes found inside the home. Chavez was arrested at 1 a.m. Sat., Oct. 3.

In the book and movie Friday Night Lights, Brian Chavez is portrayed as the genius jock, one of the few players who seemed to have academic and life ambitions beyond the rough oil town of Odessa, Texas, after his graduation from Permian High School. Funny thing is, Chavez, who left West Texas for Harvard University, is among the members of that 1988 Permian team, chronicled by H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger, to live in Odessa, where he practices criminal defense law.

Chavez told the Odessa American in August that after graduating from law school at Texas Tech, he wanted to come back to his hometown to work in his father and brother’s law firm to get a little bit of experience before moving on. However, he stuck around because the law practice became so successful, with four offices in West Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, and because he liked living close to his extended family.

It sounds plausible, although you don’t hear a lot of Harvard graduates who decide to go to law school at Texas Tech and then go home to their small town to represent drunk drivers and sex offenders. When ESPN came to Odessa for a 20-year reunion of the Friday Night Lights Permian team, Chavez talked again of liking being back in his hometown, and that “other than gaining some weight and losing a little hair, I’m probably the same person I was back then.”

So why was Chavez arrested for a violent burglary? Details are still very sketchy as to motive. But more than motive, why would someone who seemed to have a happy, successful life ever even conceive of participating in something like this? (Assuming of course that he did.) There is bound to be an interesting story behind this, one that may well shock those who thought they knew Brian Chavez (the possibly shocked would include Bissinger, who told ESPN last year he is still close to him.)

And what about those arrested with Chavez? One was his brother, Jake. He is a lawyer, too, though not the brother listed on the Web site of the Chavez Law Firm with Brian Chavez — that is Adrian. Another was Rosemary Soto of Odessa. A Rosemary Soto of Odessa was quoted in local media talking about her brother, Steven, in June being shot to death with another man in what authorities called a drug-related hit. It’s not clear whether the arrested person is the same Rosemary Soto.

Finally, another person arrested has connection to Friday Night Lights. Stanley Wilkins was a teammate of Chavez on that 1988 Permian team, although he was a minor character in the book. ESPN, in its 20-year reunion story, described Wilkins as missing “those Friday Night Lights more than anything in the world. He often attends Permian games with his former teammates Brian Chavez to relive past glories.” Wilkins also is a football coach and physical education teacher at Bowie Junior High School in Odessa. Word late Sunday night from Odessa police, as reported by KOSA-TV, is witnesses saying that 10 to 12 people showed up at the home that was the site of the alleged break-in, and that the fight inside followed “several hours of verbal harassment by the suspects outside their home.”

Chavez has not commented on the case. I have sent him an email to try to get in contact with him. I also have sent an email to Bissinger, just to see what his thought are because of his professed closeness with the Chavez family, and because Chavez was the one player who for years vouched for the book’s accuracy when the rest of Odessa was ready to tar and feather him.

The Ballad of Todd Marinovich

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Exhibit A in the Modern Age of Crazy Sports Parenting is usually the oddball relationship between Marv Marinovich and his son, Todd. As the story famously goes, when the ex-Oakland Raider and personal trainer found out he was going to have a baby boy, he started in the womb the training and feeding of young Todd, using the Eastern Bloc training methods he studied. After his birth July 4, 1969 (while your humble blogger was still in the womb, not being fed a diet of carob), everything in Todd’s life was trained to make him what was later called “robo-QB.”

373691911_30e0117897Just as famously, Todd made his way to USC and a first-round pick of the Raiders, but flamed out quickly because of drug addiction and other personal problems, cementing Marv as a unanimous choice for one of the worst sports parents of all-time. (Further cementing Marv’s status is that with his second wife he had another son, Mikhail, whom he tried to develop, with a few variations, into a robo-linebacker. Mikhail is a reserve at Syracuse, where he’s made his fame opening a hookah bar and getting arrested. Oh, and Mikhail is an aspiring model, too.)

The assumption is that Todd’s downfall was some sort of passive-aggressive rebellion against his father trying to make him into a quarterback machine, a less destructive (at least to Marv) way than say, the monster killing Dr. Frankenstein, to show his displeasure with his creator.

After reading Mike Sager’s piece in the latest Esquire on Todd Marinovich, I’m rethinking a few of my own assumptions — although his story still stands as the unintended consequences of crazy sports parenthood, or crazy parenthood in general. It’s a reminder as a parent that whatever ambitions you have for your child, however you try to steer them, no matter how overbearing and focused you are, and no matter if you indeed are doing what is best for your child, that child is a human being who can — and perhaps should — veer off your course at any moment.

Actually, I wish this story were more about Marv, because Todd himself is just another boring junkie. He was clean as the story was reported, but the story notes a February relapse into addiction, while Todd handles with much more maturity than he had in the past — he calls his parole officer to report his violation.

What has me rethinking some of my assumptions is that for all of Marv’s effort in making sure Todd ate and trained right, he appeared to make no attempt to shield his son from the party-hearty lifestyle a star athlete can get away with.

From the story, picking up after Marinovich, as a freshman, opens the season as the varsity’s starting quarterback:

After the final gun, Todd stood with his parents. His new teammates drifted over and surrounded him. “When I was growing up, the term my mom used was ‘terrifyingly shy,’ ” Todd says. “That’s why I always loved being on a team. It was the only way I could make friends. It was really amazing to have these guys, these upperclassmen, come over. And they’re like, ‘Hey, Todd, let’s go! Come out with us after the game. It’s party time!’ “

Todd looked at Marv. The old man didn’t hesitate. “He just gave me the nod, you know, like, ‘Go ahead, you earned it.’

“We went directly to a kegger and started pounding down beers,” Todd recalls.

For what it’s worth, the story notes that it was Todd’s goal to start as a freshman. Was he just under Marv’s thrall? Maybe, maybe not. But you can’t always assume with a perceived crazy sports parents that the kid is being dragged along for the ride.

Later in high school, Marinovich’s parents divorced — and the leash loosened.

Then the January 1988 issue of California magazine hit the stands with Todd’s picture on the cover. The headline: ROBO QB: THE MAKING OF A PERFECT ATHLETE. A media onslaught ensued. They called Todd the bionic quarterback, a test-tube athlete, the boy in the bubble. All over the world, people were talking about Todd’s amazing story. In truth, he was leading a double life.

“I really looked forward to giving it all I had at the game on Friday night and then continuing through the weekend with the partying. It opened up a new social scene for me — liquid courage. I wasn’t scared of people anymore,” Todd says.

At Mater Dei, Todd had also begun smoking marijuana. By the time his junior year rolled around, he says, “I was a full-on loady.” His parents had divorced just before his transfer, and he was sharing a one-bedroom apartment with Marv near Capistrano. “Probably the best part of my childhood was me and Marv’s relationship my junior and senior years,” Todd says. “After the divorce, he really loosened up. It was a bachelor pad. We were both dating.”

For all his personal troubles, one thing Todd does nowhere in the article is blame Marv. Below a photo of the two men, Todd looking more like bald Ron Howard than the flowing red-haired god of his youth, Sager concludes the piece:

From the driver’s seat, sensing his good mood, I ask: “How much effect do you think that Marv and sports and all contributed to you turning to drugs?” I’d been saving this line of questioning since our first interview, six months earlier. “If you look at your life, it’s interesting. It appears that to get out of playing, you sort of partied away your eligibility. It’s like you’re too old to play now, so you don’t have to do drugs anymore. Has the burden been lifted?”

Todd looks out the windshield down the road. The truck bounces. Thirty full seconds pass.

“I don’t know how to answer that,” Todd says at last. “I really have very few answers.”

“That’s kind of what it seems like. A little.”

Twenty seconds.

“No thoughts?”

“I think, more than anything, it’s genetic. I got that gene from the Fertigs — my uncle, the Chief. They were huge drinkers. And then the environment plays a part in it, for sure.”

He lights another Marlboro Red, sucks down the first sweet hit. He rides in silence the rest of the way home.

Despite having a fiancee with a baby on the way, and how he handled his February relapse, and the faraway end to his athletic career, Todd appears to have a hard time breaking his addictions. After the Esquire piece was written, Todd was arrested for missing a Drug Court hearing and will sit in jail at least through May 4, when he has a hearing on his case. There is a good chance Marinovich will spend his 40th birthday in prison.