Category Archives: Do the Right Thing

“The Whitman 5”: Who is to Blame?

Dear mm and mmm:

I have read the comments you have left on my blog and I appreciate you both taking the time to share these.

Whitman is a very good school with high SATs and preparing students for some of the best colleges in the country.  No question about it.

But Whitman, like any other high school, is not perfect nor will it, or any other high school, ever be.  However, Whitman has some real problems right now that go beyond what is wrong at “most high schools”.

While I realize you two are probably in the majority about your feelings for Pat Lazear and the others and whether they committed the crime or not, the minority has been very vocal  and I and others who publicly condemned or questioned those involved in this situation have been subjected to some of the most vulgar, dim witted, unreasonable and threatening messages from the minority.

Now, you both express concern about my claim that the teachers, coaches and administration should be held accountable for Pat and the other’s actions.  I can understand how you might disagree based upon the type of person Robert Warren is/was and your own descriptions of the others, but if the coaches EVER said anything to them about their behavior and the student didn’t listen, did they EVER take further action?  In other words did Wallich or Wetzel EVER make them miss a game or a match because of their behavior?  Did Magathan or Goodwin EVER step in and use their authority?  I’ll be honest that I don’t know the answer but I have a pretty good idea that it is “NO”.

Look at the incident from this past spring at Duke and the Duke Lacrosse Coach.  Did he have anything  to do directly with the alleged rapes?  No.  But he lost his job anyway because the program he ran was so loosely monitored that the team was allowed to behave in a way that they could be put in a position to be accused of rape and commit other acts which reflected poorly on the team and the University.

I have been involved in dialogue in the past with Coach Wetzel about the demeanor of some of his wrestlers and never once did he ever say they could or should have acted with more respect.  Instead he defended their behavior as being “special athletes” who work hard and “deserve everything they can take”.  I don’t think you have to look much further to see there is a problem brewing.

You both say you knew these five guys.  Did you ever tell them to quit being idiots or did you just laugh at their antics?  Peer pressure can go a long way.  I am sure you know of kids at your school over the years who have broken a rule and gotten caught like drinking under age and not been punished because of some talent they have.   Do you think that is fair?  And if they get away with that or see someone similar to them get away with it, then what makes you or them think they can’t away with something more serious.  Something like, well….I don’t know…maybe….ARMED ROBBERY?

As long everyone just looks the other way and doesn’t ask questions it will continue.

Yes, these guys have been through a lot and to be honest it will only get worse as time goes on.  That comes with notoriety and fame.  If Pat Lazear and the others want all the benefits of being a star or hanging out with a star, then they have to take all the criticism, too.  And the blind “Whitman Faithful” who support them have to learn to live with it, too.  If Pat Lazear had taken Whitman to states I am sure no one would be complaining about an article in the paper talking about what a great athlete he was. 

I am sorry your school has had to take this much heat.  But maybe if you, your friends, and all of your parents would put some pressure on the school to stop this kind of behavior before it reaches this level then maybe people could focus on the good things about Whitman and not just what these five kids did.

Ultimately Pat Lazear and the others are responsible for the choices they made.   Their parents also probably carry some of the blame for not doing something earlier (Remember , there were warning signs in the form of credit card fraud).

But PLEASE do not be so naive to think that the at least one teacher, coach or administrator couldn’t have had some influence on at least one of these kids.  If not directly, then indirectly by the way they responded to negative behavior.

Advertisements

Why I Really Coach

As another season of youth football has come to a close, and it is my son’s last season as he will be entering high school next year, I am faced with the dilemma of, “is this my last season, too or will I coach again next year?”

Many people assume it is my last given my son’s age and I may take a break from it next year, but I don’t really think it is my last for one simple reason – Why I really coach.

Many youth coaches are out there because it is a way to be involved with their own kids.  They find it is a way to build a bond and have something special with their child.  In many cases if they did not step up to coach their might not be a team at all.  Unfortunately, you also see the ones who at the end of a game aren’t as concerned with the final score as they are with their own kid’s statistics.  They coach to insure that their kid is the star and is in every play.

There are also those coaches who do it because it fulfills their competitive needs.  They are former athletes themselves still in great shape, but are too old to be allowed on the field themselves.  They are living vicariously through their players until the Redskins call.  They like the rush they get from winning and the power they feel which is something they don’t get from their jobs.

Then are those who really do have something to share and want to make a difference.  They see coaching as a way to pass along some of their knowledge and help give something back to the community.

So, which one am I?

I definitely have done it to be involved with my kid.  I have done it not to make my kid the star but in one case to prevent that “one dad” from ruining the season for everyone by him making his kid the star at the expense of everyone else.  I do love the thrill of winning but, alas, I have not maintained my athletic physique and if the Redskins were to call me, it would be to be a food taster for Dan Snyder.

I have done it to give something back to the community and make a difference in a kid’s life but I think I am unique in why I think I can or should  do this.  I had a great teacher and coach growing up.   My Dad.

He was my baseball coach all through Little League.   When he passed away several years ago, at his funeral I saw several men who I hadn’t seen since high school or even some since we had played Little League together.  Each one was there because my dad as their Little League coach 30 years earlier had touched their lives in a way they never forgot.  Several of them shared stories about how he had helped them or how as an adult they had remembered something he taught them or said to them that got them through difficult times.  All things that I didn’t know or just took for granted.  When I saw the impact he had on so many young people by just being a dad who was a volunteer baseball coach, I knew I had to follow his example.

This is one of many reasons I am so passionate about what coaches do and say around players and the special treatment gifted athletes are given.  Kids are impressionable and like it or not they do notice.  Winning is important but it is not why kids should be playing and why coaches should be coaching.  It is not the win/loss record that will have a lasting impact.

Do I think any of the kids I have coached will show up at my funeral one day?  I doubt it.  But I would like to think that when one of them comes to a crossroads in their life (i.e. rob the Smoothie King or not?) they will think about something I did or said and make the right choice.

Just like my Dad.

 PS:  I just came across this article from The Washington Post Good Coaches Win in Other Ways”.    Ditto, Bingo, Exactly…..

Side Note:  Jasmina Parazic, who is pictured in the article, coached my daughter this year in Field Hockey.   A great expereince for her and now she is hooked on the sport!

More On, “Are You Really Surprised?”

Since I posted my last Blog “Are You Really Surprised”, I have seen other articles which make some very valid and interesting points regarding Pat Lazear and the preferential treatment of athletes.

 Christine Brennan in The USA Today had an article entitled, Colleges, society flunking prep stars’ inflated sense of self-worth”.  She makes an excellent point when she talks about her attempts to reach the Athletic Directors of Ohio State and Alabama, two of the colleges still recruiting Lazear:

“Had they gotten in touch, I would have asked a simple question, something along these lines: What in the world are you thinking?”

Just as I would want to ask Lazear what he was thinking when he got in the car that night and drove to the Smoothie King.  But unfortunately, I am afraid Lazear doesn’t think – or at least he doesn’t feel he has to think about anything but himself and football.  Not his role in society, not other’s rights, etc.

When asked about the impact this is having on him, did he talk about a life lesson learned, did he apologize for a youthful mistake or even recognize that what he did was wrong?  Instead, as he told The Washington Post about his criminal charges: “If this drags on … it might mess up getting to school and getting started with football.”

He is right about that.  But I think he is missing the point.

But, let me address a comment left by a Michael Goulding in response to my Blog.  He is upset that Robert Warren’s “several prior convictions including possession of firearm, discharge of firearm in an urban area, burglaries and thefts,” but this wasn’t reported in the The Washington Post article, “All-Met Linebacker Said To Be Robbery Ringleader” 

As Mr. Gundling points out, the past history of Mr. Warren would be good to know before passing judgement.

In fairness then, I think I should let you know that Pat Lazear was previously convicted  for the use of a stolen credit card to buy a $130 pair of sneakers in November 2004 — and the ensuing 90 days of court supervision.

From your comments it appears you may not be aware of this.

As Judge Joseph A. Dugan Jr. said at Lazear’s hearing his track record contradicted the depiction of many of the people who testified to his character.

“Ten months later, not only is that all forgotten, but you’re involved in a robbery with a dangerous weapon,” Dugan said while delivering his verdict.

Is that fair enough for you Mr. Goulding?

Actually, let me say this.  The point isn’t really about Pat Lazear or Robert Warren or any individual student.  The point is the administration and coaches at Walt Whitman High School need to be looked at very closely.

I am sorry that your “golden boy” Pat Lazear is in trouble and has possibly ruined his future.  I am sorry that people have , as you call it, “piled on”.  But the truth is there are problems at Walt Whitman and if people like you would stop long enough to notice the bigger picture you might see what I am talking about.  Then maybe you will use your energy and your email skills to attack the real problem.

Dr. Alan S. Goodwin, Principal should resign

David H. Magathan Jr,  Athletic Director should resign.

Eric Wallich, Varsity Football coach should resign.

Andy Wetzel, Asst. Athletic Director/Varsity Wrestling coach and former assistant football coach should resign.

The Third Man on the Podium

The time was 1968 and the Civil Rights Movement in America was at its peak.  Only months earlier the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated and there was unrest in the streets and hatred in the air.  Faced with the challenge (or opportunity) to make a statement on a World Stage about civil rights as a white person, would you have the courage to do it?

Peter Norman did.  Peter Norman, an average white Australian male who just happened to be in the right place, at the right time didn’t hesitate to make a statement.  And he never wavered on his position until his death last week.

Who is Peter Norman?  He was the Silver Medal winner in the 200 meters at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City or “The Third Man on the Podium”.

podium.jpgNo matter how old you are you surely have seen the picture.  Tommie Smith and John Carlos with their fists clenched above their bowed heads.  But have you ever stopped to think about the third person in that picture?  Who he was or what his reaction to this must have been?  I hadn’t.  Not until today when I read Mike Wise’s article “Clenched Fists, Helping Hand” in The Washington Post. 

In ways it was refreshing to know that Smith and Carlos told Norman beforehand what they planned to do.  Instead of alerting officials he chose to actively participate in the protest by wearing the Olympic Project for Human Rights badge. 

  

You have to ask yourself, “What would I do?”

This is a question many of us have asked ourselves since 9/11.  If we were on Flight 93 or any flight where terrorists tried to hijack the plane, how would we react?  That is a pretty extreme situation that is truly a matter of life and death and we all would like to think we would be like Todd Beamer and those heroes on Flight 93. 

But what about a situation that does not put your life or others immediately at risk?  What if it is a social statement that could risk you stature among your friends or in Norman’s case, his country.  Would you have the courage to do the right thing? 

I always enjoyed John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage when I was growing up and always felt it should be required reading in school.  I am sure if they were updated today, Peter Norman and his courage at the 1968 Olympics would be among the stories.

So ask yourself and answer honestly, “What would you do?”  If you find it hard to answer then you are in the right mindset because nothing of great consequence should be easy to answer.  The next time you are faced with the dilemma of doing the right thing or just ignoring the problem, think of people like Peter Norman and know that you can make a difference.