Category Archives: The Washington Post

Poor Eren

Ok, this is a really bad title for this blog and to some (namely:  ME), might even be considered in bad taste.  So I apologize.

Now, to the point.

As a person who has written some pretty harsh comments on his blog about the administrators, coaches and teachers of Walt Whitman High School and about a former student/star athlete turned armed robber, I am sure many of the Whitman faithful already have their keyboards and pitchforks all fired up to come after me for writing anything about Eren Civan.  But please read what I have to write before you come after me.

Eren Civan really deserve a better end to his High School Wrestling career.  A 135 -0, 3 time state champion, who was on his way to another undefeated season and 4th state title, deserved better than to be taken out with a knee injury like he suffered. 

I have had the good fortune to see Eren wrestle on a few occasions over the past 3 years.  There really were none better.  Unfortunately, I never got to see him wrestle in a close match.   Everyone was a blow out.  Did he ever have a close match?  I am sure he did, but I just never got to see it.

 To become that good at anything and especially wrestling takes a certain mind set and determination.  I like what Hopkins said in The Washington Post

But in the opinion of Dave Hopkins, in his 30th year as coach at Damascus, Civan could still win it — on one leg.

“I’m surprised he hasn’t suggested doing that,” Hopkins said with a laugh. “He’s an amazing competitor.”

Most of us won’t ever be able to understand or comprehend this type of mental attitude.  Most of us would not want this type of mental attitude about anything.  But for the few who have found a passion for anything that is so strong to drive them to such lengths…..go for it.  We all marvel at it and gain enjoyment from your accomplishments.

So Eren is going on to Columbia University where with luck he will be able to continue his wrestling career after a year or so of rehab on his knee.  But even if doesn’t ever step on a mat again, he has won so much already.

The respect of others, an opportunity to attend an Ivy League School and the knowledge that if he puts his mind and body to something he can achieve it.

As I said, I really hated to hear about Eren’s injury.  You don’t wish something like that on anyone. 

 Good Luck Eren

“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.

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.

Are You Really Surprised?

“All-Met Linebacker Said To Be Robbery Ringleader” as big as life in The Washington Post.    “All-Met linebacker Pat Lazear played a prominent role in the planning and execution of an armed robbery in March…”

Should we be surprised by this revelation? No.

Entitlement.  That is what is at the root of this.

“Why were they engaged in this type of activity?” Assistant State’s Attorney Tom DeGonia asked the court. “They don’t need the money. They clearly don’t want the notoriety. The state is left with the explanation that these are young men who feel for whatever reason they can get away with this. That’s the most disturbing aspect of this.”

Entitlement.  That’s why. 

Too often he saw other athletes given special treatment, allowed to break rules and not face the consequences. That’s why.

If you are gifted in something that will bring other people success the rules don’t apply to you. You are entitled to special privileges.  That’s why.

But Lazear mistook what that meant or what that entitled him to.

He has/had an outstanding football career waiting for him in college.  He was/is one of the most heavily recruited players in the country and all by big name programs.   He was made to feel “special”.

He was made to feel special not just by the college coaches who wanted him but his own high school coaches and fellow students.  The Washington Post article quotes Robert Warren, one his armed robbery accomplices:

 “To be around this kid made me feel good,” Warren said. “Kids looked up to him like they looked up to me at Kennedy. He was a god. It was ridiculous. I wanted that feeling. People would look up to me because I was friends with him. They were like: ‘You’re friends with Pat? Whoa.’ I think that has a lot to do with all the other kids. That’s kind of sad.”

He’s right.  It is sad.  And even sadder is what lies ahead for him.

In a article from September 8, 2006 in The Washington Post, Lazear is quoted as saying, “I am just trying to put this all behind me.”  Too little, too late.

But is it really his fault?  On one hand it is because we are all responsible for our actions.  But on the other hand, was he only acting by example?

Is anyone looking at his coaches or the administration at Walt Whitman High School?

Another article in The Washington Post in today’s same edition, “8 Schools Used Ineligible Athletes, Officials Say” reports:

 “46 athletes at Einstein, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Winston Churchill, Quince Orchard, Walter Johnson, Watkins Mill, Wheaton and Walt Whitman were playing on sports teams while not having the minimum 2.0 grade-point average or possibly having more than one failing grade in the previous quarter.”

Walt Whitman High School.  The same school that Lazear and all the others involved in the robbery attended.  The same football team  that Lazear and two of the alleged perpetrators played on.

Is anybody looking at the tie between these types of activities?  Is anyone going back through Walt Whitman High School history to see their record on enforcement of school rules and how it is applied to athletes?   We need to look at the coaches and school administrators who turn a blind eye when a star athlete is caught drinking underage and they don’t suspend them. 

Lazear and every other person in the armed robbery, if found guilty, should be held accountable for their actions.  But we should also look at the root of the problem and see who is setting the example for them.

UPDATE:

Ok, I normally wouldn’t come back and add things like this but it just adds to my point.  Another article today in the The Washington Post, “Vandalism at Prep Stadiums Probed”.

Apparently, following the Whitman v. Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School  game last week, someone, presumably, Whitman fans/students, vandalized the B-CC stadium.  While this appears to be in retaliation for  B-CC students spray-painting at Whitman’s stadium the previous night, the vandalism at B-CC consisted of anti-Semitic messages.

 What is going on at Whitman?  Read the page on “Sportmanship” on the Whitman High School website.  Someone must have forgotten this exists.

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.

Work Hard. Get Better.

Recently, a high school football coach in Matewan, WV ran up the score so one of his players could break the single game rushing record.  Because of this he is now receiving all kinds of flak over poor sportsmanship and other coaches are saying he “trampled on the integrity of the game”.  In my opinion he is getting what he deserves.

However, the part of The Washington Post article which caught my attention and got my ire up was in the first paragraph and the opposing coach’s quote.

“…football players so humiliated that they dread walking through the halls…Two of them thought about quitting last week. The rest considered starting a fight. “They want to get even,” (Coach Dave) Hunt said, “because what happened to them is so unfair.”

Boo hoo hoo.  Unfair?  Come on!  What the coach should be saying is “Suck it up!  Learn from this. Work harder, get better.” Yeah, its sucks and the other coach showed no class, but there are plenty of people out in the world who show no class.  If you are so embarrassed by it then prepare better and don’t let it happen again. Unfair….sheesh….

Everything that we are doing to our kids in sports is wrong.  We praise them for the wrong things.  We excuse them for the wrong things.  We look the other way when a “star” has off field problems which might jeopardize our winning.   We misbehave ourselves as adults all in the name of competition and winning.

I am sick and tired of those people who do things to protect little Johnny’s self esteem at every turn.  Whoever came up with the idea of “participation trophies” should be taken out and shot.   Let’s look at why sports even exist and what their purpose should be: 

1.  Entertainment – Ever since the beginning of time man has used sporting events to entertain himself.  From the early Greeks with the Olympics to the Roman Gladiators fighting in the Coliseum, man has flocked to see one human compete against the other. Every Sunday in the fall we flock to large stadiums or gather around our televisions to watch hulking men play football.  We whoop it up and high five each other when our team scores.  It helps us to relieve stress and keeps us entertained.

When young kids play sports it serves as a form of entertainment for them as well.  By getting to run around on a field and for some, act out their fantasies, they are being entertained.  It’s a great release for the never ending store of energy children have and for them it is play.  Why do you think we say, “We are going to play a game today.”? 

2.  An outlet for our instincts for survival and conquest – Man is part animal and inbred into us is the instinct to survive.  Thank God.  Without it the human species would have died out long ago.  Among the many tactics man has used to survive is conquest.  By dominating his predator (the opponent) either physically or mentally, man has been able to survive over the millenniums to prosper and grow.

As Man became more civilized, conquest of other men took the form of athletic events.  Again, the Greeks with the Olympics, the Romans with the Gladiators, and so on.  The individual on the “battlefield” defending his turf and using his physical prowess and cunning to defeat his opponent and live to play another game.

We even have teams that represent our schools, our cities, even our countries and use the outcome of sporting events to claim superiority over our rivals.  Just because your local high school football team beats the one in the next town over does that really mean you have a better high school? 

3.  Educational – This is where sports have gone wrong.

Character. Teamwork.  Responsibility.  Work Ethic.  Respect. Pride.  These are all words that have always been associated with sports.  We drum this into the kid’s heads and we repeat it over and over again to convince them and ourselves that whatever ridiculous drill or sacrifice they are asked to make has value.  And I actually believe this.  I truly believe that you can find purpose in even the most mundane task, if you present it correctly.

But, this is where sports has gone awry.  Instead of teaching kids how to act in the face of adversity, we have changed the rules to protect their self esteem.  Instead of teaching kids that hard work and practice pays off, we now force coaches to play everybody and limit the play of the best.  Unfortunately, this is as much an outcome of trying to protect Johnny’s self esteem as it is needing to curb a coach’s competitive side who is making up for his failed childhood.  He has forgotten that the point of sports is to build character, etc. and that all kids should be given a chance to participate.  It is not about them as a coach and living vicariously through their kids by dominating everyone and everything to compensate for their less than successful life and career as an adult.

When we are on the receiving end of a truly classless act like running up the score, we cry that it is unfair and we support the kids in wanting to fight and make excuses for the loss.  We don’t teach kids to learn from their experiences.  We teach them to make excuses for their experiences.  “The ball was slippery” or “The ref blew the call”.  Maybe so, but the reality is you didn’t catch the ball or you didn’t play hard enough so that the ref’s mistake on one call shouldn’t make a difference.  Be responsible; be accountable for your actions.  Learn from your mistakes.  Work hard.  Get better.

To the coach in Matewan – get some class.  To the opposing Coach – Blow your nose, work hard and get better. 

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.

A Knee Jerk Reaction and a Jerk’s Reaction

Duncan Seeks Resignation of Election Chiefs

If you live in Maryland or even the Washington Metropolitan Area you know that there were some significant blunders with the voting process in Montgomery County (and Baltimore).  Some of you probably showed up early at the polls on your way to work ready to vote only to find out that your polling place was not prepared to take your vote.

This is because, according to The Washington Post article, “…elections officials forgot to distribute the plastic cards needed to activate the electronic voting machines.” 

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and County Council President George L. Leventhal, being the good politicians that they are, have called for the “…the county’s top two elections officials to be fired…”

But this is the typical knee jerk reaction we get from our elected representatives. Let’s be real.  The general election is just over six weeks away.  Does anyone really think that if we were to replace everyone responsible for the election process at this point that someone new could have things fixed and ready by November 7th?

Doug, good or bad your political career is over.  Quit acting like a politician jerking your head and knee based upon the political winds.  Instead start using your common sense to guide your mouth.  It will take you a lot further when you enter the private sector.

As for the election process screw ups, some of you may wonder how the election judges could not have known they didn’t have the cards necessary to begin voting until the morning of the election.  The voting machines and everything else are delivered the night before for set up so why didn’t anyone notice the cards were missing.

I have a friend who has been working nights for several weeks helping to set up and test all the voting machines.  Apparently, the judges are not allowed to open the bags that the cards are in until that morning (this is to prevent tampering).  So the bags were there, they just didn’t have the cards in them.

Here is the good or bad part depending upon why you are reading this.

Rumor has it that the person who was responsible for checking to make sure all the right cards are in the right bags before they go out is known to have made repeated mistakes in the past.  The Washington Post says that Paul Valette had been identified “…as the elections operations manager who was supervising the staff that omitted the voting cards from the supply bags sent to precincts.”  I do not know and I am not saying, infering, implying or any other term you want to use that Mr. Vallette is the person the Rumor I heard is referring to or not.  I am just quoting the newspaper.

The Rumor also included that an individual who works with the “repeat mistake maker” has covered for him and caught his mistakes so many times in the past, that this year they refused to even double check his work.

If this Rumor is true, there are so many things wrong on so many levels. 

First, if someone is known to be incompetent in their job and have repeatedly made errors that others have had to catch, why are they still employed?  We all make mistakes, but in a position of apparent authority and importance, where do we draw the line?

Second, and honestly most concerning, if you are a government employee or even if you are a volunteer who is helping with the election process and you know someone is prone to making mistakes, why would you not either double check their work or at least alert someone else that it should be double checked?  I mean really…..

People do not take pride in their work any more.  We have become lazy and selfish.  “It’s not my job” has been joined by “I don’t get compensated for that” and “It’s not my problem.”

So while our politician’s had a knee jerk reaction to what happened, there are those in our government who were Jerks for not preventing it from happening.

All I can say is that in the pending investigation of what went wrong with the election process, I hope that the people responsible are held accountable and that the people who suspected there could be a problem but did nothing to fix it be held equally accountable.