Category Archives: Washington DC Region

Of Course They Are….

The Princeton Review has bestowed the honor of the No.1 Party School in America upon the University of West Virginia.  The administration, for obvious reaasons are none too proud of this distinction and in fact their incoming president Mike Garrison tried to deflect the attention by saying, “the students he met over the weekend and on the first day of classes Monday are more concerned with their futures “and with the great year we have ahead” than with partying.”

I find this an interesting comment from the head of a school that recruited a convicted armed robber to play football.  Remember Pat Lazear?  As far as I know he is still playing and receiving a free education from WVU in return for playing football.  All this while far more deserving teenagers are working several jobs to pay thier tuition and they didn’t break any laws.

 I will give President Garrison the benefit of the doubt on the Pat Lazear situation since he is new and did not have anything to do with Pat’s recruitment. But Garrison also said, “I’m focused on the way this university changes people’s lives, the research that we do and the service we provide to the state of West Virginia.”

 If that is the case then President Garrison I would suggest you look at how many residents of the State of West Virginia did not get in or get a scholarship becasue your school actively recruited and  accepted Pat Lazear and others of his ilk.  Look at how their lives were changed by this.

Oh, and congratulations on being voted the No.1 party School in America.  The parents of your students and all of your staff must be proud.

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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

I’ll Make the Difference

Last night I attended my 11 year old daughter’s choir concert.  The music was very nice and I have to admit for middle schoolers, I was very impressed with the harmonies and blending of voices that the choral director had been able to achieve with these kids. 

While the voices were very good and I really enjoyed getting to see my youngest daughter perform on stage, there was one very special moment which occurred which literally choked me up.   

I can’t recall whether I have told you that our oldest son who is now 19,  is a 16 year cancer survivor.  He was diagnosed at three with neuroblastoma, went through chemo and radiation and eventually had an autologous bone marrow transplant.  We consider ourselves very fortunate that he is alive today and very thankful to everyone who played a part in his treatment and recovery.

So how does our oldest son having had cancer have anything to do with my daughter’s concert last night?

Well, the Chamber Singers, which is the school’s elite choir sang a song called “I’ll Make the Difference” which just happens to be a song written for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.  It is a beautiful song whose lyrics are truly inspirational and there is a beautiful female solo which starts it off.  Having a son who is a cancer survior, having lost both my father and mother-in-law to cancer and having been an active participant in the Relay for Life for many years you can imagine that anything to do with cancer has a special meaning to me.  Over the years though, I have been able to suppress certain emotions on the outside when facing anything cancer-related.  But last night was different.

See, a few years ago a young boy in our town was diagnosed with Leukemia and after several attempts with chemo he eventually had a bone marrow transplant.  The donor was his sister who happened to be in the same grade with our youngest son.

The soloist was this same girl who was the marrow donor for her brother.

Now you might think she was selected for this part because of her story, and in part that may be true, but she has a beautiful voice and is a member of the State Honors Choir.

Seeing her up there singing this song about hope and helping others and knowing what she had already done in her life for others….well, you get my point.

After, the song I looked over at her dad and brother who were sitting a few rows down from us and I could see the joy in their faces.  They were both giving her a special hand signal which would make no sense to anyone else, but probably meant everything to them.

It’s moments like this that make you realize how precious life is and question what you have done to make a difference.  Is raising your family and living a model life enough?  Or do you need to be active in the community and participate in helping others outside of your family to make a difference? 

We are all busy in our daily lives and we have enough to keep us busy with our immediate family.  But the real reward and the real difference is when you go beyond what you have to do.

The next time you are faced with an opportunity to help someone else, do it before you are asked. 

It’s Been a While…and That’s Life

So it has been a few days since I last posted on my blog. For those of you who have been checking for something new…I apologize.

Not much of out the ordinary in my life has really been happening, though.  I’ve done some Christmas shopping and spent some time with my boss who was in town from Dallas for some meetings.  Basically, I have spent time with my wife and kids and just hung around the house, basically, well, living life.  A simple life.

 No events or dramas, no tragedies or triumphs.  Just life.

Isn’t that what we all say we want?   To just live everyday with no complications or troubles, with our loved ones safe and our possessions intact.  Being free to enjoy all that we have and all those we love. 

But when we get it, well, we are bored or don’t fill fulfilled.  I can’t say that I felt either over the past few days and I viewed the reprieve from constant activity as just a break following a crazy fall of football and other things before I enter into all this winter has planned.  A chance to catch my breath and enjoy the simple life around me.

We all need these moments in our lives otherwise we wouldn’t appreciate those times when our lives are full of triumphs, tragedies, dramas and events.  So, I will go back to the comfort of my down time and prepare for whatever life hands me next.

“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.

Amtrak’s Total Lack of Concern

So, yesterday I wrote a post about how much I like taking the train to NYC and how it is better than flying there, etc.  I went ahead and put it up today because basically I still do feel that way but the experience I had on my way home after writing the post……. let’s just say I am a little tainted.

Yesterday I went to NYC on an Amtrak train for business.  The train ride up was uneventful, my meeting and presentation went well and I returned to Penn Station to catch the 5:39 Amtrak Regional back to BWI Airport Station.  This trip back was uneventful as well until we were about 10 minutes outside of Baltimore’s Penn Station.

One of the conductors came through the cars announcing that there had been a train derailment outside of Washington and that everyone would need to get off in Baltmore.  He also said that Amtrak would be arranging for buses to take people to their final destinations.

Ok, so here it is 8:30 at night and I am one stop away – about 10 minutes by train – from my final destination where my car is parked.  The news of the derailment sucks and the thought of riding  a bus to BWI sucks even more because I know this translates in to at least another hour before I am in my car and heading home.  But I can deal with this because it had been a good day and it is not as if the cause of this is the result of anything that could have been avoided.  These things happen.

I follow everyone into the station expecting to be lead to some waiting buses or at least to an area to wait for the buses to arrive.  This is where it all broke down.  There are several details I could provide you but I have basically categorized them into the 4 things that really pissed me off about what happened over the next hour. 

1) Amtrak’s total lack of preparation, communication or concern for their potentially stranded passengers.

Upon entering the station it was not clear where to go.  No one from Amtrak was directing people or making any effort to communicate what was happening.  Finally, I saw a few people heading toward an office tucked int he corner of the station with a small sign above the door that read “Amtrak Customer Service”.

Inside a woman behind a desk  was in a very quite conversation on the phone and when she saw the crowd of people standing in front of her a look of “crap I am going to have to work” came over her face.  Her conversation went on a for a few more minutes as no one interupted her assuming it was a call related to the events at hand.  She finally could be heard saying, “Ok, honey I will see you when I get home,” right before she hung up. (sigh, “this is not going to go well,” I thought.)

She proceeded to tell us that they were waiting to see if they could possibly get a train through to Washington so everyone should just wait.  No buses were being planned for now until a decsion on running a train could be made.  She had no idea when the decison wold be made but guessed it would be “at least an hour or two.”

I immediately turned around ans asked who was interested in splitting a cab to BWI.

How could Amtrak be so unprepared?  We were not the first train to have to stop in Baltimore that evening.  This was not the first derailment Amtrak has ever had to deal with. 

2) Yellow Cab’s monopoly over the cab lane at Penn Station and unwillingness to help people

At Penn Station in Baltimore the cab line out front is for the exclusive use of Yellow Cabs only.  All other cabs must park away from this cab lane and the gentleman employed by Yellow Cab to direct traffic in the curb lane makes sure they do.

So, I don’t really understand this since I beleive Penn Station is publicly owned (ok, acutally it is owned by Amtrak but Amtrak receives over $2 Billion (yes, that’s a B) a year from the US Government so technically I think of it is as publicly owned).  As such, how could any company be allowed to set upa monopoly like this?

But what really gets me is that in a moment of “crisis” like this why couldn’t Yellow Cab put aside their exclusivity to insure there were enough cabs for everyone to get to their destinations safely?  And why didn’t someone from Amtrak come outside and use their leverage over Yellow Cab to get them to waive their exclusivity?  I am sure Amtrak is getting a pretty penny from Yellow Cab for this monopoly.

3) The breakdown of society and common courtesy right before my eyes

As a result of Yellow Cab not allowing other cabs to pull into the cab lane, people toward the back of  the line were going out and hijacking other cabs arriving at the station.  They were blantantly stopping these cabs from moving to the area where the front of the cab line was, where the people who had been there first and been waiting there the longest were.  And they were doing this right in front of everyone depsite calls and jeers from the people still waiting in line.

In addition, while we were waiting in line for cabs another train arrived which meant more people pouring out of the station.  As they came out there were numerous of them who had the gall to try and just blend in and cut in line!

I have waited in long lines for cabs at numerous airports, hotels, train stations, etc. and I have never seen anything like I saw last night.  I could not believe the complete disrespect for other people, the complete breakdown of unwritten social norms and courtesy, the completely personal acts of selfishness.  Waiting in line for your turn is all part of the rules and structure that we learn as early as kindergarten and is what keeps our live from collapsing int o complete turmoil.

Fortunately, those of us who chose to stay in line until enough Yellow Cabs arrived for us to get one, remained calm and maintained some civility.  But it was the perfect recipe for civil disrest that fortunately never quite got ignited.

4)  If O’Malley can’t control the cabs in Baltimore, how can he possibly run the state as the newly elected Governor?

In closing, let me just say that I still think the train is the best way to travel to NYC.  The experience I had last night is certainly an anomaly as the behavior of the crowd was really unlike any I had ever seen before.  98% of the time Amtrak runs really well.  But the 2% of the time that it doesn’t – well….. However, had Amtrak been more responsive to the overall situation and communicated what was going on, none of it would have happened. 

Today Is the Super Bowl

My son’s team plays in the league’s Super Bowl today.  We are 11 – 0 and are playing a team that is 9 -2.  Their only losses were to us during the regular season.

We have been preparing for this since August 1 (the coaches a “little” longer).

Let’s pray for great weather, a great game of no injuries and good sportsmanship and at the end of the day have every player and coach be able to say “I Did My Best!