Rah, rah, rah

If you were appalled at the cavalier cops, here’s another story to make you sneer with disgust. Jaquandor reports on a couple of kids who pulled a stupid prank that nearly killed a couple of teenagers (one had a broken neck and brain damage, and has been through 10 surgeries), and the judge gave them a couple of light sentences, and worst of all, delayed the start of their sentences…until the end of football season.

That’s right, they’re high school football players. It would be unduly harsh to prevent them from playing football, you know. And besides, the members of the football team must all be good kids. Regular saints.

I remember the football team in my high school—Kent-Meridian was big on football. I was in gym class with them. If we’d ever picked teams for our games, I would have been one of those picked nearly last; I was the skinny nerd who would have rather been anywhere else. We never picked teams, though, because the coach always divided the class into the football players vs. everyone else. So one day we’re playing basketball—if you’re unfamiliar with the game, it’s not a contact sport—when I go to make a jump shot and a 250 pound lineman takes me out with a tackle from the side. I briefly recall seeing them high-five each other before the pain blinded me: I’m really not used to having my patella on the medial side of my leg, or to having my knee bend sideways. My assailant was not rebuked, nor did I get so much as an apology from him.

I do not have a charitable view of the kind of privilege given to participants in team sports.

Oh, well. The football players who crippled another student in Kenton, Ohio are suffering horribly.

The 17-year-old’s father, C.J. Howard, said members of the community have made crude remarks when his family shops at a nearby Wal-Mart store and that his younger children are taunted by older youth when they play in the yard.

Oh, wow, man. They’re getting called mean names. By comparison, the kids who were nearly killed got off easy.


  1. Shyster says

    There is something about the social and sexual allure of athletes and competitive sports that tends to make otherwise sane and rational people lose their minds. My son works hard, makes a great salary and is young, good looking and single. On weekends he travels to chess tournaments. I asked him why and he said, “Two words, Dad: chess groupies.” Competition releases pheromones that blind the sane.

  2. G. Tingey says

    This is a disease that you’ve kept from British days. I’m afraid.

    Here, we have got real football (soccer) which is almost a religion, and I can assure you that shivering in an English February on a muddy footie-field, surrounded by muscular louts is no joke.

    Football = Fascism.

    Or, can I quote a classic? BTW the odd spelling is in the original, which should give you a clue ….

    “Yes, clots, weeds and fellow suferers, it means the good old season is with us and Jack the shepherd is a good deal warmer when he blows his nail than we are. Birds frozen; little children sink with a vast buble in the mud and are not heard of agane: sigismund the mad maths master dons his woolen hem-hems. Yes, this is the time when we are driven out with whip and lash onto ye old soccer field.
    Mind you, there are some who think soccer is super. These are the ones who charge, biff, tackle and slam the leather first-time into the net ect. They hav badges andhav a horrible photo taken at the end of term with their arms folded and the weat chalked upon the pill.
    I speke for millions when i sa I AM NO GOOD AT SOCCER. You can of course, watch it from the touchline in that case. Very different. …
    I need hardly tell you the essential thing about a football i.e.nobody need tell me to get rid of it. I do not want it in the first place. Wot is the use of having a soaking wet piece of leather pushed at you? Give me a piece of hadock every time, at least you can eat it.

  3. oldhippie says

    A good reason to teach kids to drive really defensivily and not too fast on country roads. Up north moose are one of the most dangerous forms of wildlife – because of car accidents.
    And no, the guys that did it should not have been allowed to play football. On the other hand, maybe they were sports jocks and bit dumb. They probably did not want to damage someone, they just did not think very hard. But the judge may send them the message they are privileged and can get away with anything, turning them from potential monsters into real ones.

  4. Diego says

    I do recall that it was semi-official school policy in my football obsessed high school that the football players could skip as often as they liked as long as at least some of the time they were at the local barbecue joint getting free food to build big, strong bodies. Weird system. My college was almost as bad.

  5. Nick says

    I, too, feel disgusted that they’ll be allowed to play, but after hearing what the judge had to say, I see why he struggled to make his decision.

    From The Columbus Dispatch:

    “One of the difficult things for any judge when sentencing a child is trying to figure out what will make that person change their behavior in the future,” he said. “Sometimes you run the risk that if you treat the defendant leniently, that it will send the wrong message, that it will say, ‘You don’t have to take responsibility.’ “
    But when he sentenced 17-year-old Jesse Howard and 16-year-old Dailyn Campbell to 60 days in a detention center Tuesday — to be served after football season — Judge Gary F. McKinley made it clear his decision wasn’t about the boys not taking responsibility but was instead about finding a ticket out of a troubled life.
    Both Campbell and Howard are standout Kenton High School athletes, and their coaches and assistant principal testified at Tuesday’s hearing that the kids deserve to stay on the field. Their attorneys argued that both boys have scholarship potential, and said taking away their chance at a future that includes college would continue to send them in the wrong direction.
    “I would love to make (the victims) whole, but you can’t go back and unring a bell,” McKinley said. Then, he told a crying Howard: “I’m going let you play football. I’m going to let you have your shot at a scholarship. What you make of it is up to you.”
    To the attorneys and the courtroom in general, he added: “Denying him an opportunity to play football and denying him an opportunity to go to college isn’t in any way going to help the victims in this case or help society.”

  6. Evil Monkey says

    This nerd’s children won’t have a problem putting them in their place. I can promise you that.

  7. Edmund says

    I wonder what would have happened if they’d been caught with marijuana or something. You know, some kind of really heinous crime.

  8. says

    The reason why team sports players are given so much status and exemption from ordinary rules is that they are the modern warrior class. Warriors have always been treated as above the ordinary rules, and their status remains long after they cease to be elite sportsmen (I am talking about males here – elite sportswomen do not have this benefit). This happens for no other profession or activity, possibly apart from performers. It is a feature of apes that live in large packs…

  9. Martin says

    My highschool was quite bad. I went to the one in my town that the local OHL (Ontario Hockey League, Ontario, Canada) players also went to, and they received blatant special treatment. For example, in my grade 13 kinesiology class I got a 65% on my examination of how endorphins change your mood after exercise, while an OHL player got a 90% for their canned “History of the Hockey Skate” essay.

  10. Jeff Boatright says

    I disagree with the judge based on his statement provided by Nick at 8:16 am. What the judge said about these defendants who were found guilty could be said about ANYONE who committed nearly ANY crime. You can’t unring a bell, so what the hell, don’t punish anyone. And, ANYONE would be better off not being incarcerated, not just high school footbal players with scholarship potential, so again, what the hell, let ’em all out.

    I’m married to a public defender and I usually err on the side of leniency in my opinions, but if this was truly the reasoning the judge applied in sentencing, well, it must be nice to be in his courtroom if you’re a PD, ’cause EVERY case that goes against your client you can pull this out and ask the judge why oh why isn’t he applying the same standard.

  11. Ian H Spedding says

    It was much the same in British schools with soccer and rugby.

    As I see it, it’s like rap or hip-hop or whatever, an excuse for thugs to get away with being thugs because they are celebrities.

  12. Lago says

    I am so freakin’ sick of Football. It is a game, yet these people treat it as if it a Holy event.

    When I was a kid they used to do the same thing. Kids were seen as “better kids” if they were on the Football team, and it was often a valid defense when accused of doing something wrong, as in, “He is a good kid,..he is on the football team and everything!”

    What gets me is that we all knew people that were on our High-school and College teams, and they were no better than anyone else. It even seemed to me that they actually caused more problems and broke more rules, but it matter less because they were, “On the team!”

    You keep hearing people in places of authority telling kids to work hard and you’ll get rewarded for your efforts, but this is crap. Football teaches people that you do not need to do the same as everyone else, but that, if you are considered “special” you should get special treatment.

    It’s is OK though, because, in the end, I used to simply wait for the jocks to be alone, and that is when I would corner them, with no witnesses. A bit psychotic I know, but invigorating.

  13. says

    “I would love to make (the victims) whole, but you can’t go back and unring a bell,”

    Well that’s a pretty good rationale for just never punishing anybody for anything. Oh wait, not it isn’t.

  14. M says

    When I was at school, a boy in the opposite number boys school was killed playing rugby (illegal high tackle crushed some of the bones in his neck).

    They bought a rugby cup and named it after him.

    Me: Isn’t naming a rugby cup after him a bit sick?
    Teacher: No, he loved playing rugby.
    Me: Um, yes, but that’s what killed him?

  15. Mena says

    And for the girls in the audience, just one word: Cheerleaders.
    Posted by: speedwell

    Er, I’m no more interested in the cheerleaders than I am the players…
    (Bring on the chess team!) ;^)

  16. says

    Oh, wow, man. They’re getting called mean names. By comparison, the kids who were nearly killed got off easy.

    They should be lucky people weren’t throwing stones.

  17. says

    The reason why team sports players are given so much status and exemption from ordinary rules is that they are the modern warrior class.

    I was one of those skinny nerds picked last, used as a dodgeball target, and was ticked to see art class swamped with jocks taking an ‘easy course’ while I was honestly trying to learn to apply perspective and shading in my work. They got away with cr*p in every subject they took, from History (taught by the COACH!) to Algebra.

    My computer elective was great – no jocks!

    After high school, most of those so called ‘warriors’ went on to get fine jobs at the local pipe yard or hardware store. A couple went on to flunk out of college.

    I took up Tae Kwon Do, joined the Air Force for 10 years, then became an engineer.

    Living well IS the best revenge!

  18. says

    Kenton’s near where I grew up. Sadly, doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s a town where there’s nothing to do, nothing around for miles unless you want to make the trek to Lima or Ada (and the latter’s mainly notable just for its movie theater, Hardee’s, and underage drinking). So, you go out in the country and pull pranks–TP houses, blow up mailboxes (though the deer one is new to me, and even more stupid than some of the other activities). And football is definitely king–it’s the only thing that puts places like Kenton on the map. The pranksters should count their blessings that they got off so lightly; their victims, it seems, don’t have it that easy.

  19. says

    Oh man, does this topic push my buttons. I got my Bachelor’s at Florida State, where everybody has a season ticket and Tallahassee is a ghost town on afternoons when there is a game. The philosophy building didn’t have adequate A/C to cool the downstairs, but the Athletics Center had a glass elevator–in a TWO-STORY building. I tutored a football player in Sociology 101–the players had tutors in every single class–and my job was to read the text and tell it to him, so he wouldn’t have to read it. Nice guy, but he was a senior and had never heard of communism. When I was at FSU, they instituted a new rule, informally called the Deion Sanders rule, that you can’t pass a class if you skip the final.

    Needless to say, those fundraising letters that FSU sends me go right in the recycling box.

  20. bernarda says

    Didn’t some players for the professional Minnesota football team get in trouble for some unseemly behavior a couple of years ago?

    I remember hearing Jay Leno make a lot of jokes about it back then.

  21. Steve Watson says

    the Athletics Center had a glass elevator–in a TWO-STORY building
    Does anyone else find it deeply ironic, that in the building nominally devoted to physical fitness, one is aparently not expected to walk up the stairs. (Of course, I know better: as I learned in high school gym class, athletics pertains to sports skills, with physical fitness only as a necessary adjunct. Mere physical activity doesn’t count unless it involves expensive equipment and/or fierce competition).

  22. QrazyQat says

    Anyone ever see the Robert Blake movie “Electraglide in Blue”? He was a motorcycle cop and one of his stops was a truck driver who was taking a road he shouldn’t be on because it was a shortcut. The truck driver pleads with him to cut him a break since he just got back from ‘Nam and if he gets cited he’ll lose his truck driving job. Blake cites him, and gives his reason: he said he’d gotten “break” after “break” from well-meaning people when he got back from the war and it just – inevitably — led to him using the “breaks” as a crutch which held him back for years, so he’s doing the guy a favor and giving him a real break by reintroducing him to the real world, the world where your actions have consequences.

    And if you want an extreme example of someone who, during his lifetime, has lived a life without consequence for bad actions, and has made a huge mess of virtually everything he’s been involved in as a result, you need look no further than the Oval Office.

  23. Nix says

    I’ll tell you where jocks succeed. Around major financial centres, especially the City of London. Trading floors are *packed* with these people: the allocation of capital to needy entities in our society is carried out in large part by people whose only real interest is in kicking a ball around a muddy field.

    (Of course, the ones who do *well* are often passionately interested in their actual job. They’re the ones who get the vast bonuses.)

  24. j says

    All right, I’m going to complain about my experiences too.

    Before every single game of the season in every single sport, some unknown forces would tape personalized motivational “Good luck tonight, So-and-so!” posters on every single athlete’s locker. I believe the parent-teacher association was responsible for it. On the days with the locker posters, the athletes, more than ever, enjoyed an elevated, godlike status. Dressed in their uniforms, they looked and talked like clones. And they could do no wrong, for our school had to win the game that night. I never attended a single athletic event, and I was considered seriously lacking in school spirit.

    Perhaps I wouldn’t have cared about this so much if the math team and science team got posters on their lockers. But our victories didn’t boost school spirit, so they didn’t make school news.

    The last day of school was marked by a two-hour-long assembly, during which awards were handed out to pretty much every athlete in the school: Best Male Athlete, Best Female Athlete, Best Male Athletic-Academic Achievement, Best Female Athletic-Academic Achievement, Best Double Athlete, Most Improved Athlete, etc. etc. etc. There was even one very vague and “prestigious” award that basically boiled down to a faculty-elected Homecoming Queen and King. It was disgusting. Was there a Best Academic Achievement award? Of course not.

  25. David says

    Well at least Kenton is being mentioned for something other than coon dogs and bad jokes about inbreeding. Keep in mind that this part of Ohio is still basking in the glow of the quarterback who almost killed himself on his motorcycle. They are also waiting for some ex-OSU placekicker to make it big in the NFL. Football is bigger than ever around here, and I won’t start on all the negative ramifications I see in school.
    The case PZ referred to is another example of the wild inconsistency of justice in these parts. There have been several very harsh sentences lately (for some nasty crimes, admittedly)that make quite a contrast to this one.
    Tara’s list of local activities is pretty accurate, and we all know what idle hands are. I would add spud guns (some shooting kerosene-soaked cucumbers) and chopping down utility poles to the list of dangerous local pranks.
    Do I need to point out that this is an overwhelmingly republican district where Bush is still popular?

  26. Nymphalidae says

    I hate cheerleaders more than football players, probably because I’m female. Girls are probably more cruel than boys, they just aren’t physical about it.

  27. Judy L. says

    this is appalling. in his sentencing, the judge was more concerned about improving the life opportunities of these teenage jerks than meting out justice for the brain and body damage their little prank caused for two other teenagers…i guess that since the injured young men weren’t football players with scholarship potential that their lives are worth less and their suffering is negligible.

  28. stogoe says

    I have to admit I enjoyed my high school football’s games. I was in the band, and it was a great excuse to play our instruments really loud and hang out with friends. Our football tema was so bad the only reason we ever paid attention to the game was to see we were down by 50 points yet. Our school district had a rule where if a team was down by 50 points, the game was over. If we were down by 50+, we could leave early. Sad to say, it never happened before half time. Almost, some times, but not quite.

  29. Interrobang says

    PZ, your knee story made me clutch my leg and blurt out “Owww…” Been there, done that, lost a perfectly good pair of jeans over it.

    The football players at my high school were clones, I’m sure. Everyone I’ve run into from high school since then has made even me a little smug, and that’s kind of pathetic. :) It’s sort of nice to see the jock who was all up on himself ten years ago who, at the age of 25, looks 40 because of smoking and aggressive tanning.

  30. Kagehi says

    Hmm. Grade school – The *couch* treated the atheletes as kind and exempted them from things like the daily runs we had to do. The only good thing, he didn’t care if you walked it. One years I came in fourth in the “exception” run, the guy behind me simply had strength left, which I didn’t. My reward for such great effort? “I only care about the top three!”

    Highschool.. Rallies, before every freaking game. Some of use figured out that the Computer lab teacher didn’t attend and we could sneak in there and play with the computers instead. Unfortunately, the people pushing rallies (some others knew and didn’t care) also eventually figured that out and threatened all of us, including the teacher, if we didn’t show up and show “School Spirit!”. My asking how being forced by the school to attend some stupid waste of time designed to let cheerleaders and jocks prance around while boring everyone to death was supposed to “improve” my school spirit didn’t go over too well. lol Probably 50% of the people that where not nerds, but just went because the school said they had to, would have hidden from the sports mob with us, if they had known it was an option. I suspect that is “precisely” what the couches and other morons involved feared. ;)

  31. says

    As a freshman ninth grader in 1969, the coach decided to feed his sixth period PE class to the Junior Varsity team. I was told to “Get in there and rush!” so I did. I ran into a rabbit punch to the shoulder that I might have been able to roll with had I not been blocked by his teammate in the approved manner, so my left clavicle snapped in half, sending my shoulder up to my ear. I complained of a sharp pain, and was told to “Get back in there and rush!” so I left the field instead. I got to sit out PE for most of the year, and got a fine bottle of codeine. Nobody thought any recriminations were due anybody apart from me.

    About that time, the Bonzo Dog Band’s Keynsham album was getting some radioactivity in LA, including this lyric from Vivian Stanshall:

    Sport (The Odd Boy)
    The odd boy lay down by the football field
    Took out a slim volume of Mallarme.
    The centre-forward called him an imbecile.
    It’s an odd boy who doesn’t like sport.

    Sport, Sport, masculine sport.
    Equips a young man for society.
    Yes, sport turns out a jolly good sort.
    It’s an odd boy who doesn’t like sport.

    Dear Mr. Poxham, would you kindly excuse Anthony from games today? He has had a nasty cold over the weekend and still has headaches and feels a bit snotty. I don’t feel he should be outside with the rougher type of boy, as he is a little delicate. Hoping you will understand, yours sincerely, Nellie Daniels, Mrs.

    Give him a nice, cold shower!

    Sport, Sport, masculine sport.
    Equips a young man for society.
    Yes, sport turns out a jolly good sort.
    It’s an odd boy who doesn’t like sport.

  32. phishstyx says

    This situation actually touches on several important/controversial issues. Why are GAMES allowed to take such an important role in our society? I am aware that participation in athletics and other similar activities is important in social development (although clearly being on the football team did not imbue these particular individuals with any sort of good judgement/intelligence/sensitivity), but these programs are not the end-all-be-all of childhood and adolescence. And certainly, sports teams should have no special place above others. Why should being good at football provide an opportunity to go to college? Certainly, being a great cook or excellent tap dancer doesn’t open many educational doors. If athletic ability is the only thing that will get a kid into college, then maybe he/she doesn’t really belong there (and on another rant: it’s not like a college degree is some sort of magical guarantee of securing a good job/salary/life). Maybe these two would be better served by spending some time doing some community service at a hospital or physical rehab center instead of out on the football field.

  33. David says

    Spud guns are way cool, but you have to watch where you point them.
    Oddly enough, I have seen only one passing reference to the sentence in our local papers, and so far no public outrage. We’ll see what surfaces now that the episode has drawn wide atention.

  34. says


    This situation actually touches on several important/controversial issues. Why are GAMES allowed to take such an important role in our society?

    Because they are stylized combat, especially the contact sports, and we are a brutish and warlike species that values violence (or the threat of violence) above pretty much everything else. Even so, biological imperatives and sapience dictate that we cannot simply spend all our time killing each other, so we have to build elaborate methods for taking out our aggression without significantly compromising our ability to perpetuate the species.

    I like sports as much as the next guy, but I was one of those skinny nerds in high school, so back then I never had much respect for the people who were actually deeply involved in athletics. Certainly in high school, all the jocks were complete assholes with serious entitlement issues, pretty much without exception, including most of the girls. The girls were mostly mean to each other, though, so I never had a real problem with them. And interestingly enough, it was the baseball players who were the worst, not the football guys. Not that they were great, of course. And I actually had pretty good relationships with some of the basketball players.

    Things started to turn a bit once I went off to college. My freshman year, I lived nextdoor to a wide receiver and a running back (also freshmen), and they were nice enough guys. Granted this was at Vanderbilt, so they really didn’t have much cause to be too full of themselves. And since I’ve been in grad school, all the athletes I’ve met have been perfect gentlemen/ladies.

    But there are certainly places at which the sports-entitlement culture is so ingrained that it’s tough to call it anything but a cancer. Alabama and Auburn spring immediately to mind, but the Texas schools have had our fair share of it in the past. And if Vandy can’t win on the gridiron, I can at least take a great deal of consolation from the fact that we’re the only school in the SEC not to have been hit with NCAA sanctions in the last 30 years.

  35. Kayla says

    Luckily, the high school I went to isn’t big on football (actually, they pretty much suck at sports generally), so when a group of football players held up a smoothie shop a while back, the county pretty quickly charged them with felony armed robbery.

  36. G. Tingey says

    I note no-one has sourced my quote, back at comment #2 at the top of this list…..

    One other comment.

    It should be Team SPURTS: – as in uncontrollable jerks of undirected semen.
    That is about the level, I’m afraid.


  37. drtomaso says

    in re Jocks as Traders: I see this all the time (I work on wall street) and the jocks end up as sales traders mostly. My job? Replacing their job with a computer ;)

    Revenge is sweet.

    But seriously, they get this job because its sales and requires a huge amount of confidence. The real traders are guys (and girls- I use the unisex ‘guys’) with an MA or PhD in math or physics (some Comp sci, some econ, even bio) who slave to all hours of the night building computer models. With a few noteable exceptions, they werent on the field much in college. And they make insane, mind boggling amounts of money.

  38. says

    I come from Australia and we make team sports of everything and I think it is pretty positive. (We also have competitions to suit almost every ability level and our sports don’t tend to be so tailored to freaks as American sports are. i.e. Only giants can play.) I even saw an article in SMH which claimed team sports are good training for Democracy. Basically the argument went like this:
    Team sports teach:
    1. Putting aside personal preferences for the sake of the team ;
    2. people have different roles to play, but all are important;
    2. following rules – accepting the judgement of referee;
    3. there will be another game week, winning isn’t everything.

    He doesn’t say that they are always played in that spirit, but the idea was that, that is what they teach.

  39. Zbu says

    I love how Football gives people this undeserved status that really goes nowhere. I have a prime example of the quarterback in my class that was going to go onto bigger and better things, along with the rest of the team. Unfortunately for him, he did so poorly at school that after he graduated he got a wedding ring and a job at a cement factory. Two kids later he got divorced after a very rocky marriage and the last time I saw him he was penniless, riding a bike, living at the apartment building in town that was known for its shady element and had furry brown teeth. He was my age but he looked like 45 years old.

    Oh yeah, football players are elite…at sucking in life.

  40. Carlie says

    I have as many horrid athletic stories as anyone, but I would like to give one counterexample. I had a student a couple of years ago who had a lot of potential, but he came from a completely non-academic inner city background, and simply didn’t know or care how to study. He was on the basketball team, and was told after flunking the first semester that he had to shape up or was off the team. It was amazing – he failed my class the first semester, and got an A the second. And I know it was him doing the work; a lot of it was in-class writing. He was in my office every other week. Not that it excuses the wretched overemphasis on it, but for at least a few students in a few schools, sports can provide a strong motivator where other things don’t.

  41. says

    I’m amazed that no one has already noted this: certain team athletes get exactly the same sort of pass that goes to Christians. Theoretically, being on a team may teach certain important skills, and reinforce certain positive societal modes. Theoretically, Christianity might do the same. But in reality it doesn’t. In reality, aggressive behavior from team athletes is greater than from the population at large, and team athletes are convicted and punished at a much lower rate than other criminals. You want to get depressed? Take a look at the rape accusation/conviction stats for team athletes.

    Should I also mention that team athleticism developed as a college focus in US elite schools when an undesirable number of slots would have gone to Jewish nerds rather than WASP preps? See Getting In.