Thursday, January 17, 2008

People Say Stupid Things

It was 45 minutes before game time. As I strolled into the locker room ready to focus my players on the task ahead of us I was appalled to notice three players wearing apparel from another high school--let's call it Abraham Lincoln High. Abraham Lincoln High had just one week prior whipped us by 50+ points, and these shirts were not available to the general public. They were only given to members of their student section.

So, one minute I'm focused on getting my team mentally prepared to win a basketball game, and within an instant I am speechless, quickly filling with rage. How could members of this team, who had just been publicly humiliated, wear those shirts into this locker room? The worst part: Nobody seemed to care. I lost it.

I quickly regained my capacity to speak. I sat kids down and began a lecture about pride. I told them that I had been part of a winning tradition in high school and we policed ourselves. There were somethings we would never let our teammates get away with. Then I said it, "If one of our teammates came in with an opponent's t-shirt on, it wouldn't matter if we won or lost by 50, we'd lynch him."

That was stupid.

Recently, Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman suggested that young players who wanted to challenge Tiger Woods should "lynch him in a back alley." Though she and Tiger are friends, the comments caused an uproar. She was suspended for two weeks, and issue of race and politically correctness has once again been thrust into the spotlight. Tiger issued a statement through his agent, Mark Steinberg, "Tiger and Kelly are friends, and Tiger has a great deal of respect for Kelly...Regardless of the choice of words used, we know unequivocally that there was no ill-intent in her comments.''

Others are not satisfied though. In his Page 2 column, Scoop Jackson thinks Tiger should embrace his legacy and do more than issue simple statements through his agent. Al Sharpton sees no difference between Tilghman and Don Imus, insinuating that Tilghman should lose her job.

For my part, I can relate to Tilghman. Sometimes, good people say stupid things. I let emotion get the best of me. I do not know what made Ms. Tilghman say this, but if her experience was anything like mine, she's learned a lot and has probably grown a lot personally through this.

I personally apologized to each player who wore those shirts. I explained that I was one-hundred percent out of line both in what I said, and in how I said it. Each of them accepted my apology. In fact, they all apologized to me for wearing the shirts, which, oddly enough, was not one bit satisfying given the circumstances.

I apologized to my junior varsity team and explained that lynching is not something to be used loosely because it is a racially loaded term. As a teacher of American History, I know that. I explained that my emotions got the best of me and that I set a poor example for them. I then publicly apologized to the the J.V. boys who were wearing the shirts.

Finally, I apologized to the entire J.V./Varsity team. Even though many of those players were not even present for the exchange, I wanted to make sure they heard an apology from my mouth.

That was easily one of the stupidest things I've ever said.

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