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COMMENTARY: More than games are on the line

Posted on Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at 8:45 pm

milton-stanley-commentaryFor the past couple of weeks our news and sports sections have been running on parallel tracks about Central High School football. In sports we’ve been writing about football games, while the news section, both in print and online, has been reporting on two unnamed juvenile football players arrested over the past couple of weeks for allegedly selling or conspiring to sell marijuana.

Today it’s time to consider how those two tracks relate to each other.

The CHS football team, along with parents and administrators, has been dealing with a number of player disciplinary issues—only one of which involves a pot bust. For those who care about the young men who have worn the Raiders uniform this season, these issues go far beyond impacting performance on the field. Of course, no one plays the game to lose, but the serious life issues facing certain players right now are far more profound than wins and losses in what is, after all, a game.

The far more important issue is what direction a number of young men, on the cusp of adulthood, will choose to go for the rest of their lives—and how those in a position to influence these youth will rise to the challenge of helping them choose well. Coach Lee Davis, his staff and players deserve to be commended for keeping the team focused even as personal issues swirl in the background.

There’s been a lot of buzz in the community not only on the arrest of the two football players, but about the tweets one of them left on his Twitter and Facebook accounts in the days leading up to his arrest. This young man, referred to in these pages as “a star football player,” repeatedly tweeted about a number of immoral, illegal, and generally unwise actions he was taking. For many who have interacted with him, those tweets seem at odds with his deportment as a more or less kind and even polite young man.

In retrospect, it doesn’t take a psychologist to see those tweets as a textbook cry for help from a youth being swept up in activities that at some level he had to know were destructive and wrong.

Today we have coaches, boosters, teachers and friends asking ourselves what more we could have done to help this young man and other players avoid the trouble they’re now in. That kind of introspection may help each of us do better in the future, but it’s also the kind of what-if questions that none of us can really answer, especially for others. And we certainly don’t need finger-pointing on who should have done what, when.

What we do need is for members of the community at all levels to continue stepping up and doing what we can to help not only these two young men, but others lacking the guidance that helps young people carry themselves safely through the sick and spiritually dangerous culture in which we all live.

I’ve been told that on returning to school after his arrest our “star football player” was greeted in the halls with a flurry of high-fives and pats on the back. I hope that young man realizes that most of those students were not so much condoning his behavior as they were greeting and encouraging him as a friend and fellow human being.

I pray supporters of Central High School football will do the same: continue not only to encourage the Raiders to win on the football field, but more importantly to walk uprightly in the moral minefield of life.


Milton Stanley is sports writer for the Manchester Times.