The ShoreLine: Family Matters
Shore Sports Network basketball blogger Tim “Nep84″ McCollum gives his take on the Sayreville hazing scandal.
I want to make this very clear first and foremost: Bullying is unacceptable.
With that said, I went to a wrestling show recently in Brooklyn, and as I was approaching the Verrazano Bridge I saw a sign that read "Life is worth living" and had a number for a help hotline.
I don’t go over the bridge too often and had never seen that sign before. My first thought was, “Wow, the New York sports teams aren’t THAT bad,'' and then in a more serious moment I can recall thinking, what has the world come to that you would need to place a sign on a bridge intended to dissuade someone from jumping off of it.
Now I’m not saying what may or may not have happened in Sayreville will end with someone jumping off a bridge. That is a conclusion that cannot and should not be drawn. However, people in this world have been made to feel so worthless that they jump off bridges and we need signs to stop them.
I think we need to read different signs.
Is it just me or is it any time there is any kind of adversity with any football team you hear the old “we’ll deal with this and get through it as a family” quote. It really is a good analogy to apply to any tight-knit group. You work together, you sweat together, and you feel joy and pain together. Sometimes you even hurt and bleed together. The whole mantra of a group is to stick together through thick and thin. Sounds like family to me!
I don’t know what happened in Sayreville. I don’t want to draw ANY conclusions based on anything I’ve heard or read. My first word of caution out there is to be careful not to pass judgment too swiftly and especially too harshly based on your perception of facts you don’t know. This goes to the team, the players, the coaches, the parents, their Board of Education, Mr. Labbe (the superintendent), or anyone else. We don’t know what happened. Neither does the BOE or Mr. Labbe. I will submit to you two things though:
1. This is the same football program who decided on their own, and on their own time, to voluntarily go into the Superstorm Sandy-torn areas of their town and help people rebuild people’s houses.
2. The Middlesex County Prosecutor doesn’t typically start investigating potential criminal activity because someone had to carry the water bottles.
My point is it is apparent something happened. Beyond that there are no conclusions that I think are appropriate to make.
So how is everyone “dealing with this and getting through it as a family” so far? I can appreciate many of the reactions I’m seeing.
If I was a parent of a football player on that team, and I knew for a fact my son is a bystander in this whole thing I’d be upset, too. Would I be more upset that my son couldn’t play football again this season or that there was something going on that COULD have put him at risk? One or the other? Little of both?
If I was a parent of someone in the band or a cheerleader or kid who simply liked to go to the games to be with their friends, I’d make their frustration my frustration.
If I was a parent of a senior, in any context, I’d be upset the season is now over. No last moment in the sun. No senior day. Only a sudden stop.
If I was one of the Sayreville football players I’d want to go out and play football. I’d want to use football to forget about all this real life stuff. That’s how families deal with adversity. The rally around each other, they support each other, they band together. Kind of like what you saw on the Sayreville field after the BOE meeting on Tuesday night.
If I was one of the kids in that school who doesn’t play football I’d want to support my peers, and more importantly my friends.
If I was the Superintendent or a member of the BOE I would want to put an immediate halt to the risk until I knew facts. Then I would want to know exactly what happened and who did what to whom. I would want to know those responsible, those victimized, and the innocent bystanders. I would want to hold those responsible accountable (from a school district perspective). I would want to get those victimized the help they need. I would want to deal with the issue and move forward as a community united.
One of the things I always say to a kid when things are going wrong is this. Everyone in life faces adversity. It doesn’t matter how old you are or who you are. This is a life thing not a sports thing. The adversity shouldn’t concern you. Character reveals itself with how you respond to and overcome it.
I see some reactions I like ….. and some I don’t.
I don’t think there should be any football played in Sayreville while this is being sorted out. I think it was a mistake to cancel the season so quickly. Those not involved should have the opportunity to finish what they started albeit in an appropriate environment.
I would have suspended everything until I knew the facts, then reacted, even if that reaction was to cancel the season at that point. That would have been a decision based on what was known and not based on what might be known. The kids, and parents of kids not involved might still be disappointed, might still be upset, but can rationalize it better and won’t feel as victimized. The NFL has taken a lot of heat for their slow and inconsistent reactions to problems. This reaction was too swift and too decisive. Life is like a game of chess, you make the right move at the right time.
I applaud the Sayreville kids who showed up at the BOE meeting, especially those who had the passion to get up and speak. To you I say this: There will be things that happen in your life that just plain suck. This isn’t the first and it won’t be the last. From what I can tell you are doing what you said you would do. Band together. Be there for each other. Get through it ….Together. It can be said that who you are and your character will get you that scholarship faster than how many touchdowns you would have scored this year.
The last thing I want to say is directed to every kid in every school that reads this, especially you upperclassmen.
Make today “find a freshman'' day. Invite a freshman to sit with you at lunch. Ask them how they are doing. See if there is anything you can do for them to make them feel like they are part of the family. Take them under your wing and show them the ropes. When you get to practice today, work with them. Lift with them. Teach them something you know that they don’t about how to play the game.
If you see one of your peers coming down on them YOU stand up and say “Back off. This isn’t gonna happen to my family.”
I’ve love to hear about freshmen stampeding out of the locker room because they can’t wait to go out and play some football with their family.
Your ENTIRE family …… matters.