The Allen Iverson Ethos, the Notorious New Jersey Track Suit, and the Condition of Sport
ï»¿"We're sitting in here, and I'm supposed to be the franchise player, and we in here talking about practice. I mean, listen, we're talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, we talking about practice. Not a game. Not, not... Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it's my last. Not the game, but we're talking about practice, man. I mean, how silly is that?
And we talking about practice. I know I supposed to be there. I know I'm supposed to lead by example... I know that. And I'm not... I'm not shoving it aside, you know, like it don't mean anything. I know it's important, I do. I honestly do.
But we're talking about practice man. What are we talking about? Practice? We're talking about practice, man. We're talking about practice. We're talking about practice. We aint talking about the game. We're talking about practice, man. When you come to the arena, and you see me play, you see me play don't you? You've seen me give everything I've got, right? But we're talking about practice right now. We talking about practice... How the hell can I make my teammates better by practicing?" - Allen Iverson (Bankrupt millionaire)
Eleven years after these words were first muttered into a fuzzy microphone in Boston following a first round loss in the NBA playoffs for the Philadelphia Sixers, the impact of Iverson's rant has been subverted from a once glaring example of athletic arrogance, of everything that is wrong with professional sports, to a now commonly accepted attitude among our nation's youth. The new model is entirely predicated upon talent and completely ignores any aspect of a given sport related to dedication and teamwork. With Allen Iverson and his laziness becoming the standard of decorum in the sports world, we're all in for an entirely new brand of lunacy. Grab that helmet I was talking about, folks... things are gonna get weird.
In the latest edition of sheer, unadulterated American crazy, a New Jersey man is suing a local high school with an enrollment of roughly 1,000 students for $40,000,000 (ahem, sorry... BAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!) after his son, Mawusimensah Mears, was cut from the school's varsity track TEAM. In addition to the monetary compensation requested, the Mears family also wants the school to reward Mawusimensah with two varsity letters that he hasn't earned.
Does it make sense to any of you that the deserved suspension of a student athlete's track season should roughly equate to the padded bank account of a Monsanto executive?
This is 2013, so, naturally, the boy's father is absolutely incredulous over the dismissal, claiming that Mawusimensah was kicked off the squad by a vengeful coach who had repeated disagreements with the young Carl Lewis concerning his status on the TEAM as a 15-year old freshmen. Granted, these arguments were prompted by the boy's blatant disrespect for his coach and his selfish approach to the TEAM dynamic, so it sounds like his coaches had ample reason to remove him from the TEAM even earlier than he eventually was. None of this information seems to matter much to the boy's father, however.
Disputing Mr. Mears' bold claims, school officials maintain that Mawusimensah Mears was dismissed from the squad as a consequence of too many unexcused absences from TEAM practice. Yet, despite his son's behavior and prima donna attitude, Mear's father insists that "participation in extracurricular activities is a right" that Mawusimensah has now been denied.
I (Don't) Know My Rights!
Damn! News Flash! Extracurricular activities are an inalienable right! I wish I would've known that when I was cut from the baseball TEAM in high school! Minus inflation, I'd be about $30 million dollars richer than I am now! Somebody owes me money, pronto.
Have you ever been told no? Well, somebody owes YOU money too! We can act any way we want, not show up on time (or at all) to scheduled events, and demand attention and respect from every single person on Earth. If someone is unwilling to meet these demands, they better pay up. NOW! (And I want those varsity letters, Coach Kreiner!)
Get out your speedoes guys, we're going to be swimming in more gold than Scrooge McDuck!
The suit, filed by Mears' father without the aid of an attorney, alleges that Mawusimesnah's rights to due process and free speech were violated as a result of his son's dismissal from the TEAM. Sticking with the whole insanity theme of this entire episode, these claims are being made in a slightly different manner than they were originally intended. And by "slightly," I mean extremely. A high school track team isn't a court room, and it certainly isn't an NRA rally... It isn't even a Democracy! There's a coach, his protocol, and his squad. If any members of said squad are incapable of doing what they are told (within reason, i.e. showing up to practice) then there's no room for them on the TEAM. It really is as simple as that, which is why these types of suits are always scoffed at before they are unceremoniously dismissed.
The fact that this small school in rural New Jersey is reverting back to the radical notion that amateur athletics should value moral fortitude as much as it does medals and trophies should encourage any sports fan.
Earned, Not Given
There's a very simple reason why schools hold tryouts for their various athletic teams. Sometimes kids simply don't have the skill, dedication, or attitude to contribute to the team. That's no biggie; not everyone is going to be the next Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky, but not every kid's parents feel it's necessary to demand $40 mill because their child can't turn a double play or effectively go to the hole with their left hand. And they certainly don't throw a fit because they didn't bother to teach their child the importance of attendance. Everyone is different, but that doesn't mean that our differences are cause for financial recompense.
Which makes me wonder: Where's Mears' father coming up with this $40 million dollar figure anyway? It seems like a number that Mr. Mears just thought sounded nice and round - what, with all the zeroes and all, and so he decided that the taxpayers of Sterling, Pennsylvania owed it to his family because his son can't be trusted by his coaches to run around in circles on the weekends. Does it make sense to any of you that the deserved suspension of a student athlete's track season should roughly equate to the padded bank account of a Monsanto executive? Of course not - this is beyond absurd. This is the perfect modern compliment to the Iverson ethos: Logic is irrelevant once talent becomes the only thing that is valued.
Once you get past the absurdity, however, only the sadness remains. And the saddest part of all is that there are plenty of kids who would give anything to be a part of their high school teams simply for the love of the game. These less athletic dreamers are being denied the opportunity because narcissistic brats like Mawusimensah Mears are hoarding all of the talent, while lacking any of the respect. It's strange: This young man can't be bothered to show up to practice or heed the instruction of his coaches, but he can certainly demand compensation for nothing more than being a whiny teenager who confused instruction for "bullying." Said the high school sophomore, "I didn't get the respect that I thought I deserved." What he fails to realize (because, apparently, he's never been taught anything by his bonehead father) is that sports are different than life. Respect isn't merely given because a 15-year old kid demands it; it's something that has to be earned with hard work... Talent is secondary in this regard.
Mr. Mears is flat wrong about everything (and yeah, he seems like a complete moron, so "everything" probably isn't a stretch here). Participating in extracurricular activities is NOT, nor has it ever been, a "right." Sadly, that's not to say that there hasn't been a paradigm shift in regards to the dynamics of athletic culture. The "right" to play has traditionally been a privilege earned by those with the dedication to the sport and a steadfast commitment to their teammates to contribute to a winning squad. Now, it seems as though talent has officially trumped responsibility and teamwork, which basically makes any coaches' job a waking nightmare. However, the fact that this small school in rural New Jersey is reverting back to the radical notion that amateur athletics should value moral fortitude as much as it does medals and trophies should encourage any sports fan.
Good luck with the real world after being raised by a father who believes that insolence should be rewarded financially.
Don't be fooled; this is nothing more than a classic case of a rotten apple falling not too far from the tree. We have an adult child and an adolescent brat, and both of them want money for nothing. (The "chicks for free" part likely remains elusive, but they did try and sneak in those varsity letters, so who knows?) Where does this kid get off expecting to remain on a TEAM that he wants nothing to do with? Moreover, how can his father not expect this result when his son argues with his coach and consistently skips out on practice? I'll tell you how in two words: Allen Iverson.
Someone's Gotta Say It
Sorry to break it to you, kiddo, but you were in 8th grade last year, and now you're on the varsity track team. You might have to wait a year or two to get your chance. No? You'd rather pout to your daddy and sue the school for $40,000,000 instead - effectively allowing for the possibility that you could bankrupt the district and costs your teammates their chance at athletic glory, not to mention a basic education? Okay, cool. Good luck with that.
Also, good luck with the real world after being raised by a father who believes that insolence should be rewarded financially. Unless, of course, the most incompetent judge on the bench since Lance Ito actually awards you the damages you seek. In which case, more power to ya... tell Allen we say hello once you've squandered your settlement!
Knowles, David. "Father Sues High School for $40 Million Because His Son Was Kicked off Track Team." New York Daily News. 27 May, 2013. Web. 30 May, 2013.