Sunday, January 14, 2007

what's wrong here?

Just this past Friday, at a local high school before a basketball game, there was a ceremony to retire the number of a former player who had died. He was a sophomore in college when he died. He had been a popular, well-liked student at the high school, but not the star of the team. He was just another player like the rest of his teammates. Normally a school would not retire a player's number unless he was an exceptional player or had been somehow inspirational to his classmates and community. Those criteria did not necessarily apply in this case. The young man's death was really his only claim to fame.

I got to thinking about all his fellow basketball players and all the other students just like him who are going about their lives without any special recognition. They are in college studying and working toward their future. Or they are in the work force already contributing to the community. Or perhaps they are in the armed forces serving their country. They are all still alive and doing what young people do at that age. They are not doing anything that might be considered heroic and their numbers are not being retired in a ceremony before a basketball game.

My point here is not to belittle the young man in question or to make light of his family's grief and tragic loss. It's just that knowing that the young man died because he got stinking drunk at a college bar, wandered outside in a drunken stupor, stumbled his way somehow to the shore of the river that runs through town, fell into the river and drowned, makes me wonder why they were celebrating his life and tragic death. There was nothing heroic in his life and certainly not in his death that would lead us to such a celebration.

Am I wrong in thinking that the wrong message may be sent to young people who are familiar with this story? That it's alright to drink yourself into insensiblity and die too soon so that everyone will think what a great guy you were. He did something incredibly stupid, risky, and iresponsible and is being feted for it. There is something terribly wrong with all this.


Kat Campbell said...

I have to agree with you Bob, what a terrible message the school is sending their students. We had a similar experience here. One of my daughters classmates, the one that was always on the verge of flunking out,sponged off everyone and was forever disrupting class or skipping it altogether, ran his car into a telephone pole and died. At graduation later that year the entire class was issued black arm bands. I felt it was wrong.

mike said...

We've had this problem with kids getting drunk and falling into the river here quite often over the last 15 years or so.

The Rev. Dr. Kate said...

I agree with you. While this young man's story is tragic to this young man and his family, to celebrate his life and death this way is a bad example. I always wonder about our culture anyway - the mixed and wrong messages we send. We pay people millions of dollars because they can dribble a basketball or use their claim to artisic fame to behave badly. We pay the ordinary heroes, the men and women who work to pay the bills, support their families and make their communities a little better in the free time they don't really have, little or nothing. It seems we value the tawdry, the flashy, the superficial and dismiss the quiet perisitence of those faithfully trying to be good people and do the right thing.
I will stop preaching now!

Sunflower Optimism said...

This was so wrong, Bob. Jennifer over at Goodness Graciousness recently had a similar post - about the fact that we don't have any decent role models out there. American Idol is the new way of life, with celebrity and money being what counts.

As Rev. Kate said, this was a tragedy for his family - but certainly did not merit such an honor from his school. This incident even made the NY Times. Apparently many bars in the area lead to competitive pricing - which encourages underage and college drinking. There was a question of putting up fencing to protect the drunks from falling in.

We had a young woman who was in my son's HS graduating class die in a car crash. She was picking up her brother and made a judgement error while driving. She was well loved by all, an exemplary student , Pres. of the National Honor Society, etc. They built a garden for reflection, in her memory, on school property, through volunteer donations and had a moment of silence at graduation for her. Very sad; she was one of the "good ones."

I think this is a case of being too "politically correct" and not wanting to hurt his family's feelings. No one stood up to say "It isn't right to honor this young man just because he got drunk and killed himself." If I were his parents i would not have accepted this dubious honor and would have started a major "drink responsibly" campaign.

BobCiz said...

This is Mary (my account won't let me publish)....Bob doesn't know this (of course he will now), but I ordered a red flashing light and siren for our new car (replaced from the accident). Soon I can speed drive him myself-even on the sidewalks if necessary-to the ER!