SportsProf

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Tragedy for a Family and Notre Dame

Notre Dame's top football recruit died a few days ago when he fell from a hotel balcony while on vacation.

ESPN reports that he might have been drunk.

What a tragedy.

We weight many adages and tautologies in society, some of which conflict. We're human, and we do this every day. For example, we hear that "patience is a virtue," but sometimes at the same time we hear "he who hesitates is lost." Young people hear all the time that "just because everyone does something doesn't mean that you should do it." But then they also hear that "youth is wasted on the young" and "you only go 'round once in life." Most youths aren't that philosophical, don't always show good judgment and aren't always strong enought to stand up to peer pressure. Many think that they're bullet proof, that the stories that they read only happen to others, and that they can handle anything.

And then you hear stories like this. A kid with a bright future. A kid with a golden ticket.

That's not to say that kids shouldn't have fun. I'm not about to invoke any edicts like the ones that populated small towns in Footloose about the inadvisability of dancing. But when will we evolve as a species that people don't continue to commit the big mistakes that others do? When will tragedies like this cease.

Look, there is a lot of heartache out there. There are times when kids need to blow off steam and have fun because there are parents, teachers, coaches and alumni with high expectations. But that doesn't mean that our young people need to party like there's no tomorrow. They do need to have fun the same way they need to understand discipline, the value of helping others, cleanliness, ethics, the virtues of saving money, and many other things. They just need to learn or remember to do so in a way that doesn't lead to the horrors that the James family and those close to Matt James must be experiencing.

So, if you're a coach, a parent of a team leader, the team leader, or, quite frankly, anyone involved with the team, take a stand against bad judgment. It's not acceptable to say that "boys will be boys" and what they do in their free time is a right of passage. Quite frankly, "boys being boys" can be quite scary and can lead to all sorts of unintended consequences. It's hard to stand up to the ones we love and care about -- it's much easier to get up for a game against the archrival. But it's necessary, and if we love these kids and care about them, we, too, have to take a stand.

Or else tragedies like this will continue to happen.

And we will have learned nothing.

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