(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Saturday, March 01, 2014

Stupid School Banter

My wife had lunch with a friend yesterday.  This friend lives in one of the most affluent school districts in our area, and has three boys between the ages of eight and fourteen.  It's an area that's supposed to be erudite, and, one would hope, full of residents and influences that can help advance the species.  And, while the usual irritations can go on -- kids being disrespectful to others and pulling the type of stuff that young boys can pull -- one thing that seems pervasive is snobbery over what the kids wear.

For example, if you don't wear the right sneakers, you can get ridiculed, presumably because what you're wearing is either an imitation or is too inexpensive.  Additionally, if you're wearing a team jersey, if it's not "authentic" the kids in the youngest son's class will persist in yelling "fake" at you.

Say what?

I am not one to say that my less-heeled school district is "better" than this more affluent one.  That would be wrong on many fronts.  That said, where my middle-school goes to school, outside some banter about sneakers (in which my son does not partake), there is no similar ostracism because one wears an imitation Carmelo Anthony jersey or the Mitchell & Ness official replica.  (With all of the instant media access today, I think that if one were to wear a player's jersey, he'll really have to narrow his fandom to what the player does on the court, because we know at times way too much of what people do off it).  But the real point is why should all this matter?  Not everyone can afford what everyone else can afford.  One does not know the circumstances, good intentions or love that went into purchasing whatever a young boy is wearing.  The kid who persists in yelling "fake" can live in a nouveau riche household that spends large bucks on everything but that is devoid of caring and good values.  The kid who has to take the taunts could live in a single-parent household where a parent works two jobs and had to shop carefully to get a good price for the jersey of the player his son truly admires.  I would submit to you that if the lines could be drawn this way, it's easy to figure out who is the "fake" and what precisely is "fake."

It's the values, stupid.

Our society has advanced in many ways over the past decades, and hopefully is becoming more of one where we judge people on the content of their character and not their color or their (parents') checkbook.  And, I'm sure, kids can be kids, and since there aren't all that many ways to distinguish themselves, sometimes they do so by what parents can give them and the power of their own personal associations that enable them to make fun of the less fortunate, the less privileged, the less indulged or the weaker.  I hope that these kids -- and their parents -- feel really good about perpetrating the display of such values.  My guess is that some do not know that this behavior is going on and would be horrified, while other parents, through their conduct and commentary, support it.

It's 2014 already.  Who really gives a crap whether your Nick Foles, Eli Manning, LeBron James or Kevin Durrant jersey is "authentic?"

Because it's much more important that our kids be.  And generous, and understanding, and making sure that they can see beyond what a kid is wearing to determine what's inside them.  Because if they care to take the time to do so, they'll find that the richness of life goes far beyond the purchasing power that people display.


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