Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Terrible Price Of A Reality Check

The great Jerry Izenberg used to self-deprecatingly refer to sports, which he made his living writing about, as the "kid's section" of the world, not to be confused with adult endeavors, such as the truly important events of the day.  Ones that deal with issues of magnitude.  The life and death stuff if you will.  The newsroom was "the adult swim" portion of the program.  

The lines between sports and news get blurred often these days.  Considerably more ink this summer has been spilled on the wholly juvenile breakdown in relations between the New York Yankees and Alex Rodriguez than has been discussing his on-field performance.  Ditto for Aaron Hernandez, Murder One suspect as opposed to Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots tight end.  When reality interjects itself into the games we play, insanity is certain to follow.  

Izenberg's point has always been a finer one than that.  It has been to remind us that "sport" has a critical role in our society.  That role is to provide us with a respite, however brief, from our day-to-day.  It is not a magic elixir for our ills but it is nothing less than a port in the storm.  It is somewhere to find solace, an escape from what may otherwise be pressing down upon us.  If you doubt Izenberg's point, then root really hard for Jim Leyland and his Detroit Tigers to win the World Series this Fall....and watch the number of people in the financially-bankrupt city of Detroit - people of all colors, ethnicity and social classes - who shall line the streets of Detroit to celebrate their first World Series title in three decades.

Just this past week, in the town of Duncan, Oklahoma (population of approximately 25,000) the "adult swim" portion of the program spilled over onto the sports page.  Chris Lane, 22, was an Australian national and an American college student.  Lane was a scholarship baseball player at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, where he was scheduled to begin his senior year this month.  On Friday, August 16, Lane went for a run through the streets of Duncan, Oklahoma.  He was in Duncan with his girlfriend, Sarah Harper, as the pair visited Sarah's family.  

At some point on his run, Lane ran past a home where three teenagers, ages 15, 16 and 17, were staying.  The three young men did not know Lane.  By all accounts I have read he did not know them.  It mattered not.  The trio was bored.  Upon seeing Lane run past the house, they decided to kill him "just for fun".  The 17 year-old apparently told the police after he and his cohorts were apprehended that he and his pals were bored, looking for something to do and decided that killing someone seemed like a fun, exciting thing to do. 

The trio pursued Lane in a car.  When they caught up with their unsuspecting quarry they shot him in the back and sped off.  People who heard the shot came running as quickly as they could to assist Lane.  Their efforts failed.  He died on the street in Duncan, Oklahoma.  He was only twenty-two years old.

The lines between "the kid's section" and the real world get blurred sometimes.  That happens when reality interjects itself into the proceedings.  Where reality enters, insanity follows.  And too often, with tragic and anger-inducing results.  For all concerned.  On Tuesday afternoon, prosecutors in Oklahoma formally charged the three teenage perpetrators.  As espn.com reported Chancy Allen Luna, 16, and James Francis Edwards, Jr., 15, of Duncan, were charged with first-degree murder.  Under Oklahoma they shall both be tried as adults.  Michael Dewayne Jones, 17, was charged with using a vehicle in the discharge of a weapon and with being an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder.  Under Oklahoma law, although Jones is the oldest of the three, he is considered a youthful offender.  He, too, shall be tried in adult court. 

It was less than two months ago - in the wake of the "not guilty" verdict in the criminal trial of George Zimmerman that civil rights leaders nationwide spoke loudly and passionately of the perils of being an African-American teenage boy in these United States.  President Obama himself lent his voice to the chorus.  Do the recent events in Duncan, Oklahoma expose the fallacy of that position?  No.  Not to me at least.  Rather, to me, they serve to remind us that the world is a dangerous place.  And the more that we the people of these United States see fit to view other members of our society as "disposable" the more damage we shall do not only to them but to ourselves as well.  For whether the victim is African-American and the alleged offender is Caucasian (the Trayvon Martin scenario) or the victim is Caucasian and the alleged offenders are African-American (the Chris Lane scenario) matters not.  Ignorance is colorblind. 

The great Mark Twain once observed that, "Of all the animals, Man is the only one that is cruel.  He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it.”  It was true when he said it.  Sadly, one-third of the way through the second full decade of the 21st century it remains so.  For all the years that have passed since Twain lived and died, one might have expected we would have covered more ground. 

-AK         

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