Saturday, October 11, 2014

Not Looking East...For Once

...between our dreams and our actions lies this World.
- Bruce Springsteen

If you reside in the State of Concrete Gardens as I do, you have spent the better part of the past week reading of - and learning about - a rather unseemly and unpleasant part of this world.   The news emanating from Sayreville appears to be poised to get considerably worse before it gets better.   And if I have to hear one more person couch what is alleged to have transpired in the locker room at this high school in the context of the importance of football to this "blue-collar community" I am going to look for someone to punch in the throat.  

If what is alleged to have occurred is proven to have in fact occurred (and I do not pretend to know whether it shall be proven or not), then this story, ladies and gentlemen, is not a "gritty, small-town USA, Friday Night Lights" story.  Rather it is a story of adults abdicating their responsibility to monitor and regulate the behavior of high-school-aged boys (a responsibility for which they volunteered by the way and for which they all received compensation) and at least certain of those boys acting upon that vacuum and creating a Lord of the Flies-inspired society within the four walls of their own locker room.  It is a story that reveals the lowest common denominator of human behavior.  

As someone who was born and raised on the East Coast and who has (save for four glorious years in Boulder, Colorado) lived on the East Coast for the entirety of my life, I have a pronounced East Coast bias.  I admit it.  I staunchly believe that the best and only way to see the American Midwest is through the window of a jet airplane from 30,000+ feet overhead.  And as for California?  Well, at least it is not Texas.  

My bias notwithstanding, I can state without reservation that among the best people I have met this week is a young man from southern California with a fantastically alliterative name.  Malik McMorris is a senior at Mater Dei High School.  While it is his accomplishments in athletics, principally football and track and field that led me to stumble upon him on Sports Illustrated's web site as he was named SI.com's first High School Athlete of the Month, it is his off-the-field "stuff" that makes him an impossibly easy-to-root-for young man.  

Ali Fenwick's profile of him is a "should-read".    It will take you several minutes to digest but I assure you that it is time well-spent.  In the space of a few thousand words, you shall not only get to know Malik and his dad Patrick but also their "rock".  Lucy Guerrero Martinez was a wife and mother in her late thirties when, in an ironic twist, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in October, 2012.  The disease killed her in January, 2014.  She was thirty-nine years young.  While she is no longer physically present in the life of her husband and her children, her spirit remains with them and her mark upon them is indelible.  

I came away from my time spent with Malik McMorris and his family feeling a bit better about things.  I know, as I suspect you do as well that the world will always allow vicious, predatory personalities to exist.  There shall always be room for them in all walks of life including, but not limited to, high school locker rooms.  Yet, the world is not the exclusive province of those who seek to do bad.  It is also the realm of those who do good.  Of those whose presence serves as a counterbalance to those...well to those who represent the lowest common denominator of humankind. 

As long as impossibly-easy-to-root-for individuals exist, this world remains a place worth preserving. Thank you Malik McMorris for doing your part.  And thank you Ali Fenwick for introducing this young man and his family to those of us who would otherwise never have had the opportunity to meet him or them.  

-AK 

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