Thursday, June 21, 2007

Lacrosse Captain Standing Alone, Standing Last


Take a glance at those three rascals standing next door. The two older fellows are nice guys; the youngest is finishing his second year at Boys Town. All three play lacrosse, a sport demanding a combination of athleticism, endurance, and raw power.

The eldest, Devlin, plays lacrosse at the Landon School in Bethesda, Maryland, a 77-year-old traditional boys school cut from the old model: jackets and ties all day, sir and Mr. the only greetings, athletics required, and the boys call each other by last names. The most overwhelming thing about the place is the constant refrain drilled into these kids from 3rd to 12th grade: Integrity, discipline, selflessness. Even a casual visitor to the place is a bit astonished by the prevalence of this ethos and the tightness of the community, from the grounds, to the way the kids behave, to the bearing of the teachers. It’s remarkable place.

In the Landon gym hang photos (stared at with school boy fascination by Dev and his pals) of one of the school’s best lax teams ever, nationally ranked and captained by a guy who unfortunately got his 15 minutes of fame during the past year in a saga that brought out the worst that a biased media, a venal prosecutor, a cowardly university president, and a militant, racist academic corps can produce. He is David Evans from Bethesda, Maryland, captain of the Duke Lacrosse team.

Now, I don’t know Evans but virtually everyone in the nation knows the outline of the Duke University Lacrosse team story right now so nothing bears repeating. We know the whole ugly saga was pure fiction and for the families of the three accused lax players, it was an estimated $5 million legal ride.


Because of my ties to elements of the whole sad fiasco -- my kids at Landon, my mediocre college athletic career, my service as a zany dad with three sons who are members of the local lacrosse community -- the whole fiasco hit me, yes, like a monster check at midfield.

First, the college where I played three sports was so small that if you had a heartbeat, you made varsity and if you could throw a football 20 yards you were 3rd string quarterback. It was here I learned how to play lacrosse badly, which I proudly do to this day. So the deal is, I’ve been around hundreds of college athletes, men and women, in my day. Yeah, there are some knuckleheads, but let’s get one thing straight: The fact is, well-to-do lacrosse players at good schools -- and I’ve known dozens and dozens of such guys -- are simply not the ones garnering a lot of felony crimes. (David Evans was going to work at Goldman Sachs, not in the NBA or NFL.)


Second, as an admitted ideological caveman observer of the ideological scene, I once again viewed in full color the step-by-step destructive nature of the liberal academic mindset. There’s the utter venality of the Duke faculty – The brave Group of 88 ---and the woefully pathetic Duke President. I guess we’ve come to expect this kind of behavior, improbably, from those we expect to teach and guide our kids -- particularly those privileged white kids who do double duty as soulless jocks. You know, the ones who are so dense they end up working for investment banking firms in New York.


But hey, wait a minute -- isn’t it these Neanderthals who have the talent to get into Duke, and whose parents can pay the freight – through tuition and gifts -- that enables these high-minded professors to write their path- breaking studies on “Subjunctive Adverbs in Pre-Chaucerian Dialects”? Sheesh folks, thank goodness that those wily Duke admissions officers, who bring in all those crass, rich, over-achieving jocks will never
get a shot at the Nelligan boys, who are three sullen, geeky dullards (why, look
at that photo, man).

But the Duke case, most of all, represents so baldly the militant liberal imagination that will assume the absolute worst about anything that is white, male, and well-off. Throw in the jock angle, and you’ve hit the jackpot. No adherence to justice (an all lax team police line-up), no clear evidence (dated phone and ATM records, no DNA); no proof (2 recantations by the accuser, eyewitness accounts) can deter these fatuous academics from screaming about race and wealth.

The media, always culpable, always desperately wanting to believe the most outrageous proposition if a score can be settled, follows blindly. Add a venal prosecutor who plays this situation, through deceit and cunning, like a master, and you have an Olympian morality play about race and privilege in America. But of course, you don’t. None of it happened.

My middle kid, Braden, recently beat the odds of having me as a dad and was admitted to Landon. He plays lax and has seen the photos of Evans and team in the gym
As well. As a parent, I know it’s a school that sternly develops the best in kids, sees the best in them, and stands by them, despite their sometime setbacks. How ironic that David Evans, a solid product of Landon, expecting something at least equal from Duke, found himself in a place where the worse was assumed and he and his teammates stood alone.
Until of course, after enduring the lies and disloyalty, they were the last ones standing.

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