Tuesday, August 9, 2016

252. Thoughts on police escorts and HS hierarchies

Congratulations to the Amherst softball team on a very successful season. Reaching the state semifinals in Division I is a notable achievement.

I noticed on the Amherst News-Times Facebook page that a video was posted highlighting a police escort for the softball team. Having read thousands of social media comments, I knew there were going to be at least two complaints. One was going to be that the escort was a waste of taxpayer dollars. The other was going to be about another team or school organization that did not receive similar treatment.

I wasn’t disappointed, but I was pleasantly surprised to read that most comments were positive and supportive. The taxpayer money complaint is a tired argument; there is value in the police supporting the community. However, the equal treatment argument is worth considering.

Unfortunately, as unfair as it is, there is a hierarchy of public support — especially in sports and other organizations. The more people care about something, the more attention and support they receive. The chess club or bowling team is just not going to get the same support as the softball team. And the softball team is not going to get the same support as the football team. Could you imagine the amount of support the football team would receive if it reached the state playoffs? The city would have gone nuts!

We’ve all experienced this at some point in our lives — the feeling our achievements have been slighted in comparison to others. For me, it was my senior baseball season at Midview High School. One of only four seniors, we had a surprisingly successful season, winning the conference and a couple of tournament games. In every other season, and every school I have been a part of, the season concludes with a nice spring banquet where the season is remembered, seniors wished well, statistics compiled, and awards are handed out.

That season my coach at Midview was named the new football coach. He quickly lost his focus on baseball and the end of the baseball season sort of faded away. Then about halfway through the summer, I got a call that I should go to pick up my award at one of the players’ mom’s house. What award, I wondered?

It turns out that I was named Player of the Year, which still remains one of proudest moments. And while I was happy and surprised, I was disappointed that the traditional awards banquet did not take place. I just thought how proud my mom and dad, who supported me all those years — taking me to practice, buying me equipment, watching me play — might have been to see me win the award.

So I understand the feeling. Students are good at different things and I am sure it can be frustrating when a parent’s child is good at something that attracts less attention than more popular activities. The flutist in the band may work just as hard and make as much of a sacrifice as the high school quarterback, but most won’t remember his or her name.

There is also the issue of precedent, which can be troubling and paralyzing. Too often these days, things don’t happen because people worry, “If we do it for them, we have to do it for everybody.” Of course, I am a consistent advocate for fairness and equality but it is an impossible proposition for every sport, team, or organization — there is just not enough time, money, or interest. And people would complain anyway.

I think communities need to support each other more. There is too much self-absorption in society these days. There are too many people ready to complain about acts of kindness or support out of spite or jealously. And while I think talented students should receive the same public accolades as sports stars (or even more), it’s nice when a community comes together to promote each other, whatever the endeavor.

We could argue about perspective, and there are lots of very good arguments to be weighed and considered, but those are larger societal questions. Locally, I thought the police escort was pretty cool.

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