Monday, April 26, 2004

More Than A Little Drunk

In light of the DWI bust this weekend of St. Louis Rams defensive end Leonard Little, attorney Scott Rosenblum said, "Leonard is not a drinker. He's never been a drinker. It's just not in his character."

Does he really expect us to believe that? This is the same Leonard Little who, on his 24th birthday in 1998, partied with some friends, then got into his Lincoln Navigator and drove drunk, right through a red light and into Susan Gutweiler's car, killing her. If Rosenblum is to be believed, and Little isn't a drinker, then he's got to be the unluckiest guy in the world, because on the only two occasions in which he happened to drink and drive, he got in trouble.

That earlier conviction came back to haunt him today, when Little was charged with felony drunk driving as a persistent offender under a law passed in 2001 that makes a drunk driving offense a felony if a person has a prior history of involuntary manslaughter. If he's convicted, he's looking at up to four years in prison. Many of us feel that sentence should have been imposed the first time, not the second. We, as a society, have to get past "he was drunk" as an excuse.

Another Rosenblum whopper: "Not a day has gone by that Leonard hasn't thought about Susan Gutweiler." C'mon. My dad died in 1997. I loved him very much and we were very close, but I can honestly say that there are some days when I don't think of him at all. In the 2,000 or so days that have passed since the Little-Gutweiler collision, are we to believe that he has thought of her every single day -- even game days? Very doubtful.

Little is a very talented football player, but let's not hold him up as a paragon of virtue. If he were, and was always thinking of Mrs. Gutweiler, he wouldn't have gotten into his vehicle late Friday night with a buzz on. If he were smart, he would've kept the phone number of a limo company in his wallet or his cell phone, and used it at a time like this. And what about whoever he was with that night, letting him get behind the wheel? Male or female, they weren't doing him any favors.

By being so irresponsible, Little has put the Rams in a quandary. Sure, they want him on that defensive line, taking down quarterbacks and sniffing out the run. But this is a public relations problem they don't need. They gave him a second chance after the 1998 incident, and he blew it. If this weekend's allegations prove true, many people have told me they'll have a hard time watching him in a Rams uniform this fall.

Of course, things could have been worse. Leonard could have called a friend for help and gotten a lift home from Billy Joel.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

A Lingering Lesson From Columbine

Five years after Columbine, you'd think the number of school-related violent deaths would be at an all-time low. In fact, according to the Denver Post, this school year was more violent than the last two combined -- 43 deaths already.

Still, when you consider the millions of kids who attend school every day in the USA, that's an incredibly small percentage, meaning our schools are remarkably safe.

In retrospect, let's remember that Columbine wasn't really a school safety issue. It was a bad parenting issue. If Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold's parents had done a better job keeping an eye on their sons, they might have noticed the pipe bombs in the basement, the anger festering in their teenage brains, the resentment towards
classmates, etc. Just one parent living up to their role could have prevented 13 deaths that spring day in Littleton, Colorado.

Unfortunately, we don't heap enough blame on parents in our culture. Instead, we ask the schools to do more and more. As the son of two educators, with other teachers in my family, this saddens and maddens me.

Ask anyone who has worked inside those brick walls recently. You can't just be a teacher today. You also have to be a cop, a psychologist, and a counselor. You have to make sure the kids are wearing the right clothes, that they're not drunk or high, that they're not dirty dancing at the prom. Of course, you don't get paid more
for that extra effort.

Parents complain that educators should teach their kids morals, make them watch less TV, have more respect for others. These should not be considered part of the teacher's job -- these are the basics of parenting. For some reason, we've allowed this responsibility to be shifted out of the home and into the institution.

The blame for failure has been misplaced, too. Under the No Child Left Behind program, when a child doesn't succeed in the classroom, it is the school that is punished. Teachers and principals are threatened with losing their jobs, their funding, their living. Yet no mention is made of whether the parents fulfilled their
obligation to work with the kid at home, making sure they read, do their homework, and understand what they were taught that day. This is the equivalent of blaming the dentist because your kid eats candy and doesn't brush her teeth.

This trend started with my generation, the late baby-boomers, but it has been exacerbated by the next generation, those whose children have entered the school system in the last decade. Somehow they took the "it takes a village to raise a child" concept -- a completely valid one, which requires participation at various
levels from all sorts of people, but begins and ends with Mom and Dad -- and turned it into "let the village raise my child, I'm too busy."

Sadly, I see no end in sight for this blame-the-schools syndrome. For the most part, American kids have been given a safe place to learn. Now if only American parents would do their part.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Mike Sexton, "World Poker Tour"

Here's my conversation with Mike Sexton, play-by-play man for the World Poker Tour, about the explosion in popularity of the game, as well as the top poker pros, the strategies, advice for beginners, and the celebrities who play, including the ones in his weekly home game.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!