Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kids Hitching to Wrong Wagons

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kids Hitching to Wrong Wagons

Article excerpt

Ironically, tragically, both appeared in the newspaper on the

same day. One item bemoaned the lack of true leaders in our

society, and the other regretfully informed us that the number

of these true leaders had just been decreased by one.

In the sports section of the Sunday Times-Union, there was an

intriguing letter to the editor from Buster Harvey, associated

head basketball coach at Jacksonville University. Harvey wrote

that the tempestuousness and selfishness we see more and more in

today's young athletes can be directly attributed to the

tempestuousness and selfishness we see more and more among

today's pro athletes.

"What young people see and hear is what they copy," Harvey

wrote. "Unfortunately, there are far too many cases of

professional athletes being selfish and not accepting

responsibility for their own actions. . . . Everything in

athletics filters down to the grass-roots level. . . . We must

all try to do a better job of teaching our young people."

Meanwhile, in the Sunday Metro section, there was a small

article about the death of James Eldridge Thompson II, who I'm

certain is the type of leader Harvey was talking about. During

the 1960s, Thompson enrolled at Bishop Kenny High School and

became the first African-American football player at the

previously all-white Jacksonville school. He went on to become a

noted engineer in our nation's space program before dying of a

heart attack last week at age 46.

In a generation of Me and an era of Now, we desperately need

many more James Eldridge Thompsons. When high school players are

grasping and groping for heroes, real heroes, the death of a man

like Thompson is especially distressing.

"James was a great kid who went on to become a great man," says

Joe Parete, who coached football at Bishop Kenny during

Thompson's years there. "He was somebody everyone could look up

to. It seems there aren't too many role models left these days.

A lot of the pro athletes are always showing their backsides,

and kids just naturally emulate them."

Like those Clemson University football players who were charged

last week with attempting to distribute marijuana. …

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