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Thursday, September 21, 2017

THE WRITE STUFF

   After 30+ years in this weird, wonderful industry, I’ve pinpointed an undeniable, common thread running through every professional writer:
   They all started out as amateur writers.
   The other day I was doing some mundane grocery shopping when a 20-something recognized me. "Hey, how do I get started?"
   Other than, "How in the heck do you land Sybil?!", it's the question I've been asked more than any other over my career. My answer, invariably, is simple:
   Start writing.
   You’ll likely need a couple breaks to become a professional writer – a friend of a friend already in the business or perhaps just being at the right place at the right time. But something you can’t short-cut is the act of writing. Again. Again. And some more again. If you don’t love it - and if you haven’t done a lot of it - you might as well attempt to open a Lemonade Stand without a single lemon.
   Yes, the demonstrated ability to consistently observe, opine and write is your currency. It's your product. Your main asset.
   So now that I’ve totally empowered you, go get ‘em! Good luck and never give up and … Oh, my story? Well, sure okay.
   Allow me to, um, write it for you.
   No way around it, I was born with the tools essential for writing – creativity, curiosity and a vivid imagination. Mom says I often stretch the truth yet I simply rebut that characterization, based on the fact that she herself has a vivid imagination. While my younger brother would merely dab some peanut butter between two slices and enjoy lunch, I’d get out a piece of paper and spin a yarn about how exactly it came to be that Mrs. Baird herself happened to deliver a loaf of bread to our house. I dunno, somehow it made my sandwich taste better.
   Meanwhile, Dad led me into sports as soon as I could walk. I was always fascinated by big words, which facilitated a decent vocabulary and, voila, my foundation as a writer. So when did I begin?
   When I was about 7 years old I’d go in the backyard with my baseball glove and a tennis ball (I initially used a real baseball, but one shattered window later I involuntarily downsized the danger). I’d throw that ball off the side of the house, off the roof, off the barbecue grill, off the neighbor’s latticework. All the while producing a running commentary in my head, as if watching real baseball players throwing, hitting and fielding.
   After an hour or so I’d go inside and write the story of the “game” I’d just played.
   Hello, amateur writer.
   In high school I idolized Isiah Thomas and Bjorn Borg. But despite my finely-tuned vivid imagination, I eventually realized my 5-foot-8 frame wouldn’t be garnering me millions of dollars playing sports. So, I reasoned, why not get paid instead to go to games writing sports?
   I grew up reading Blackie Sherrod in the Dallas Morning News, Skip Bayless in the Dallas Times Herald and Rick Reilly and Gary Smith in Sports Illustrated. I was the editor of my high-school newspaper in Duncanville, majored in Journalism at UT-Arlington and, upon graduating in 1986, landed an entry-level job at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. (My first assignment was to write a story about a sport I had barely heard of and never seen or attended - Dallas Sidekicks indoor soccer. Imagination, activate!) I’ve been writing – for newspapers, magazines, blogs, books and even radio and TV websites since.
   And, yes, I’m the dork who will still – in lieu of buying a gift – simply write a poem or a story for a friend’s, or my wife’s birthday or special occasion. (Trust me fellas, that trick will come in handy.)
   To me there’s nothing as rewarding as writing. The feeling after nailing a story is the equivalent of a runner’s high. The process of having a thought, processing and refining it in your brain and through your creative filters, bringing it to life through your fingertips, and then having a total stranger both read it and “get it”? Priceless.
   It’s the reason I write.
   So you’re willing to write. On your own time. With zero compensation, for now. But at some point you’ll want to advance your hobby into job, and hopefully a career. From my experience, here are a few things to consider:
   Be Your Own Boss – If you’re resourceful and organized and motivated, you can make a decent living as a freelance writer. Get on the Internet and search job posts. “Writing Jobs” is a simple, solid search to begin with. Spend an entire day doing it. Maybe two. Make a list of contacts. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many websites, blogs, magazines, etc. have a need for unique, original content. No matter fast and far our communication advances, content remains king. Every platform - whether it be cute 140-character takes to long-form 14,000-word exposes - needs fuel to run its engine. And that fuel is content, written by - tuh-dah! - writers.
   You can write about sports, food, electronics, concerts, the likelihood of a major earthquake taking down Dallas. Anything. And you should write about them all, as long as you don’t compromise your quality with too much quantity. Individually, each gig won’t make you rich. But cumulatively, you’ll be able to keep the lights on. The great thing about freelancing is that you’ll also be honing your skills, building your portfolio and making invaluable contacts in the literary world.
   Don’t Hire An Agent – Unless you are an accomplished writer looking to move to a new city (like say, ahem, Hollywood), my experience is that it’s not worth it. Nobody knows you better than you. And nobody will fight harder for you, than you.
   Pay Your Dues – If you’d rather wedge your foot into the door of a newspaper than try to go it alone, it’s doable as well. Most publications accept interns and there are certainly entry-level, fresh-outta-college jobs. Just be prepared to get coffee in the morning and to cover wacky, irrelevant assignments at night. At the Star-Telegram my rookie year included writing stories about a darts tournament, a high-school power-lifting meet and even a tractor pull. But within three years I was at Texas Stadium covering Cowboys games. Was it worth it? You know that answer. When initially commencing your career, nothing is more valuable than sweat equity.
   Degrees of Experience – I loved my college years and I wouldn’t trade my UTA education. Obviously I’d recommend working at your college newspaper and earning a degree in Journalism. A degree will open a lot of doors. But, honestly, you can trump that piece of paper with a quality portfolio of your writing. Most of my editors have cherished experience over education.
   Pad Your Portfolio – Blogs, websites, magazines, etc. are looking for versatility. You'll open more eyes - and doors - if you can write both copy (scripts, ads, marketing brochures, etc.) and content (blogs, stories, features, etc.). The more topics you can write about, the better your chance of landing a gig. So fill your portfolio with variety: Long-form stories. Short featurettes. Opinion pieces. Poems. Maybe even your favorite Tweet.
   Popularity Contest – If you’re a freelancer, it can be difficult to achieve a very important goal en route to becoming a successful writer: Building an audience. These days you can do this via Facebook with some intriguing posts and corresponding “Likes.” But I recommend starting your own blog. I know, but hear me out. It’s cheaper – and easier – than you think. It looks great on a resume. And it’s a way to earn a following of fans that dig what you’re delivering. Don’t go into with grandiose, irrational visions. Just write what you’re passionate about, shove it out via your social media and watch the saplings sprout into Redwoods. Yep, that’s how it starts. Who knows, maybe that blog – at first just a vehicle to tote your writing – will develop and mature into the career you were searching for in the first place.
   Dream Of Success, Prepare For Rejection – One of the most important arrows in your quiver is a thick skin. You will get rejected. You will write horrible stories. You will make embarrassing typos. Writing isn’t for the faint of heart or fragile of ego. Learn from your mistakes. Experiment with your style. Stay true to your passion.
   Because, after all, the best part about amateur writers?
   They grow up to be professional writers.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

UMPIRES SUCK. ESPECIALLY UMPIRES NAMED GERRY DAVIS.

Funnynotfunny?
   After an entertaining, bizarre, and really bad night in Arlington, there's no way to sugarcoat it:
   Umpire Gerry Davis needs a sense of humor. Because, yep, he's a major league asshole.
   On a sweltering July night at Globe Life Park in which Yu Darvish might have thrown his final pitch as a Ranger, it was the arrogant umpire who decided to inject his pall-bearer gravity into a laugher of a game by ejecting future Hall-of-Famer Adrian Beltre for - I kid you not - standing to the left on the on-deck circle.
   They say you can go to a baseball game and see something you've never seen. Man, are they right.
   Last night I witnessed:
   *A combined 32 runs
   *Yu surrendering 10 runs in 3.2 innings, the 2nd-shortest outing of his career.
   *3rd-string catcher Brett Nicholas mopping up on the mound in the 9th, and offering a 45mph slow-pitch softball.
   *And Beltre, one of the game's greatest and goofiest players, getting tossed for daring to exhibit a moment of levity at his doorstep of history.
   The score was 22-8 and it was approaching 11 p.m. on a Wednesday. The only reason there were a couple thousand of us fans left in the stands was Beltre. He already had 3 hits including a homer and a double off the wall, and was in his usual on-deck position preparing for what we all hoped would be career hit No. 2,997.
   Enter Gerald Sidney Davis, aka Baseball Buzz Killington.
   Earlier in the game my Dad and I had already taken note of Davis. He's been around forever. Crew chief since '99, umped 5 World Series and has the 2nd-longest tenure. He's obviously good at what he does. But he does it despite a surly, smug disposition that would make even our President cringe.
   Davis was the 2nd Base Umpire and on a couple of relatively close plays - a sliding double and a double-play pivot - we were amused, no, make it annoyed, that he made no call. None. Not as much as a shrug in reaction to the plays. Pretty clear to us that the runner hustling for a double was safe, but there was a tag. And similarly routine that the double-play pivot was executed without hiccup for an out.
At least I had a good view of a bad outing.
   But Davis' grandiose delusion caused him to deem neither play worthy of him even lifting a pinkie. He responded to each with ... nothing. He stared at the play and then walked away. The play, his warped ego reassured him, wasn't even close enough for him to stoop to making a hand gesture. "Even the peasants can figure that one out"? Guaranteed with a closer play - with perhaps the game on the line - Davis would get a running start and land the dismount with an exaggerated "Look at me!" out or safe call that would surely grip and enthrall the onlooking commoners.
   My guess is that throughout the stadium little boys and girls with their caps and their gloves and their baseball obsessions watched both plays and were left not impressed by Davis' visible indifference, but rather confused enough to ask "Dad, was he safe or out?"
   With nothing to justify him being a part of the proceedings, Davis decided to shove his sourness into the game in the bottom of the 8th. Beltre - as he has done for, oh, 20 years - was standing about 5 to the left of the on-deck circle. Out of nowhere - totally unprovoked - here comes the jerk of a judge.
   Inexplicably, he yells at Beltre to move to the right and stand on top of the on-deck circle mat adorned with the Rangers' logo. With comic reactions as fast and slick as his Gold Glove, Beltre instead drug the mat to where he was standing.
   To Davis, this was an unpardonable felony. He picked a fight, but when Beltre dared to "fight" back, he threw him out of the game. "Nobody disrespects me!" the giant ego in Davis' little brain was sure to be screaming. In Davis' scenario, Beltre should've moved, stood somewhere he was uncomfortable standing and saluted "Sir, yes sir!" in the process.
   Because, you see, Davis would like us to believe he is baseball royalty. An advanced, decorated professor of the sport. His inner monologue has him being such an expert of the game that we should all bow at his feet while he wows us with his judgments.
   But Davis is not a black-belt in baseball, merely a black eye on the sport.
One I won't soon forget. Thanks, Gerry.
   How are we certain that his 8th-inning temper tantrum was merely a grand personal publicity stunt to get him some needed attention? Because last night - and every night - 1st and 3rd-base coaches stand as much as 20 feet outside their designated box. Because after Beltre's ejection, Mike Napoli's customized on-deck circle was on the grass even closer to home plate than Beltre's. And Jonathan Lucroy stood to the left of the plastic circle. To the left of it, yep, even more left than it was after Beltre's relocation.
   From Davis? Not a peep.
   It's clear he wasn't enforcing any rules, he was merely making himself feel important.
   Never met Davis (nor do I ever want to), but my image is of him dining alone after a game. Sending back the soup because it's too soupy. Customizing his meal with 42 alterations. And then, you guessed it, leaving a $0 tip because such a mundane meal was beneath him.
   Davis was likely very satisfied with himself last night. He had reminded Beltre - and everyone in the stands - who was the real boss. In his world, remember, we paid our money to watch him umpire just as much as paid to see players.
   There will be a day - hopefully sooner than later - when baseball is flawlessly ruled by computers, GPS, laser technology and advanced gizmos equipped with no egos or agendas, and that mercifully will make umpires obsolete. Our kids' kids will laugh at the fact that we once upon a time relied on humans to judge our beloved outcomes.
   And they'll be right, because last night there was nothing funny about Gerry Davis' devoid sense of humor.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

HOME SWEET GONE

Last call indeed.
   Stepdad. Divorce. Engagement. Marriage. Stints at the Dallas Observer and CBS radio and NBC TV paving the way to media consulting. Ghosts (maybe). Squirrels (definitely). Pool parties (uh-huh). Tyron Smith breaking the bar. Armen Williams mysteriously losing his ring in the back yard. Girls jumping off the roof - topless. 40th and (yikes) 50th birthdays. And, yep, a championship by the Mavs, a nauseating flirtation by the Rangers and nary of whiff by the Cowboys.
   A lot has transpired since I moved into 2823 Roundrock in McKinney back in 2002. Other than the house I grew up in, I've lived here longer than any residence.
   But alas, nothing lasts forever. Especially addresses.
   So here Sybil and I go. Downsizing. Upgrading. You know the drill. You say you're never going to move and then - the commute gets longer and your patience gets shorter and the offers get bigger and ... Poof, just like that, we're dumping leisurely life in the 'burbs for shorter drives to longer nights down by the Dallas Arboretum.
   I'll always have McKinney. But I no longer need the McKrap.
   Bottom line: Estate Sale, courtesy of Attics to Basements. It begins - right now! - and runs through Saturday afternoon. Schedule: Thurs 10-4/ Fri 10-4/ Sat 10-2. (If you can't make it out but will be in the market for some sports memorabilia, an item or two that goes unsold will be donated to the Do It For Durrett and/or DFW Talk Of The Town charities.
   Come help us bid a fond (and fruitful) farewell to a house saturated with 15 years of excessive hunting and gathering in the form of ...

                                                                       SPORTS
Rookie of the Year - 1995

                                                                       RADIO
Not Fake News

                                                                        SYBIL
Gently pre-owned

                                                                   VALUABLES
Some of these you'll have to fight me over

                                                               RIDICULOUSNESS
Before ... you know.

                                                    AND EVERYTHING BETWEEN
Garth. Michael. Toy. 52-17.

The Great Goodbye

(Not so) Gently pre-owned

He had/has my vote.

You'll have to outbid Ron Chapman.

Before ... you know.

Yes, it works.

2011 = Pins 'n tears.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

THE 20 MOST MEMORABLE SPORTING EVENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ME

   “Be more positive!” she says.
   “Stick to sports!” he chides.
   “Too many Top 10 lists!” they decry.
   Fine, you win. Today: A warm-’n-fuzzy Top 20 list about sports.
   But first, a little background …

   I lied to get into the sports media business. Sorta.
   Went down like this:
   In 1986, a few months before I graduated UT-Arlington with a degree in journalism, I caught the eye and grabbed the ear of an editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
   “I’ll do anything, for any price,” I begged, attempting to jam the tip of my toe into what I perceived to be a sliver of an opening in the door.
   “Hmm, okay,” returned the editor. “Do you follow soccer?”
   “Are you kidding?!” I fibbed, having attended a Dallas Tornado game or two as a kid but not really knowing a goal from a goal kick. “One of my favorite sports!”
   Two nights later I was inside Reunion Arena covering a team called the Dallas Sidekicks and a sport called the Major Indoor Soccer League. Orange ball? Walls? A guy who takes his shirt off when he scores? I was clueless. And I was hooked.
Not necessarily on the MISL, but on getting paid to attend sporting events.
   What a scam brilliant career choice.
   I’ve covered sports in the Metroplex for 30+ years, writing/talking about everything from dart tournaments to The Olympics. Today, with a little prodding and a lot of reminiscing, I pieced together the most memorable events I’ve attended during 18 years at the Star-Telegram, seven more at the Dallas Observer, five at CBS Radio/105.3 The Fan, three more at NBC5 and, since the Summer of 2013, here in my own lil’ corner of the blogosphere.
   My initial brain dump birthed 44 memories. I painstakingly narrowed it to 20. Not necessarily the best moments. Merely the most memorable. (Leon Lett, Brett Hull and Bill Clinton's White House just barely missed the cut.)
   Hope you enjoy re-living them half as much as I delighted in covering them.


   20. February 16, 2001; Infield Circus – Assigned to capture the suds, speed and socializing of the Daytona 500, I drove through the tunnel at the Daytona International Speedway and immediately saw a woman. Walking. On her hands. Naked. With grinnin’ guys playing ring toss. Using her legs as the targets. Swear.



   19. April 6, 1997; Mav-Wrecks – Though the franchise had bottomed out a couple years earlier with head coach Quinn Buckner and consecutive 13- and 11-win seasons, the Mavs under the utterly forgettable Jim Cleamons managed only two points – on a pair of Derek Harper free throws – in the third quarter of a lowly loss to the Lakers in The Fabulous Forum.



   18. Nov 30, 2006; Anna Nirvana – Got to play three games of tennis at the T Bar M Racquet Club in North Dallas against one of the hottest females on the planet, Anna Kournikova. Nothing really spectacular about the tennis, other than the fact that it was against one of the hottest females on the planet, Anna Kournikova.




   17. June 20, 1987; Sidekicks Celebrate – Down 3-1 with less than two minutes to play in Game 7 of the MISL Championship Series, the Sidekicks pulled their goalie in desperation. After an improbable two goals to force overtime, Tatu drilled a shot that Mark Karpun re-directed for the goal that stunned the Tacoma Stars and 20,000 fans in the Tacoma Dome. Two days later I covered a championship parade through downtown and around Reunion Arena. Still pinching myself to this day.




   16. Dec. 10, 1989; Bounty Bowl II – After Cowboys’ head coach Jimmy Johnson had chastised the Eagles’ Buddy Ryan for putting out a bounty on kicker Luis Zendejas in a Thanksgiving Day game at Texas Stadium, the payback at Veterans Stadium was gruesome. Philadelphia beat an infamously futile Cowboys team, 20-10, punctuated by batteries wrapped in iceballs hurled at the sideline and even inside CBS’ broadcast booth at Verne Lundquist and Terry Bradshaw.




   15. June 29, 1998; Dirk’s Debut – He stepped off the plane from Wurzburg, Germany all of 19 years old. Chili-bowl, long haircut. Big, gold hoops dangling from his ear. But then Dirk Nowitzki dazzled us inside the Baylor-Tom Landry Center gym. 3-pointers with each hand. And a smooth, flowing stride leading to effortless dunks. The Flamingo Fadeway wasn’t yet born, but just days after the NBA Draft Nowitzki’s eventual Hall-of-Fame star was already rising.




   14. Dec. 20, 2008; Farewell, Old Friend – It was freezing that night. Winter wind whipping through the tunnel at Texas Stadium. But with the Cowboys rallying and former players lined up to see the last game in Texas Stadium it would end up warm and cozy. Right? Nope. As Baltimore Ravens’ fullback LeRon McClain rumbled 82 yards right up Dallas’ gut it almost made us vomit. Then, about 17 months later, an 11-year-old from Tyler pushed a plunger that imploded my all-time favorite sports stadium.




   13. May 14, 2005; Tiger Prowls – Back when Tiger Woods was Tiger Goods, I followed his every move at the Byron Nelson golf tournament. On the 9th fairway he exited a Port-a-Pot … to a rousing ovation.




   12. July 4, 2004; Fantastic Federer – Only thing more amazing than sitting at Centre Court Wimbledon and watching Andy Roddick spank 140-mph serves was witnessing Roger Federer deftly return them for winners with merely a flick of his legendary wrist.




   11. June 17, 1994; The Day The World (Cup) Stopped – International media from the globe’s four corners descended upon Fair Park to cover the World Cup, but suddenly we all found ourselves not watching soccer inside the Cotton Bowl but instead huddled around a TV in the Hall of State’s makeshift media center gawking at another type of football player. It was O.J. Simpson, leading Los Angeles police on a low-speed chase.




   10. January 17, 1993; How ‘Bout Them Cowboys?! – Candlestick Park. The mud. Major underdogs. Up 24-20 with four minutes remaining, but backed up to their own 10. Get conservative and work on the clock? Nah. How about Troy Aikman to Alvin Harper for the most important 70-yard pass play in franchise history. Cowboys 30, 49ers 20. Hello, Super Bowl.




   9. February 28, 1989; Doomsday Indeed – Only days after he was fired by new owner Jerry Jones, Cowboys’ coach Tom Landry went to Valley Ranch and cleaned out his office. Unfortunately, I had to document every sad detail.




   8. June 14, 1998; The Joy of Six – With his Chicago Bulls on the brink of losing Game 6 and having to play a Game 7 in the Delta Center against the Utah Jazz, Michael Jordan scored, stole the ball from Karl Malone and then deftly shoved Bryon Russell out of the way before swishing an 18-foot jumper to seal his sixth title. We forget John Stockton front-rimmed an open 3-pointer at the buzzer.




   7. October 22, 2010; Hello, World Series! – When closer Neftali Feliz struck out Alex Rodriguez on a nasty curveball, our goose bumps had goose bumps. Yep, after 38 seasons the Texas Rangers were finally going to the World Series.




   6. February 8, 1986; Soaring Spud – On NBA All-Star Saturday at Reunion Arena it was 5-foot-7 Spud Webb who stole the show by winning the Slam Dunk title. But in the locker room it was Celtics’ legend Larry Bird who chugged a Lone Star beer, loudly burped and then offered “Excuse me, I’ve got a trophy to win.” He then went out and at one point made 12 straight 3-pointers en route to the Long Distance Shootout championship.




   5. July 27, 1996; Olympic Bombing – During The Summer Olympics in Atlanta I saw Michael Johnson’s double in the 200/400, the Dream Team cream everybody and Andre Agassi win gold. But it was 1:30 a.m. when our bus taking us to our dorms at Emory University abruptly stopped. Announced our driver, “A bomb went off in Centennial Park.” Still makes me queasy. I had been there 20 minutes before. And now I was headed back.



   4. August 22, 1989; 5,000 – I was assigned to paint the scene surrounding Nolan Ryan’s historic 5,000th strikeout. Not Nolan fanning the A’s Rickey Henderson or the ball caught by Chad Krueter, but more so the scalpers selling box seats for, get this, $150 a pop. Probably go for $1,500 today.



   3. October 27, 2011; Title Tease - One strike away. Twice. I was lined up with a gaggle of media underneath Busch Stadium, awaiting the Texas Rangers’ World Series celebration that would never happen. Plastic was hung from lockers. Boxes of championship hats and T-shirts were carted past. But after David Freese tripled off Neftali Feliz in the 9th, Lance Berkman singled off Scott Feldman in the 10th and Freese homered off Mark Lowe in the 11th to end a dramatic, gut-wrenching Game 6, it was instead our worst case of blue balls. Ever.




   2. January 31, 1993; 'Boys Are Back – From Garth Brooks’ National Anthem to Michael Jackson’s halftime show to Troy Aikman’s four touchdown passes to the nine turnovers, the Cowboys’ 52-17 romp over the Buffalo Bills in Super  Bowl XXVII will be eternally vivid.



   1. June 12, 2011; Finals, Finally – As Nowitzki made a lefty layup to give the Mavs a nine-point lead in the final minute, I found myself trying to do my job – blog and type and talk – amidst a stream of tears. Couldn't have been more perfect. In Miami, against the Heat team and villainous player (Dwyane Wade) that ruined the ’06 party. Favorite moment: Original owner Don Carter handing the Larry O’Brien trophy to Finals MVP Nowitzki. Sometimes, if you stick with it long enough, life turns out to be fair after all.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

THE ENTERTAINING, CHILLING DEFENSES OF A RACIST RANT VIDEO

   Ignore the message. Kill the messenger.
   No, literally, kill the messenger.
   In the wake of my Tuesday post exposing a racist rant that forced the exit of a teenager from Jesuit High School, that fatal intention is the alarming crescendo of feedback. Rather than admitting shock, expressing sympathy or pledging to examine the culture of a prestigious school that has helped foster two infamous racist videos in two years, the wave of comments on my story quickly deteriorated into personal attacks.
   And, ultimately, escalated into this:
... nobody gives a fuck about this website and your illegal blogs about childeren(sic) u fuckin loser. Kill your self(sic)
   I've been at this 30+ years and have experienced my share of pushback on articles and columns. But  never - not once - has the feedback gone to such a dark place that the stated goal was my death. Look, I have developed some extremely thick skin. The insults and attacks on my appearance or my writing don't offend me.
   But the perverted perspective behind them absolutely alarms me.
   Over 13,000+ unique views and 90+ comments later, the running theme in response to Charlie Burkhart's disgusting racist rant was not to admonish the message, but rather to ambush the messenger.
   Granted, a majority of the responses were likely crafted by teens armed with free time, keyboard courage and minimal maturity. In their eyes, I had the audacity to pick on one of their own. (Which, think about it, is a scary notion.) The response - cloaked in anonymity, of course - was to shower me with all sorts of colorful labels and creative descriptions. A sampling:
   "Idiot".
   "Turd".
   "Dick".
   "Penis".
   "Gay".
   "Chode".
   "Retarded".
   "Inbred".
   "Douchebag".
   "Sadistic fuck".
   "Fucking toad".
   "Sick son of a bitch".
   "Soulless ginger fuck".
   "Tranny with bad plastic surgery".
   And, my personal favorite: "A frog mixed with chewbaccas(sic) asshole that sprang out with Down syndrome and diabetes."
   The irrationally misguided haters also yanked my wife, Sybil Summers, into their bullseye, comically claiming she is "an ex-porn star." I mean, she's hot and all but ...
   A in creative writing. F in sensitivity training.
   The comments also came with assorted calls to action, such as "stick to sports", "get a life", "stop being a liberal" and, of course, "Kill your self."
   More troubling, there are attempts to inexplicably diminish, or even justify Burkhart's rant:
   "It's a 15-year-old boy making one mistake. What's your problem?"
   "Leave him alone! He's just a minor!"
   "Fake News!"
   Personal attacks notwithstanding, one comment - from an adult Twitter follower who claimed to be a Jesuit parent - genuinely bothered me.
   "What Richie did in writing about that kid is equally as horrible as the video."
   Think about the warped mentality behind that statement. In essence, the thinking is that the only thing as bad as racism is ... exposing racism?
   I guess I was naive enough to expect reaction to the video to be overwhelming - if not 100% - condemnation. This kind of attack of the messenger and, in turn, support of Burkhart is down right chilling.
   Again, the motivation for my original post was not to indict Jesuit for some sort of systemic, institutionalized racism. But you cannot deny the connection between the two stars in the videos. I don't think Jesuit is teaching racism, but there is evidence to suggest it's not doing enough to un-teach it.
   Hence ...
   President Mike Earsing in 2015
   I am appalled by the actions in the video and extremely hurt by the pain this has caused our community. It is unconscionable and very sad that in 2015 we still live in a society where this type of bigotry and racism takes place ...
   President Mike Earsing in 2017
   We are saddened by this young man's actions because they are not representative of what we - and our student body - stand for ...
   I respect Jesuit as one of Dallas' finest learning institutions. Jordan Spieth, in town for this week's Byron Nelson golf tournament, is just the latest example of what Jesuit is capable of producing. I coached youth soccer and basketball teams with several kids that went on to graduate from there. I'm still friends with many of the parents from the youth teams.
   Proud Jesuit parents.
   They acknowledge that Jesuit is willingly held to a higher standard, and that the actions of Burkhart and Parker Rice woefully fail to meet those standards and therefore do harm to the school's image. The incidents by no means suggest a habitual, unbreakable pattern of behavior by all Jesuit students. But nor should they be shrugged off as random, wholly disconnected coincidences.
   A "mistake" is when you turn right instead of left and are five minutes late to your appointment. Burkhart's racist rant wasn't merely a mistake, something he inadvertently blurted out. It's not a trivial hiccup to be swept under the rug. It was a product of a bigoted belief system he had before he arrived at Jesuit, and will likely maintain now that he's left.
   Best we can hope is that Burkhart learns a lesson from the incident. Maybe he will alter his actions, if not altogether transform his beliefs.
   There is, alas, a glimmer of hope amidst the hate.
   Rather than respond with crude, callous, childish and cowardly "anonymous" attacks, one Jesuit student took the time to respond via thoughtful email.
Charlie Burkhart is a great example of the opposite of what Jesuit students stand for: We are taught to care for our brothers, not to insult and push hate towards them. Charlie Burkhart had a negative reputation for incidents like this before he attended Jesuit. Jesuit's goal is not to instill hate in our hearts but to help us become open to growth, intellectually competent, physically fit, loving, religious, and committed to working for justice. Obviously not all students hold on to and care for what we are taught. I assure you that the hate in their hearts was not put there by Jesuit College Preparatory. I currently attend Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas. I am in the class of 2020. I am not one of Charlie Burkhart's friends nor have I ever had the idea of trying to be. He is a disgusting individual and I am glad he is gone. I am only sending this to stand up for my school and its beliefs.
   Here's hoping that message echoes throughout Jesuit's halls, and finds its way into Burkhart's heart.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

REVOLTING, RACIST RANT DESERVEDLY GETS JESUIT HIGH SCHOOL FRESHMAN A PERMANENT VACATION

   Every once in a while we're reminded that, in fact, we haven't evolved as a society nearly as much as we'd like to think.
   Isn't that right, racist punk Charlie Burkhart?
   Isn't that right, common denominator Jesuit High School?
   The kid is was a freshman at Jesuit in North Dallas. And apparently when he wasn't playing lacrosse he spent his time on another favorite hobby - disgustingly talking smack to and/or about blacks.
   According to a source, last year when Burkhart played football on the 8th-grade team at St. Rita he started an on-field scuffle after calling a Bishop Dunne player the n-word. And, now, after a video surfaced of him going on a racist rant in which he again uses the n-word and gleefully exclaims of blacks, "I hate 'em. Crucify 'em!", Burkhart has deservedly been forced to withdraw from the school.
   Kudos to Jesuit for not tolerating this egregious, vile and unacceptable bigotry. Though the statement from school president Mike Earsing released around 4 p.m. Tuesday alludes only that "we swiftly addressed this situation in an appropriate way", a Jesuit source says Burkhart was given a choice: Withdraw from school or be expelled. He left. When the incident made it to social media, the school was forced to act.
   The teen's smirking, slurring, 10-second rant occurred while wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey and being filmed in front of at least one giggling onlooker. Maybe he was at a party. Possibly alcohol was involved. But definitely, undeniably, it is disgusting. 
   There was a time not that long ago when I actually thought we were taking genuine strides toward a truly "United We Stand" America. Instead, slapped in the naive kisser by this ...
   This isn't merely "locker-room talk." This isn't just "kids being kids." This is a nauseating, revolting commentary on our society in general and Burkhart in particular.
   It's just one guy? Maybe. But there are people laughing. People filming. People sharing. And, yep, people saying this is anything but an isolated incident.
   The video is apparently shared by a "JC Ericson." In a response, "Max Heitzman" offers:
   "It was much worse when he was goin ape shit on Tyson."
   I don't want to believe this kind of attitude exists in 2017. But, chillingly, it indeed does.
   And, like it or not, Jesuit is again at the root of the evil.
   It was only two years ago, remember, that two Oklahoma University students and fraternity members were expelled for their tuxedo-clad leading of a chant that included "You can hang them from a tree, but they'll never sign with me. There will never be a nigger at SAE."
   One of those kids - Parker Rice - was a graduate of, sure enough, Jesuit High School.