Dan Carpenter got it right

Dateline: Thu 02 Sep 2010

In his column Wednesday, Carpenter, the op-ed columnist for the paper, addresses our obsession with youth sports, in the wake of the tragic death at the Speedway of a 13-year-old motorcyclist, Peter Lenz. (I still shudder, writing those words...13-year-old motorcyclist).

Says Carp:

"Some kids want to be rock stars, some aspire to the NFL and some have horsepower in their hearts, the rationalization goes. Who are we, the old and timid, to stand in their way?

"The truth is, of course, that getting out of the way isn't the half of what we do to ensure American youngsters don't lack for wishes come true and 'passions' (can't we retire that cliché?) fulfilled.

"We buy the hundreds of dollars' worth of hockey pads. We form the pee-wee football leagues with their executive staffs. We fly to Disney World for AAU basketball tournaments sponsored by Nike....

"Dreams in an affluent, advertising-driven society are elevated to a birthright. Sports in such a society take on an urgency and a grandeur that can consume childhood almost as if in imitation of the poverty and military/religious fervor of the Third World.

"In the latter, kids are put to work and subjected to risk to degrees young Americans cannot imagine. But how often are young Americans regimented, overburdened and physically injured for causes whose artificiality mocks the fight for survival that is reality for their peers in Iraq and Sudan?

"In the same edition of the newspaper that conveyed the tragedy of Peter Lenz, an article noted a steep rise in emergency room visits by school-age athletes with concussions. It is in no way a judgment of any family's decision, or a trespass on their grief, to ask that we rethink this pursuit of anything and everything that stirs a childhood longing for glory."

Carp showed respect for the family of young Peter Lenz; he did not go arrogant or preachy, although I personally could have lived without the Third World parallel, because this instance stands on its own, and not everything in the West has an alternative universe.

At any rate,  Carpenter said in the Star what needed to be said...


Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Carp got it right. And we're surprised--how? He's a journalistic treasure at a paper where there are few left.

As for youth sports, here's another angle:

Properly managed, it can be a Godsend. My daughter began playing a sport in 3rd grade, got good, and stayed with a group of girls who graduated together. Our summers were spent going to area tournaments, sometimes a national one. Families became close, and a few of those girls needed that togetherness. We group-parented all the girls and their siblings. Still do.

Of the original 8 girls who started on that team, all graduated high school on time. Seven went to college. Six graduated on-time. Five are now in graduate schools.

We parents made a bond 14 years ago--altho it was rough sometimes, we stuck together.

Sports changed their lives. It made them focus on grades. By choosing their activities, we controlled their formative years and most of their idle time.

We worked har dot make sure they wanted to participate, and weren't being shoved or helicopter-parented. All involved learned some valuable lessons, including me.

And I feel like I have 7 additional daughters. Ditto with all the other team parents.

We saw horrific examples of extreme sports macho nonsense. BTW, "macho" is not a gender-specific term here.

For my money, and time commitment, sports helped my daughter and her seven friends. They've grown up, some have stayed real close, some have rermained friends at a different level.

It cna work. But it takes work.

2010-09-02 10:29:22

hendy [Member] said:

Good for Dan.... and his third world refs are apt. Banality knows no boundaries.

2010-09-02 10:58:09

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Checkbooks rule, Hendy. America's checkbook is a great one.

2010-09-02 11:35:52

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

"Banality knows no boundaries."

As evidence I give you Social Networking.

Nothing is so destructive to the teenage attention span, nothing is such a consummate waste of time, as Banalbook. I do not care that someone had waffles for breakfast, and I propose to burn the home of the next person that sends me a Farmville alert.

I might even suggest without evidence that cell phones, Twitter and the whole electonic melange have annually caused more teen deaths and destruction than all the sports in America.

2010-09-02 11:38:17

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

I'm with you on the social networking, Tom.

Generally, a good column by Carpenter. He'll have four-five good ones and then one that sounds like a doctoral thesis written in Greek.

Sports for kids are a good thing - as long as the risks are reasonable and protections are secured (as much as possible).

Too bad kids in IPS don't get the same opportunities to participate in a wide variety of sports that kids in affluent districts enjoy.

IPS recently took football off the map for a couple of high schools, much to the chagrin of the kids and their parents.

2010-09-02 12:45:57

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Good thoughts, Whitebeard.

2010-09-02 12:52:19

Marycatherine Barton [unverified] said:

Speed kills, and riding a motorcycle is extremely risky, especially for youth. Ask your doctor, or anyone who mans a hospital emergency room.

2010-09-02 22:34:40

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Power tools kill, and using a nail gun or table saw or gas welder or chain saw or electric drill or propane torch is extremely risky, especially for weekend do-it- yourselfers. Ask your doctor or anyone who mans a hospital emergency room.

2010-09-03 09:20:06

hendy [Member] said:

That's why we prohibit, by law, children from using these items in their employment. A 13yo is a *child*.

2010-09-03 13:45:19

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

A big "ditto" there Hendy (though I hate to use a term made infamous by Rush Limbaugh).

Opening up a new can of worms....

I really don't think kids should be allowed to drive cars at 16 1/2. I think it should be, at the very earliest, 17 or 17 1/2.

I cringe every time I see an obituary for some sweet little 16-year-old girl who got excited on her cell phone and ended up wrapping her car around a tree.

To me, childhood ends at 18. Anyone younger than 18 is a child and needs to be protected by the law - even if it means being protected from themselves.

My two cent's worth.

2010-09-03 14:34:19

Pete [unverified] said:

I'm surprised that the Indy press didn't pick up this story from the Denver area involving another young child dying in a racing accident.


2010-09-03 17:57:08

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Kids who race do so under sanctioned supervision, and move up in competitive terms with experience. Kids who drive on the street do so with little or no supervision or experience. Apples and oranges.

Now stats show that kids who take driver's ed have more accidents, simply because they are able to get licenses earlier.

There is no corollary, or contradiction, between older age requirements for driver licenses, and the ability of kids to race at a young age. I support both. Motor racing for youths is generally designed for age appropriate skills: smaller engines, slower speeds.

Kids generally have driving accidents for two reasons: inattention, or overestimating their own driving skills. Young racers are not normally faced with either of these conditions.

If people expect kids to be raised in completely risk free circumstances, then every team sport, every individual endeavor-- not to mention driving or riding a bicycle-- should be outlawed.

And incidentally, the racer kids who learn car or bike control at an early age are much liklier to be superior and safer road drivers than the average kid.

2010-09-03 20:29:22

hendy [Member] said:

Whether apples or oranges or cumquats, the child is dead. Yes, accidents happen. But we try as a society to shield innocents from what we as adults know are dangers.

This isn't a nanny state, nor is it lions-in-the-coliseum. Young racers are subject to the same conditions in this context that adults are.

2010-09-04 08:56:59

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