Back from Syracuse, finally, and catching up on email and responses from today’s column on the death of PRP football player Max Gilpin and the indictment of coach Jason Stinson. You can read it by clicking here, if you missed it.
I want to thank everyone who responded via email or voice mail — even posting on my Facebook page. The responses confirmed what we all knew, there’s not a single side to this situation that isn’t a sad one.
I’ve heard from guys who have been coaches for 20 years. I’ve heard from parents. I’ve heard from former athletes. I’ve heard from people who are livid at Stinson to people who supported him enough to attend a vigil for him.
This was a difficult column to write. I don’t think it’s my place to voice an opinion on Stinson’s guilt or innocence. Certainly, I believe he didn’t begin that day with the intent that any harm come to his players. And I’m sure he’s going to live with what happened for the rest of his life, and that’s a pretty stern punishment in itself.
My criticism today was pointed at the school district for not immediately realizing the seriousness of this situation and acting accordingly.
And, frankly, it was to say that it’s time that the courts begin to take hard looks at these incidents. They continue to happen, even though the medical community says they are totally preventable. So if coaches and school districts can’t get on top of the problem, maybe an indictment might clue them into the fact that these deaths need to stop. Completely.
I was encouraged by the responses I got today. Some agreed with me and some did not, but everybody I heard from had well-reasoned positions that weren’t based in sheer emotion, and that readily acknowledged that both sides of this story deserve proper respect.
This has now become a national story and, frankly, I’m little wary of that. What happens when something becomes a national story is that you get talking heads staking out positions and trying to shout each other down.
It’s as if everyone breaks into teams. You’ve got the Sinson team and the Gilpin team and you let the competition fly. But this isn’t about being right, or winning an argument. It’s why I used the terminology today that this isn’t a game. You can’t stifle debate, which is one of the things our society is all about. But you can keep the tone in line with reality — that a kid has died and a lot of people are hurting.
Once a story goes national, things happen to it. Personalities involved are redefined. Storylines are streamlined and simplified, usually oversimplified.
I do not plan to weigh in during the course of the trial. I think, having said my peace today, I’m likely to sit until all the facts are presented. But I thought it was important today to reiterate the importance of the courts getting involved in this case, and the absolute necessity of getting serious about these deaths.