Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: A Trage-Lesson for Us All

Today, Scratchbomb hands over the reins to nationally syndicated sports columnist Skitch Hanson, as we’ve done many times before. You may know him as the author of the highly popular column “Up The Middle,” recipient of the 2006 Phil Mushnick Award for Neo-Luddite-Ism in Sports Writing. You may have read his best-selling books “My Way Is the High Way: How Every Single Game Should Be Played” and “Whoops! Seventeen Years of Retracted Statements”. He’s also a frequent guest on ESPN’s sportswriters panel show Who’s the Loudest? Without further ado, here’s Skitch.

Sean Taylor:
Who can we
blame his death
on (other than
the guy who
did it)?

When Sean Taylor was shot this weekend, it was a shot that was heard around the world. Except for those places in the world where they don’t care about football. So I guess it was primarily a shot heard around America and perhaps some parts of Canada.

Of course, the police are still investigating, and we still don’t know exactly why he was killed. But I think it’s safe to say Sean Taylor was involved with some combination of violence-gangs, drugs, or gun running. I would also not rule out the white slave trade.

Sean Taylor is another sad example of a young athlete being seduced by the world of violence, drugs, shooting, and violence (probably). His death was a tragedy, but it was also a wake-up call. Call it a Trage-Call. Or a Trage-Lesson. Or a Trage-Example.

Coming up with a new word would be easier if we all spoke German, but I think my point is clear.

Professional sports leagues can no longer continue to employ people who set such bad
examples for our children, no matter how well they can hit or run or shoot. Shoot basketballs, I mean. Shooting guns well would be bad. Now that I think about it, even a poorly aimed bullet can harm someone. So leagues should stop taking on players who shoot guns badly, too.

When you’re an athlete, children look up to you. When I was a boy, I wanted to be just like Pete Rose. So I wore my hair in a bowl cut and barreled into other kids just so I could be first in the lunch line. I was happy to be just like Charlie Hustle, and I didn’t care that this subjected me to daily wedgies and backseat school bus beatings.

As Sean Taylor was bleeding to death from massive trauma to his femoral artery, I hope he gave some thought to the youngsters out there who might imitate him because it’s “dope.” And I hope this incident will force rappers to stop filming videos where they show how glamorous it is to have someone break into your house in the middle of the night,
kick down your bedroom door, and fatally wound you.

Of course, I’ve never actually seen a rap video. But Stanley Crouch tells me they’re evil, and that’s good enough for me.

Hollywood is to blame, too, for putting out so many movies that say it’s “rad” to be shot at 2 am in your own bedroom by an armed stranger. Films like Get Rich or Die Trying , and Scarface , and Bratz .

I know first hand how seductive movies about gang life can be to a youngster. When my oldest son was a teenager, he was obsessed with West Side Story . He must have watched that movie a hundred times, imitating all of the Jets and Sharks, leaping in the air and making Bob Fosse jazz hands. He didn’t wind up in a gang, but he got involved in some other stuff I’d rather not talk about.

It’s time for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to get tough on young athletes. Here are a
few simple but stringent steps that should help football return to the safe, clean game it used to be:

1) To remind players that they are role models, have them trailed at all times by a group of sad-eyed kids who will look on disapprovingly if they ever do something wrong. For maximum effect, make sure one of them has an adorable lisp.

2) The NFL should stop drafting players from troubled football factory programs like Miami and recruit athletes from the Special Olympics. The level of play will suffer, but it will also inspire a series of heart-warming McDonalds commercials.

3) Assess an automatic 15-yard penalty on every kickoff to any team with a player on its roster who is found to be engaged in “monkeyshines”.

4) Strict discipline is the key to an orderly household. Therefore, each team will have an official Paddler.

5) To keep players from the temptations of nightclubs, each NFL city will host Saturday night box socials and weenie roasts.

6) If all of these measures fail to curtail wrongdoing, then the
commissioner should have the right to get medieval. The next player caught in a strip club will be drawn and quartered, then decapitated, and his severed head will be impaled on a spike outside Lambeau Field.

Will these new rules bring Sean Taylor back? No. Will they save even one troubled player from a violent end? I doubt it. Will they have any discernible effect on the NFL at all? Definitely not.

The important thing is, we’ll all feel better about Sean Taylor’s death because it will seem like we’ve done something good. And in the end, isn’t that what really matters?