Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Training Losers

This is a very interesting, and troubling, issue.

Front page Funny Paper today:

The Jefferson High School football team likes to perform the “Haka Dance” before the game to get themselves and their fans motivated. The dance comes from the New Zealand Maori people, and it is all the rage among rugby teams over there, and was performed on an episode of Friday Night Lights.

So the Jefferson High Football team has adopted the dance pre-game. But the problem is they do it near the opposing team’s sideline, facing their opponents, and the dance itself is full of all sorts of moves and gestures of a taunting nature.

The OSAA told them to stop doing the dance in front of the opposing team, but the Jefferson coach allowed the team to vote on it, and they voted to keep doing the dance and accept the 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

This is disturbing on a number of levels. First, they are trying to turn this into a cultural issue, since some of the students on the team are from Tongo, an island country near New Zealand. But it is no more cultural than if a few kids of native American heritage imported a war dance to Tigard High School and the team did it before the games.

They are simply trying to cloak the issue in cultural terms as a way to intimidate people from saying it is wrong. The problem is not with the ritual (as stupid as it is) but with the fact they do it in front of the opposing team. That is clearly, no question about it, taunting. It is not only really bad form, it is a penalty.

But the worst part of this is the Jefferson coach is allowing them to continue with the ritual and just take the 15 yard penalty, which is imposed on the opening kickoff.

What kind of a message does this send to these kids? The wrong one, I’ll tell you that.
The message is sends is that it is OK to defy the behavioral standards set by society if you think it helps you, gives you extra motivation, or, especially, if you claim that your cultural standards are different.

That is just terrific. That is precisely the opposite of what these kids need to be taught. I’m sorry to put this indelicately, but kids at Jefferson High School have hard enough time as it is joining productive society without being implicitly told by their football coach that they can break rules by majority vote.

One of the huge benefits of team sports in high school – especially football, with its “cog-in-the-wheel” mentality, is that conforming and rule-following can bring great achievements to a team. Football, first among team sports, requires all the moving parts to perform specific, and for the most part thankless, roles.

There is a name for teams with players who want to defy the rules for their roles: losers.

The coach at Jefferson High School, by literally encouraging his entire team to defy the rules about appropriate conduct, is training an entire team of young men to be losers.

This is a crying shame. The OSAA should step in and act as the adult that Jefferson’s coach obviously isn’t. They should let the team and its fans know that any player or fan who performs the Haka ritual in front of the opposing bench in their playoff game Friday will be ejected.


Oregon Reality said...

The Jefferson coach is merely training them to be Portland City Commissioners, where the #1 skill needed is to change the rules whenever it's convenient for you.

Mick said...

I think it's a great lesson for them. When you choose not conform sometimes there are consequences. They have accepted those consequences.

Rob Kremer said...

The problem I have, Mck, is that they are "choosing not to conform" in a way that is entirely inappropriate, and their leader (coach) is sanctioning this bad behavior.

My son plays football at Lake Oswego, and if there is one constant message the entire coaching staff both embodies and preaches, it is act with class, represent the school and your teammates well, and what you do on and off the field is a reflection of the team, the school, and the program.

What a contrast!

divebarwife said...

Sports are all about trying to beat another teaming, but you have a problem with the players saying "we're going to beat you."

That means that every cheer the crowd does should be outlawed too?

And if you looked at the way the All Blacks use the Haka - they stand practically nose to nose with the opposing team on the field and do it.

Fight for something important.

Rob Kremer said...

It IS important to use sports to teach kids appropriate behavior.

The All Blacks are not a high school team. Professional sports are different - and many still have rules against taunting.

Cheering from the crowd, and other expressions of "we're going to beat you," are not even close to the same thing as the Haka dance's taunting posture. Surely you can see the difference?

Mick said...

The coach isn't sanctioning the behaviour. He let them make the choice.

Rob Kremer said...

Come on, Mick, OF COURSE he is sanctioning the behavior. What a coach allows his team to do, he sanctions.

HE is the adult in the room. Or at least should be.

Happy Thanksgiving to you!

OregonGuy said...

If this were a soccer team there would be no question. The behaviour is unsportsmanly. Persistant unsportsmanlike behaviour shall result in explulsion, plus a one game penalty.

It's a pity that American rules football has no concern for the behaviour of its players or coaches. Perhaps it's time to remove the sport from high schools.

Anonymous said...

My family is of NZ descent and I have been to NZ myself and have seen several Hakas. The Haka is an ancient ritual to prepare the Maori warriors for battle and to intimidate their opponents. Any NZer who witnessed Jefferson's "haka" would be insulted by both the intention and their poor rendition of the "haka."

Anonymous said...

You have posted some very negative comments about Jefferson's coach and players. It's so very easy to make condesending remarks about high school students that you don't know. However, I just wish you would come and meet these kids and their coach, and then make your judgement about them. Trust me they aren't losers nor are they being trained to be. ~Jefferson supporter.

Fighting Words said...

Absolutely brilliant. I love the fact that a team would willingly start every game at a disadvantage. That gesture, by itself, has such heart that it practically negates the outcome of every game. It overshadows anything the opposing team can do in response and Jefferson comes out on top. Absolutely tremendous.
But there is this question of to what extent students ought to be allowed to violate rules, irrespective of expressive value or intent. For we workaday adults, it looks dangerous to exceed the parameters defined by the sponsoring authorities. We all live on the delegated authority of higher powers and we worry or get angry when we see people (certainly not peculiar to physically assertive young black males?) exceeding the institutional authority to which they owe the existence of their very activity. I would get fired for that! They need to learn that you can't do that! Oh Lord, what are they learning if the authorities don't put a stop to this?!
I hope the Jefferson athletes keep it up, persist even if they're told to stop, do it if they're kicked off the team and even suspended from school. It's a demonstration of fighting spirit, and what's a warrior otherwise?
"It is death! It is death!"

Rob Kremer said...

Anon -
They may very well be terrific kids. The only thing I am judging is their behavior, which is being allowed by the coach.

They are being misguided here, and it is a shame. This is not the lesson these kids need. There is nothing condescending about it.

My own son plays HS football, and I can guarantee you that his coaching staff would never, ever allow this kind of thing to go on.

It shows a lack of class, at best.

Anonymous said...

It's a little surprising that the Jefferson players haven't received a good, hard punch in the mouth in response. When I was a kid, that was one of the best ways to teach someone what sort of behavior was appropriate.

Anonymous said...

To sit on a blog and imply that someone is a "loser", and do it with limited understanding of person's character; regardless of the way you sugar coat it, will always be condescending my friend. ~Jefferson supporter

Anonymous said...

Oh man, I love this. People love to scrutinze anything that "disturbs" what they percieve as normal. OSAA hands down the penalty to Jeff, and they choose to take it. Good! Fight for what you believe in, especially since it is oh so harmless. The blogger says that defying the rules is training the Jefferson team to be losers. With his reasoning, I wonder what the blogger thought about Minnesota Vikings reciever Troy Williamson defying the rules a few weeks back? Better yet and on a different note, I wonder where Mr. Kremer's voice was last spring, back when the Roosevelt basketball team was harassed at the OSAA's? Remember when everyone wanted to dismiss the "taunting" and "racially negative remarks" as isolated incidents that were misinterperted? NO consequences for this kind of taunting! (I wonder why?) I believe that the situations in Eugene have more potential to do damage than a light-hearted pregame/postgame ritual like the haka dance. Quit hating and give some respect to the kids! I bet when Grant beats Lake Oswego to win the 6A championship, the blogger and those like him will find another reason to patronize inner-city youth.

Anonymous said...

Wow, losers. I beg to differ. You sit in the great city of Lake Oswego, with all your self-righteousness, judgment and privilege and call these children losers.

As someone stated why don't you drive over and contribute your vast time, knowledge, talent, skills and abilities to ensure the children don't "have such a hard time joining productive society".

My nephew plays for Jefferson and he has multiple scholarship offers in dual sports, he has a 3.5 GPA, and most importantly, he is a young man, with Christian values and a future. Sorry, no loser here; he is already a productive member of society. I pray the same for your son.

Rob Kremer said...

Good for your nephew!

Just because his coaches are setting a horrible example doesn't mean that every single kid is a loser. I didn't call the kids losers - I said the coaching staff was training them to be losers.

My point stands. Other than taking swipes at Lake Oswego, I have yet to read any compelling argument as to why it makes sense for the coach to sanction this kind of behavior.

Anonymous said...

The punishment fits the crime. A harmless ritual with a harmless penalty. I mean, it's one thing if they were cheating, but its a warm up dance for crying out loud. I've seen many teams go to center court or midfield and jump up and down chanting various things to get ready for games, and done in various (sometimes intimidating) ways with no penalty.

I think you've blown this way out of proportion.

Anonymous said...

AGain, is Troy Williamson a loser for attending his grandmother's funeral?

Anonymous said...

Direct quote from your blog "training an entire team of young men to be losers." Entire in my vocabulary means whole/all. You painted all those young men with your very broad brush.

No, not good for my nephew, but what we expect of him by the very high standards set for him and the values instilled in him. We know there are those that will judge him to be a "loser" without any knowledge of who he is as an individual, but based on whatever stereotypical opinion that's convenient. We are preparing him, and all our children, for excellence.

There are many young men on that team that will grow into awesome men not in spite of where they are from, but because of where they are from.

My swipe isn't at LO, but you, an adult with the ability to speak encouragement into the lives of these children and possibly the means to mentor those that you've deemed to "have such a hard time joining productive society".

I have no issue with your opinion on whether the haka dance should or should not be performed. I do not care. I do care and take issue with you or anyone else calling those kids losers, or thinking you and yours have a premium on being productive members of society. You owe those young men an apology.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if you didn't use comments like "training losers" or ignorant statements like "(Jefferson students)have such a hard time joining productive society", then maybe your post would warrant some validity. However, when you shroud your argument in bigotry, then your argument is nullified.

Try rewriting the blog entry and maybe, just maybe, you would have a real platform.

~Jefferson supporter

Rob Kremer said...

There's nothing bigoted about pointing out that Jefferson kids are at a disadvantage. Remember a few years ago when two Jefferson grads came back from their first term at college and lectured the school board because they were straight A students at Jeff, but weren't even close to being prepared for freshman academics at a state university?

What is the dropout rate at Jeff? What is the average SAT score? Sorry about being politically incorrect.

The coaches are training these kids to be losers. I hope they refuse to learn the lesson.

Anonymous said...

No, they are not disadvantaged, but full of possibilities. Disadvantaged is the stereotype given by people like you. So stay in you little ivory tower and keep blogging your insignificant rhetoric.

I hope someone teaches your son that the world is bigger than LO with all kinds of people, cultures and socioeconomic differences. The sum total makes this world what it is for better or for worse. Then maybe, just maybe, he can help you understand. Afterall, it's just a game; life is what will define whether any person is a winner or loser. I hope your son is a winner.

As a graduate of Jefferson and a highly productive member of this society, I understand you can only repeat what you have read. I am sure you would not dare associate with us lowly, "disadvantaged", Jeffersonians to understand what is true. That would definitely be politically incorrect in your little perfect world, so continue blogging about us. I'll check back with you when my nephew gets his degree.

Rob Kremer said...

Whatever, Anon.

I tried to find something resembling a cogent argument in there but it was nothing but a bunch of meaningless tripe.

Anonymous said...

I know, Sweety; hard to argue with truth. No need to respond you already answered with "whatever"! Ms Anon

Anonymous said...

I'm long after the dispute is over, but I played high school football.

It's inappropriate behavior.

Anonymous said...

BTW Mr. Kremer...

Check out this link. It may help you understand the world of many Jefferson graduates in productive society.
~Jefferson supporter

Rob Kremer said...

Anon (Jeffeson supporter):

Those are great stories, and I am well aware of SEI (in fact I helped them set up their charter school.)

I think you may be misunderstanding me. I never said that Jefferson grads cannot be productive members of society. I said they "have a hard enough time as it is joining productive society."

And that is obviously true. In fact, the link that you provide supports my statement, rather than refutes it. Every one of those stories are about people who overcame obstacles.

Those same obstacles are what I was referring to, and I stand by my statement that the coach allowing this behavior is the wrong lesson for kids who face these obstacles.

And, BTW - it is my educated guess that Tony Hopson would not allow such behavior at SEI.

Kiwi man said...

I applaud the Jefferson Coach, his mana (prestige) and the team for continuing there haka. I'm a New Zealander and the comments made by Rob and the others are inappropriate. The Haka is not just about intimadation it is also a spiritual release and it is not about anger but respect of ones self, and the opposition. Culturally it can be compared to other cultural arts such as martial arts in terms respect and discipline.

In New Zealand, the Haka is used to help and encourage kids in need, to rejoin society in a positive way. Two examples Polyfest, and the hundreds of Kapa Haka groups within Secondary Schools.

Until you know the cultural significance and meaning of the haka, then maybe you should not comment.

Rob Kremer said...

First, the dance has zero cultural significance to Jefferson High School kids, save the handful who come from Tongo.

Second, so now we have "spiritual" dances sanctioned at public school? Really?

I don't doubt that the Haka has cultural significance in NZ. This ain't NZ. So I WILL comment.

Allen said...

Perhaps the Jefferson High School football coach lives in fear of angering his student players.

Anonymous said...

Jefferson students have just as much of a chance at joining productive society as anyone else. Because negativity gets "advertised" more often than the many good things that happen, I realize that your comment is based on assumption. I know plenty of Jefferson students that live in the community around Jeff, who have graduated and have good influence on our community. So what's the real issue? Is it the dance or is it the people at Jefferson?

Anonymous said...

All you people criticizing the jefferson team need to quit fussing. So what if they are trying to intimidate the other team? Its football and if the other team gets offended and scared because of a little dance then they need to find a new sport. This has been made into a much bigger deal than it needs to be, and adults from the area need to grow up and allow these high schoolers to have a little fun.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely initimidates no one....and honors no one. The orgin of this dance can be traced to a bunch of uncivilized inept canibals.

If they want to learn to play winning football, maybe they ought to take a trip to Albany....ya don't see those guys doing any dancing before the game.

Anonymous said...

Training winners! 5A Champions baby...done all in class!

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a big deal you make this seem like. These kids have team mates from somewhere with stong cultural teachings even if borrowed from neighbors (who in polynesian culture have big influence). To call the tradition stupid and call the kids out as bad is really immature and arrogant of you. The boys are doing what they know from their upbringing, and teaching it to classmates (hello, team spirit). They feel it brings strength to them before games, and really all they are doing is preparing to face apponents. They are not threatening anyone or calling names, they are chanting and moving to be intimidating, and obviously they did something to you. Shame on you for dismissing the rights of kids who will grow up to be strongminded adults, and for insulting polynesian culture. Politically sensitive or not, to call something like this haka dumb is rude, if you don't like it move on without paying mind, no reason to insult.

I was just googling info on the boys from Jefferson and came across this. Couldn't help but to put in my two cents (with 4% tax). How shameful to find this.

Yeah, polynesian girl here commenting, but really, your comments are bakatare and you all moelepo. Mahalos, haole.

And my name is not anonymous, my name is kavika kamakawiwoole kaunakamaka hanoimoana III

jaime_pretell said...

Uh God, what a cry baby.
It is no different than cheer leading. It is a spirit dance.