Monday, February 23, 2009

"Mr. Colerain"

The lawn chair he always brought with him was green and white, but in his heart, everything was red… Cardinal red.

For thirty years, Colerain High School’s biggest fan, Norb Monning, aka: “Mr. Colerain”, attended every game imaginable. Through victory and defeat, he watched and cheered from that lawn chair, never letting the outcome of the game effect his team spirit. Offering words of wit and wisdom to the youthful players, he became a grandfather-figure who wouldn’t miss a game of one of his hundreds of “grandchildren”. And like all good grandfathers, Norb Monning would often be found with a camera, taking pictures he would later bestow on the athletes along with more of his generous praise. It was as much a part of the Colerain tradition as their cardinal mascot.

Then, the day one knows will come, but hopes never will, came to Colerain. "Mr. Colerain" didn’t show up for the girls’ basketball game; and the students noticed. He wouldn’t miss a game if he could help it. Something had to be wrong. Soon the news was broken that the heart that kept beat to the Colerain Cardinal’s fight song, had stopped beating. At the age of 85, Mr. Norb Monning passed away.

Sometimes teenagers aren't the best at showing the emotions they are feeling, especially for older adults. But the week after Norb Monning's death, the emotion was palpable. It was as if a dimmer switch had turned the brightness of the school down a level or two.

His family was kind enough to give the green and white lawn chair to the school to remind them of their number one fan. But if you ask any of the students "Mr. Colerain" cheered for and was there for over the last thirty years, the lawn chair isn’t necessary to hold his memory. That job is happily being done by the thousands of hearts that have been touched by a fan who turned out to be a true champion.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Weighty Issue

Someone once told me that each dawning day deposits something into the memory banks of our children. Lately, it is daunting to think what is being put in–or more correctly shoved in --my children’s memory banks with all the attention a young celebrity has received. Singer and reality star, Jessica Simpson, has been the talk of the tabloids lately for a picture of her sporting a less than flattering pair of jeans and a high-waisted belt. Soon headlines such as “Jessica Simpson’s Weighty Issue” and “Jessica’s Weight-gate” screamed from every newsstand in every grocery store.
The fact that a young lady who is most likely a size 6 is being scrutinized for being overweight is concerning enough. But what is even more upsetting is how this perpetuates the message the media keeps feeding our daughters about body size. Is it not bad enough that too many stars appear to starve themselves to maintain a look that is little more than a walking corpse with too much make-up? Don’t girls have enough to process from every teen “beauty” magazine that promises them the perfect diet and the perfect exercise for the perfect body?
The media plays lip service to preventing eating disorders, informing young girls of the perils of becoming obsessed with body image. Campaigns like Dove’s Real Beauty ads pop up to attempt to remind us that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. And then, faster than you can say, “anorexia nervosa”, society spends days analyzing and criticizing the eating and exercise habits of a young woman who dared to display a figure that was not the shape of a broom stick.
My college freshman daughter said she and her roommate saw the picture in question before it became fodder for editorial cartoonists and late-night talk show hosts everywhere. At the time, the girls’ reaction was simply, “That’s not a flattering belt.” Now, thanks to the media’s obsession with perceived perfection, they both have had deposits made in their memory banks to hammer home the American belief that, indeed, one can never be too thin.
To our young women everywhere, that can turn in to the weightiest issue of all.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Watered-down apology

Last summer, a young man dived into the waters in Beijing and came out an international celebrity.
And then, mere months later, after multi-million dollar endorsement deals, Michael Phelps falls from his podium with the publication of a picture of him with his mouth, not set firm in a competitive stare, but set casually on a water bong.
Damage control had to begin faster than Phelp’s could swim the freestyle. Soon, the one who broke the record, went on the record saying, "I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. I am 23 years old and despite the successes I've had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way…”
I had to stopped listening to the watered-down apology there. Shoving the word youthful into the mea culpa ruined it for me. It was slipped in there to suggest we read between the lines and understand: “Boys will be boys” and he’s not the only 23 year old to smoke pot.But isn’t he one of only a few 23 year old role models who have signed contracts that earn them millions of dollars? And somewhere in those contracts, aren’t there clauses about leading their lives in a way that is a good reflection on the company they represent? And isn’t marijuana still illegal?
As a high school teacher and mom, I know all too well that kids make bad decisions every day. Some are easily forgotten and forgiven, while other decisions are life changing. And somehow kids still aren’t understanding that every decision they make is only a fifteen second download on a digital camera away from being broadcast to everyone.
When a multi-million dollar role model attends a party and willingly partakes in an activity which he knows is illegal, and which he has to understand can and will be filmed by anyone and everyone around him, he’s dived into the deep end of poor judgment.
If Michael Phelps can admit he made a mistake without a disclaimer about his age and if he sincerely learns from this, I am sure his career will not be all washed up. I sincerely wish him well. Still there was nothing golden about his first apology attempt. As a mom concerned with her children looking up to him, I happen to think it was all wet.