Dave Paxton

Let me write this as clearly and succinctly as I can. It is never appropriate, wise or helpful in any way, shape or form, to call out kids on Facebook for things that happen on the field of play. Or in drama, music, art or FFA. Never. Not from high school girlfriends, not from grandparents or parents, not from people in the stands.

You want to talk about gun violence? Let’s talk about Facebook violence that leads to physical altercations, bullying and teen suicide. If you want to make school administrator jobs even more impossible than they are now, keep posting stupid crap on Facebook.

I’m going against the advice of Albia football coaches and not letting completely hurtful and inappropriate Facebook posts pass without comment. For crying out loud, how stupid and ill-informed can people be, commenting on a hit in football and basically crucifying the player involved in it?

Before I say anything more about the completely clueless condemnation of a kid on Facebook, let me make this clear. The hit that knocked Centerville’s Gage Carson out of Friday’s game was illegal and the 15-yard penalty justified. But like a lot of hits in football, it was not flagrant, nor was it intentional. Unless you have played this sometimes maniacal game, you have no idea how quickly things can happen.

Sitting from my angle in the pressbox, I turned to the Mike Haywood seated next to me immediately and said, “I think the kid juked and our kid reacted.” Bam, bam! It wasn’t like the defender ran 15 yards with his arms outstretched looking to clothesline an opponent.

Apparently looking at film from different angles, my conclusion and the conclusion of the officials on the field, was proven correct. An illegal hit, yes. Worthy of a 15-yard penalty, yes. Intentional or flagrant? No way.

Before you start shooting off your mouth on Facebook, take some time to gather some facts. How about understanding the game and the rules? I know there are some people who claim to know the inside of a person’s thoughts, but pretty much they’re full of crap too.

The truth is, injuries happen in sports. The truth is, players offend the rules, which is why officials are on the field. The truth is there are flagrant fouls committed. I’ve seen football players driven into bleachers and have their arms broken. I’ve seen cheapshot chop blocks. I’ve seen a lot of intentional head to head collisions (which happens to be as stupid for the cheapshot artist as it is the person being hit). I’ve seen athletes slide high to spike an opponent in baseball and I’ve seen kids get rolled up by an opponent in soccer with the intention of doing harm.

But I’ve seen hundreds more injuries caused by unintentional collisions and simply the hard play of young athletes. Or even more so, plain old bad luck.

And even if it were intentional, Facebook is not the place to come down as judge, jury and executioner on a teenage kid. Adults need to show some maturity. Teenagers need to show restraint on this sometimes cruel social media platform. Nothing is gained from using social media this way.

I happened to run into the Centerville coach at a JV football game Tuesday. The kid who was hurt will be okay. He suffered a concussion and will miss a couple of games. The coach appreciated the Albia coaches visiting the hospital after the game. He seemed gracious and not at all vindictive or angry. He acted like a coach dealing with injuries that come from playing a collision game.

So here is my plea. If you’ve got to bloviate about sports, do it at the local eatery with like-minded, uninformed people. But keep it off Facebook where lasting damage to a young person’s life can be done.

I was involved in one life-changing collision in high school football, that had it happened under today’s rules on the playing field instead of practice, would have gotten me ejected, right after they pulled me off the ground with a broken collarbone.

People who know football talk about the 22 mph collision. I was covering a punt in practice my junior year, running as fast as I could. Tony Guthrie fielded the punt and in three steps was at full speed when we collided. It was a helmet-to-helmet hit that knocked us both out for a couple of seconds. Except his helmet slid off mine, right into the weakest part of my shoulder pads. I ended up with a broken collarbone and six weeks of recovery. Tony, a basketball and track star, decided he didn’t want to play football any more.

Both of us ended up okay. He led our basketball team to an 18-1 season as a senior. I diligently rehabilitated my shoulder and started at center for our unbeaten, mythical state championship football team the next year. Without Facebook wags, we did just fine.

Joe Biden, who concocted a wild story of pinning a medal on a soldier in Iraq, getting virtually every fact in the incident wrong, said the details of his story are irrelevant in terms of his decision-making. Hmmm. It was a dark and stormy night. I was covering a punt in mud up to my ankles, with one arm already in a sling, knowing that if my tackle wasn’t sure, the season would be lost. I jumped over a blocker, spun around another, and caught a future Olympic sprinter from behind, breaking my shoulder in six places, but proving the American spirit lives on in all of us.

The American political credo: Don’t confuse the electorate with the facts. Or as Jack Nicholson said in “A Few Good Men”…

“The truth. You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth.”

Let’s see, was Jack Nicholson playing a fictional character in a movie? The facts are irrelevant.

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