Sunday , Dec , 16 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Right Place, Right Time

About nineteen and a half years ago, right off the Suns’ drug scandal, one of the newest additions to the Suns, Eddie Johnson, spoke at my junior high sports banquet (I played football and basketball, thank you). Eddie Johnson is the highest-scoring NBA player (19,202) to have never made an All-Star team. He was saying many of the same things then as he is saying now about the Jamaal Tinsley and Sean Taylor incidents. Here is a link to a recent on-air radio interview. It’s about a half-hour, so sit down with it when you have some time.

Looking back at the spring of 1988, I suppose the faculty and coaches were a little nervous as we were on the heels of the biggest sports scandal since Frank Kush clocked his inept punter on the sidelines (I was at the game in which he was fired and vividly remember the crowd chanting for him to return).

Anyway, EJ (“the man who put the ‘J’ in ‘jump-shot’”) was telling us that we needed to start associating with the types of persons who would bring us up, not bring us down. I can still remember him saying there were “friends” who would only serve to weigh us down and stop us from climbing the ladder. It did not mean much to me at the time, but as I went through high school and college, his statements started making more sense.

As I was listening to him during my drive home the other day, I was transported back to eighth grade. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s some maturity, but I think his words rang truer because of the age in which we live. Through these athletes (and others) we have vivid, real-time and immediately-accessible examples.

The extended coverage on television and internet is giving full-time access to these examples. What a great opportunity! Tinsley and Stephen Jackson and others can use this to educate the impressionable minds. Let’s not fool ourselves, though, for every EJ there is someone like Scot Pollard thinking it’s funny to tell kids to do drugs. There’s probably more like Pollard than EJ (for the record, the man is an idiot; who injures himself putting on socks?).

It’s not so much that these guys should be role models. It is that they’re being stupid. Couple that with being on stage and, as EJ points out, they become targets. It’s simply what it is. I don’t care if they act like good role models or not. What I care about is that they provide us with educational opportunities.

Assuming that most of these guys are not going to engage in highly-publicized turn-arounds – and further assuming the media will not give it as much coverage (because it’s easier to report on negatives and criticize) the tools for educators are still there to use. I don’t know, but I think that if we had the publicity of the Suns’ drug scandal that we have today, EJ’s comments may have had a bigger impact on me at the time. What really hit me about the same comments this time around was that we do have the coverage and the information to bring his message home.