Sunday, February 22, 2009


"Chuck's Chatter" is a reincarnation. When I was in high school, I was privileged to have a sports column. In that column, in my high school newspaper's sport section, under the title of "Chuck's Chatter" (with a by-line) I once wrote the following editorial:

Willowbrook's physical education program is one of the finest in the state. This can be attributed to the excellent coordination between a program of physical development and application of certain skills to sports and games.

This idea leads the students to realize that physical health can be fun. Certainly this is in keeping with the president's fitness program.

However, do broken limbs also support this idea? Do cracked digits and smashed noses encourage healthful recreation?

Such deplorable accidents happen daily in the sport of speedball. In this sport, the object is to kick or carry a ball into an end zone guarded by a goalie. In the attempt to gain possession of the ball, heavy blocking is responsible for many of the injuries sustained. There are rules against clipping, or hitting from behind, but they are often disobeyed and overlooked. Broken arms and fingers can be the result.

During the confusion of the attempt to get points, often the ball is kicked with great force into the faces of the players. In addition, the players often strike each other accidentally, with the result that noses are smashed and eyes are blackened.

Often while scrambling for the ball, a boy gets kicked hard in the shin with consequent cuts, bruises or sprains.

The number of serious injuries over the years is larger than it should be. These injuries are the fault on no one person in particular, the blame falling on the game itself. The lack of equipment plus an inadequate number of teachers to watch the progress of the game also contributes to the danger. These factors prevent speedball from being a safe high school PE sport. It should be discontinued or modified to make it safer.

This column followed from my having a broken thumb after being clipped in the course of a speedball game in PE. I didn't imagine that my criticism would create a firestorm of response from the PE teachers, resulting in a "retraction" in my column in the next issue of the paper:

A final word on my last column. The accidents which have happened are not daily occurrences. This was an error on my part.

This was my first, but not my last, experience with the "powers that be" within a bureaucratic system. I suppose I was unhappy about what happened to me in my PE class, and I know that other students were injured in speedball, as well - but I had no idea that the system wouldn't respond well to criticism by a high school student on the basis of actual occurrences. I was forced to "retract" my comments, although I managed to make my retraction somewhat muted over what was originally demanded. In effect, my retraction wound up being close to a "non-retraction" if you read it carefully. The PE teachers apparently were satisfied, and didn't realize how carefully I'd worded that apparent retraction. PE teachers in high school aren't known for recogition of subtleties in wording.

My lack of respect for arbitrary authority springs from this (and other) experiences. To me, respect is earned, not just a function of someone's position in a hierarchy. My views on this haven't changed in 50 years.

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