Ahead in the Count

One of the Good Guys

On New Year’s Day, millions of Americans participated in the decades old tradition of nursing their hangovers from the night before while watching the Rose Bowl on TV.   The Rose Bowl is always a big deal to Southern Californians, but this year’s game certainly drew extra attention in our area as USC trounced legendary coach Joe Paterno’s Penn State.   As you know, Los Angeles doesn’t have an NFL team so for football enthusiasts in our area, USC is where it’s at (apologies to my UCLA friends).


To be honest, I’m not even a moderate fan of football.   I never watch football on TV (that includes the Super Bowl), and probably couldn’t name a dozen active NFL players, except for the guys who end up on CNN for shooting themselves in the leg at a nightclub.   Earlier this season, my wife and I were lucky enough to receive tickets as a gift – excellent seats to this season’s USC/Berkeley game. While we thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere at the Coliseum, the experience did not turn me into a football fan.   I am, however, now a huge fan of USC Head Coach Pete Carroll.  And here’s why.


What most people know is that Carroll is one of the premier coaches in the NCAA (and possibly in all of football) with a list of accolades that include numerous Pac10 titles, two National Championships, etc, etc.   What most people don’t know is that his biggest accomplishment, in my opinion, has come off the field through the work he does in the extremely dangerous neighborhoods of South LA.


Pete drives into some of our country’s most violent areas a few times a month to meet with both local activists and gang leaders in the hopes that his presence will encourage those in the gang community to find worthwhile alternatives to violence.


You can read a more in depth article about what he does here: http://articles.latimes.com/2008/apr/20/sports/sp-streeter20


After browsing around Pete’s website (www.abetterla.com), I stumbled across another article telling the story of the U13 championship football game in rapper Snoop Dogg’s Pop Warner league. 


You can read that article at: http://www.abetterla.org/Newsletter/Detail.asp?ArticleID=29


What struck me most about the article was not that, before the game started, one of the California Cowboys’ coaches said that the season was a great success; many coaches say that before a championship game.   This particular coach declared the season a success because he “didn’t have to bury a single one of them [his players].”


Not only should youth sports act as a platform to teach important life lessons, but it should also serve as an escape for kids who might be struggling through a less than ideal home life.   I had a pretty easy childhood growing up in Washington, D.C., but I still appreciated my time on the diamond, on the basketball court, and on the soccer field as an opportunity to forget about whatever was going on at home or in the classroom and just enjoy the competition of the game and being around my teammates. 


I can’t fathom going through an entire season wondering which of my teammates might die, or worrying that I might get caught in gunfire walking home from practice.  It’s a shame that in a neighborhood where there are so many dangerous, illegal, and violent temptations for kids to fall prey to, even the kids who are making a good decision by participating in an enriching experience like a youth sports league can get caught in the middle and end up a victim of random violence.   That said, it really fires me up to know that Pete Carroll, who has absolutely nothing to gain personally from his visits to South L.A., is using his fame to try to make our town a safer place for kids.


So, while the only football program you’ll see me rooting for is still the Brown Bears (2 Ivy League championships in the last few years!), I’ll happily add Pete Carroll to my list of sports “good guys.”


Now if we could only get the football analysts on ESPN to dedicate 1/100th of the time they spend talking about how good USC’s run defense is to talk about the real good coming out of the USC football program, then we’d really be on to something.

Happy New Year!

– Spring

January 8, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Springer, I follow pro football closely and college football relatively closely, and I had no idea Coach Carroll was doing this. Great post, bud. I’ve always liked Pete Carroll. I think it is cool that his team is so loose, but still plays so well. Speaks volumes against being tense when we play sports. Regardless, I will definitely pull for USC (or whoever he coaches) that much harder in the future.

    Comment by johnbramlette | January 8, 2009

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