Everyone can share in the blame

March 12, 2002|BY BOB PARASILITI

Taking things at face value isn't always profitable.

I'm one of those guys who has trouble looking at something and just saying 'Oh, yeah. That makes sense.' Allowing sleeping dogs to lie isn't one of my strong points. I like to tug Fido's collar.

I have this habit of playing devil's advocate, for the cause-and-effect side of events. There is always an angle - a rock to overturn - that forces one to think about another side of the story. To some, that's a gift. To others, it's annoying.

So when the tragic story of Domonique Richmond surfaced last week, much was made of the big picture. South Hagerstown's star point guard wouldn't play for the Rebels in the Maryland Class 1A state semifinals. Besides that, the legal consequences and questions about the letter-of-intent he signed with the University of Maryland arose after he was arrested for alleged drug-related charges on school property. The one incident not only changed his course of history, but the path of many others at South Hagerstown.


Many would like to hide their heads in the sand and mark it up to a young man making an unfortunate mistake. I've already heard the "He's only 18" excuse more than once. Some have questioned the Herald-Mail's coverage of the "mistake," claiming it shouldn't have been turned into a high-profiled story.

I disagree, but by no means, will I point fingers at any one person. You see, the problem I'm having is I don't understand the incident and it leaves me with a whole list of questions ...

First, why did everything come to a head at this place in time, two days after South won the right to go to the state tournament?

Why does someone like Richmond, a young man with so much in front of him, get himself in this situation?

OK, he's only 18, but at what age should someone become responsible for his actions? When should that responsibility be taught? If someone is adult enough to make a life-changing decision, when should they endure the consequences of the choice?

How could he work so hard as a track athlete and a football player to earn what every parent in Washington County would die for - a full-ride college scholarship for their child - and then endanger losing it?

Is the pressure of being a consummate athlete in a small town just too much for one young person to handle?

Is this a case of being naive or scared? Was Richmond suffering from low self-esteem or was this a cry for help?

Can and/or should a high school senior be considered a role model? Is it right to hold him to such standards? Should any athlete be considered a role model or is Charles Barkley correct about it being misplaced hero worship.

As captain of his team, what responsibilities did Richmond have to his teammates? Did he let anyone down besides himself? Was he mature enough to handle the responsibility or was it honorary because of his athletic stature?

Again, is that too much pressure on an 18-year-old boy who barely can shave, drive or vote, let alone deal with day-to-day life?

Did he think his celebrity status was his safety net? If so, where did he get such a message? At school? Watching today's college athletes? Or was it identifying with the loose form of discipline of today's pro players?

Could it be more? Did his perceived comfort zone stem from society's way of handling such incidents? Television programs depict the legal system as a myriad of lawyer motions and long trials followed by appeals which end with a light slap on the wrist just to make sure some personal right wasn't violated?

Does anyone listen to the continuous flow of public service announcements about talking to kids about drugs? Isn't someone out there trained in recognizing "warning signs?"

Did Richmond exhibit any warning signs or was he one of the hundreds of kids in similar situations who just seem too good at concealing problems?

Didn't someone ... anyone ... be it friend, coach, guidance counselor, teacher, parent, relative or countless other casual acquaintances, including myself, get a sense that there was a problem and just failed to act?

And if anyone did notice, did they turn the other way in silence because they didn't want be a pothole in Richmond's road ahead or hurt South's title chances and school image?

Do we really think those yellow "Drug Free Zone" signs scare anyone? Is this just another step in a trend of experimentation that has escalated since our parents were in school, starting with smoking, then sex, alcohol, pot and aerosol cans only leading to today's major and more dangerous temptations?

Do we really believe the longer we are on this planet, the more invincible we become?

Did an universal lack of reason allow a kid to toss his future away? Should it matter that he was an exceptional athlete and not just an everyday kid?

Needless to say, it's all pretty complicated. There are no easy answers.

The Herald-Mail Articles