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Empty Fields and Boo Birds
Here's the transcript from Show 133 of weekly Outside The Lines - Empty Fields and Boo Birds
BOB LEY, HOST- October 13, 2002. A sniper's shooting spree has paralyzed the Washington area. With the region gripped by fear, life has changed, and high school football games are postponed.
BRYAN WILSON, BOWIE HIGH SCHOOL JUNIOR- It was crazy. I didn't want to -- I didn't want to step outside.
LEY- Coaches concerned for their players' safety.
KREG KEPHART, GAITHERSBURG HIGH SCHOOL HEAD COACH- If the situation's not resolved, if the sniper is not apprehended and caught, you know, we'll continue to play it a week at a time, an incident at a time.
LEY- Also this week -- It's a fan's right to boo.
JASON GIAMBI, YANKEES 1ST BASEMAN- The reason why they boo is because they want to cheer.
LEY- But when fans continue to boo...
TIM COUCH, BROWNS QUARTERBACK- I've laid it on the line for this team and this city and for them to turn on me and boo me in my home stadium is a joke.
KERRY COLLINS, GIANTS QUARTERBACK- You get hurt and people boo you -- I mean, that's -- that's -- that's a bunch of crap.
LEY- Today on Outside The Lines -- What booing can do to an athlete. And how the fear of a sniper has emptied the playing fields.
In greater Washington, people now crouch down or keep walking and moving when they pump gas. The sniper has struck 11 times, and he remains at large. Eight people are dead, two others, including a 13-year-old boy, are wounded. Life has changed. Outdoor activities have been curtailed, and that does extend to sports. Several local road races were canceled or postponed this weekend. A major national girls soccer tournament involving hundreds of teams from across the country was canceled. And Friday night and yesterday, dozens of high school football games in several counties in Maryland and Virginia were postponed.
It was just last fall that these students, like those throughout the country, had their seasons interrupted by the national trauma following September 11th. One year later, another horror is keeping them from playing. Tom Rinaldi reports on a town's fall ritual disturbed by these random murders.
TOM RINALDI, ESPN CORRESPONDENT - In suburban Maryland, this is what fear looks like -- the cold lights, the quiet field, the empty bleachers. But fear's echo pierces the silence.
BRYAN WILSON, BOWIE HIGH SCHOOL JUNIOR- It was crazy. I didn't want to -- I didn't want to step outside.
AARON MONTGOMERY, BOWIE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT- It's kind of a state of shock, you know? People at school, like, "My God," you know, "It's right up the street."
JOHN JACOBS, GAITHERSBURG HIGH SCHOOL QUARTERBACK- He was killing innocent people, but they were -- they were adults. And he really -- I mean, he hadn't showed the kind of, like, ferocity that -- to go and kill a 13-year-old boy going to school.
JOSH RAYSOR, GAITHERSBURG HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT- It got me pretty mad to think that he would shoot an innocent kid for no reason.
RINALDI- At Gaithersburg High School, the 4-and-1 Trojans are ranked 10th in the Washington, DC, region, but this week there is no game. All outdoor activities are canceled in Montgomery County. A Saturday practice is held indoors. Until when? Nobody knows.
KREG KEPHART, GAITHERSBURG HIGH SCHOOL HEAD COACH- It's chaos. It's uncertainty. I don't know from one day to the next whether we're going to be allowed to practice, whether we're going to be allowed to practice indoors, outdoors, like I said earlier. You know, who do we prepare for now? Is last week's game scratched? Do we go into the next game? You know, will we play next week?
MONTGOMERY- Of course we want to play. We prepare all week. We practice hard. We're thinking we're going to play. But if it protects lives and if it keeps from -- him shooting from -- again and -- I mean, I think it's a good decision.
RINALDI- What would your decision be?
RAYSOR- I -- personally, I like to play because you got to go on. They'll eventually catch him, but we can't live in fear.
RINALDI- Last year's class 4-A state champ, Bowie High School, is also forced to practice inside its gym. But there's an additional challenge this Saturday afternoon. No one knows how to turn on the gym lights.
RAY HICKS, BOWIE HIGH SCHOOL HEAD COACH- I guess we're going to have to practice in the dark. We're going to try to open some of these doors to bring some light in from the outside, but I don't have any keys to turn the lights on.
RINALDI- These players practice in the shadows of the past week, as well. Tasker Middle School, where a 13-year-old boy was shot and critically wounded, is less than two miles away. That event cannot be covered by the dark or blocked from their minds.
HICKS- I came right down that road, coming to work. So a couple -- an hour or so later, I could have been in the line of fire. So that's -- that's the thing I'm trying to get over.
WILSON- It actually hit kind of close to home, you know? The recent shootings have been occurred, you know, outside of Prince George's County, and to find out it's, like, five minutes up the street, that's kind of a shocker to you.
DANIEL DIVELY, BOWIE HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR- This guy's taking control -- or this group of people or whatever is taking control -- of everything, and we can't even live our lives like we want to.
RINALDI- In a climate where even playing fields are subject to lockdowns, a trip to a humble high school stadium like this one takes on a whole new meaning. There are no opponents to scout on the field. Instead, one's eye is drawn toward instantly surveying the treelines and hiding places that surround it.
DIVELY- I have to look over my shoulder every now and then to make sure no one's in a bush or anywhere. I can't even put my -- pump the gas at a gas station without being in my car.
HICKS- I know it's hard on the kids. I mean, you go from one thing -- 9/11 one year ago to the sniper attacks this year. They got to be tearing up inside, scared to death.
KEPHART- When you operate in a constant state of paranoia, you do need an escape. You do need some release. And perhaps if we were able to play these games, you know, the staff, the players, the community, the teams, the fans would, at least for some short period of time, be able to try to escape.
LEY- The fear is doubly felt at Bowie High School. The older sister of the 13-year-old shooting victim attends that high school. The vigilance and concern extends to today's NFL game. The Washington Redskins are hosting the New Orleans Saints in a game that will be kicking off in just over three hours. A map of the Washington, D.C., area shows that FedEx Stadium in Landover, in Prince George's County, is less than 10 miles from Bowie, Maryland. That's the site of one of the 11 shootings that have left eight dead and two wounded. Security has been tightened for today's game.
And Tom Rinaldi now joins us live this morning from FedEx Stadium. Good morning, Tom. What's the situation there, as we head towards the game?
RINALDI- Well, Bob, the situation is tense, as it is throughout this region. The parking lot surrounding FedEx field opened at around 9:00 o'clock Eastern Time, just a short while ago. Fans are starting to filter in. Of course, security is always tight in the Washington, D.C., region at sporting venues, but we're seeing the security perimeter extended -- that, of course, the result of the atmosphere of these sniping attacks.
There are heavy police presence in the form of cars and officers on horseback and on foot, but even as you can hear now, helicopters flying over, guided by the police, searching through wooded areas to make sure no one finds any easy spot to hide. The sniper's farthest shot to this point has been measured at 512 yards. And certainly, police hope that their presence prevents that sniping attack from having any possibility of occurring here, outside FedEx Field.
LEY- Well, Tom, what about specific concerns, given where the stadium is situated and how fans are coming in and leaving?
RINALDI- That's a good question. Let's give you an idea of just where this stadium sits in suburban Maryland. Let's take a look at an aerial shot that was taken from a previous game this season. As you mentioned, Bob, this stadium essentially is in a suburban area. It's ringed by a significant treeline. However, the stadium does sit on the high point of this area, which does give police a distinct advantage in helping them to fan out and examine the areas to try to find out if any sniper could be hiding around.
Now, there's an additional challenge, and that is, many of the fans that arrive here use shuttle stops. They stop, drop off a car, take a bus. So police have also increased their security and their security measures, their examinations and patrols around those shuttle stop areas to try to prevent any attacks that could happen there, as well.
LEY- As we continue to hear the flyovers. Take me back for a second, Tom, to the high school youngsters you were speaking with over the weekend. There's a great deal of uncertainty and concern. They don't know when they're going to play again, do they.
RINALDI- Imagine being in that situation, if you will. You don't find out until 1:00 o'clock that afternoon whether you're going to have a game, whether you'll be able to practice outside. You'll continue to practice inside at a gym. Prince George's County, for example, has made a county-wide decision to use three fields for all of their sporting activities when they resume their outdoor activities -- those fields selected, essentially, based on how well lit they are and how easy it is to secure the perimeters around those stadiums.
Consider, since the attack, the shooting that happened on Friday, 1,900 tips have poured into police. And the advice for fans coming here to FedEx Field and throughout this region -- Be very aware of what's around you. Try to keep a 100-plus-yard sightline around you. And obviously, fans are very vigilant, and they're tense in this area, Bob.
LEY- OK, Tom Rinaldi, live at FedEx at Landover, Maryland. Thanks a great deal.
As we continue, the issue is booing. It happens to the best, and it can wound even the most successful of athletes. Last Sunday a quarterback was near tears.
COUCH- First thing I remember, you know, the fans were cheering when I'm laying on the field hurt, and I think it's (expletive deleted), you know, to be honest with you.
LEY- It is as much a part of the soundtrack of sports as the umpire's cry of "Play ball" or the referee's whistle -- fans booing, exercising their inalienable right to be heard. Now, given today's ticket prices and today's player salaries, that right is more sacred than ever. But down at the field level, for a player, booing can be a very personal experience. Witness Tim Couch. His uneasy four-year relationship with the Cleveland Browns fans bottomed out on Sunday night during a loss to the Baltimore Ravens, when he was booed even after he was injured.
PLAY BY PLAY ANNOUNCER- An awful throw by Tim Couch! It was almost intercepted right in the hands of Gary Baxter.
COUCH- I've been here for going on four years now, and you know, I've laid it on the line for this team and this city. And for them to turn on me and boo me in my home stadium is a joke. It's a (expletive deleted) joke to me. And I've worked my ass off here and -- you know, it's hard to take, man. It is.
LEY- It was a rare, brutally honest moment, revealing how incessant booing can wound a professional athlete, something they rarely admit.
TIKI BARBER, GIANTS RUNNING BACK- It's hard to take fans to task because they have economies of scale, so to say. You're one guy against the masses, and you're usually going to lose that fight.
COUCH- I would say today, you know, really got me.
LEY- Couch was particularly upset Browns fans booed him after he suffered a concussion.
KERRY COLLINS, GIANTS QUARTERBACK- When people boo you when you're hurt, I mean, how can you not have a negative attitude towards the fans? I mean, how -- I understand completely what Tim was saying. We're out there busting our butts to do what we want to do for the fans and put on a good show for the fans and for our hometown. And you get hurt and people boo you, I mean, that's a bunch of crap.
COUCH- It's tough going out there, having to, you know, fight two battles, you know, playing against the Baltimore Ravens and then, you know, being booed in your home stadium.
LEY- Not all booing is so malicious.
GIAMBI- The reason why they boo is because they want to cheer.
LEY- But Jason Giambi's time in the Yankees fans' doghouse was brief until he began hitting last spring. Even after an exhibition, the All-Star game, booing can sting the most accomplished of stars.
KOBE BRYANT, LAKERS GUARD- I just wanted to go out there and just play, just play hard. But they booed.
COLLINS- At some point, you got to stop caring about what people think about you.
LEY- That's what athletes try to tell themselves, but the hurt and the memories can linger. Moments after his no-hitter, Derek Lowe, once a target of boo-birds as the Red Sox closer, directly addressed the once-hostile fans.
DEREK LOWE, RED SOX PITCHER- I know last year you guys had no confidence in me, and I deserved that.
It bothered me more than people could probably imagine because I'm a type of guy -- I'm obviously a laid-back type of person, but I take things to heart. And you know, to go out just to warm up in the bullpen and have people screaming, "No, not tonight! Please! Not you!" You know, it's tough.
LEY- To consider the impact and the psychology of booing, we welcome Steve Garvey. He played 18 Major League seasons, 13 with the Dodgers, five with the Padres, the league MVP, playing in five World Series. He won a ring in 1981. Steve Garvey joins us this morning from Park City, Utah.
John Amaechi begins his fifth season in the National Basketball Association, his second with the Utah Jazz. He was born in Boston, raised in England, and has also played professionally throughout Europe. He's joining us this morning from Salt Lake City.
Gentlemen, thank you, and good morning.
JOHN AMAECHI, UTAH JAZZ CENTER- Good morning.
STEVE GARVEY, PLAYED 14 YEARS WITH THE DODGERS AND FIVE YEARS WITH THE PADRES- Hi, Bob. How are you?
LEY- I'm fine. And Tim Couch was not Steve Garvey, so let me get your reaction to what you heard of a Browns quarterback, an NFL quarterback, reduced virtually to the edge of tears by the boos of the hometown fans. When you heard that, what went through your mind?
GARVEY- Well, you have to have empathy for him because, you know, he's been going through a tough time. He's been struggling. The team's struggling. The fans are frustrated. But it's a young man, a young professional. He'll get through this. This is part of the maturation and education of a professional athlete. Over time, he'll realize that they're really booing number 19 or six or whatever, and if they knew him personally, they wouldn't boo him, obviously.
LEY- But he took it personally, though, didn't he.
GARVEY- Well, you do when you're young. You know, you don't like to be booed. You don't like the adjectives to fly at you. But over time, you realize that as a professional, you have to put up with it. You have to put it in perspective and go on from there. There's one way to quiet the crowd, to stop the boos, and that's with a good performance.
LEY- John, you've played in Europe, and I guess, by any comparison, what goes on in Europe is mild to what happens here in the States.
AMAECHI- Definitely. I've been booed in both continents. I've been over in Europe and here. But in Europe, my experiences have been far more graphic, you know, including in games in Europe having road flares thrown at me, heated-up coins. I had a pet tortoise of mine disemboweled and pinned up on my front door in Greece. So in this country, being booed is fairly mild.
LEY- Well, what have you observed, John, about any trends? I mean, you played in the NBA back in the mid-'90s, went to Europe, came back. What have you seen here in the States?
AMAECHI- I think things are certainly getting more extreme now. I've had experiences where -- at some point, you have to look at -- booing for bad performances is something you've kind of -- it's part of the deal. You have to tolerate that. As Steve said, you have to mature through that, understand it's not really a personal thing, it's your skills that they're commenting on. But recently, I think a lot of NBA players especially have experienced the fans not really attacking you, as a player, but attacking you as a person. And then the line between their enthusiasm for the game and against you and just being pure abuse has really blurred.
LEY- Steve, is there...
LEY- ... possibility?
GARVEY- Well, I think it's a little bit of a microcosm of society, too, a little bit of lack of respect by the youth, not being taught by parents to have respect for others, to have compassion. A lot of times the parents set the example for the child. The parent is booing or yelling words. The child gets into it, and you see a father and son next to each other yelling at a player. And you say to yourself, "Wow. This is -- we've got to stop this." We've got to reverse the trend and go back to the "Yes, sirs" and "No, sirs" and having respect.
But it's interesting. I played in two cities that -- Los Angeles and San Diego, where you talk about boos -- in Los Angeles, they'd rather just go home, get on the freeways and go home instead of booing. In San Diego, you know, you'd choke on your quiche or on the nachos, you know, or mess up your tan. So those two cities were different.
But you get into the real metropolitan areas of New York and Chicago, even old Candlestick Park -- I remember when John was talking about having things thrown at him, I had gin bottles thrown at me. And I used to measure the quality of the thrower by the type of gin that they used to throw at me and the rest of the team!
GARVEY- But you know, this has happened for, you know, decades and decades now. It escalates from time to time, depending on the success of a franchise or individual and how frustrated the fans are.
LEY- How much is money playing a part, though, in the escalation of it now, Steve, with the telephone-number salaries out there?
GARVEY- Yes, the business of the game has changed, you know, the thinking of the fan a lot. Now they expect more from their athletes. They expect more performance on the field. They expect more interaction. But in essence, how much -- you know, still nobody's batting .400s. You know, still nobody's shooting 700 percent. All these things have to be put into perspective now, but the fan does demand more from its athletes both on the field and off.
LEY- John, let me return to something Steve was talking about, the parenting aspect. What have you noticed? Because in the NBA, it's a very compressed environment. You can really hear and see who is yelling at you. What have you noticed about parents and kids?
AMAECHI- Well, I've seen situations in games where parents have been there with their young children, and it's almost been a family bonding experience to see how abusive they can get their children to be. You know, the closer they are to the bench, the more adventurous they think it is, as an experiment, to stand there and see these small children abusing six-nine, six-ten, seven-feet athletes, and the parents almost goading them on and looking on proudly at how aggressive their children have become. You know, there are situations where we -- you know, we, as players, we look over there, and it's almost sad because we can't imagine allowing our children to behave in such a way, whether it be in a restaurant or any kind of public environment.
LEY- And then after the game, of course, those fans, if they would encounter you in a hallway, would say what?
AMAECHI- Oh, absolutely nothing. I mean, that's the key.
GARVEY- Nice try!
AMAECHI- It almost a shame when you see these people, and they're so bold when there's seven security guards between us and the fact that there's huge fines and the personal responsibility on the athlete to behave themselves. You know that if they met you on the street, firstly, they may encounter someone who's completely different from the perception they have when they see you on the floor. And secondly, you're six-nine, and in my case, 280. And you're not necessarily going to get into a tussle with that type of person.
LEY- To what extent do you think that fans just don't even consider that an athlete out there, Steve, is a human being with emotions? Yes, you're a pro. You've got a -- you can't have rabbit ears, but you're still a human being. Is that appreciated?
GARVEY- Oh, I think the fan that actually has played the sport -- and baseball probably is played by more people -- can have a little more empathy for the athlete that's struggling out there. Football's a little tougher, basketball, obviously, now, with the size of the players, is even more difficult for the fans to relate to.
But I can always look back at a playoff game in 1984. I hit a home run off of Lee Smith, bottom of the 9th, beat the Cubs. We go on to the World Series. First time back into Chicago the next year, I get up to the plate in the first inning, and 38,000 people are chanting "Garvey sucks," you know? And I take -- I stepped back and I tipped my hat, and the umpire and the catcher are laughing. And I can hear Harry Carey in the background, "Stop it! You're getting on him, and he reacts to this." And that's what you do as an athlete. Sometimes you use the adversity of the opposing crowd to lift you another level. And the next pitch off of Rick Sutcliffe, our colleague there, I hit one to right center, drove in a run, got to second base. And it was much quieter in the stands than it was prior to the double that time.
LEY- John, final question. How much should an athlete be forced to take? What's fair game?
AMAECHI- I think there is a definite line that should not be crossed. If we're having a poor performance, if I'm shooting air balls and throwing up bricks, it's perfectly acceptable, it's part of the game, as an athlete, to take being booed, to take people abusing you. Once it gets to be personal -- it's OK to talk about a brick, an air ball on the foul line. It's not OK to talk about my dead mother.
AMAECHI- There's a distinction. And I think we have to make a distinction, as players, too. There are fans out there -- and the NBA has great fans, but a lot of the people who are abusing players in any sport are not really fans. They're there for a whole different purpose for them. It's about ego. It's about becoming the show. And that's not...
LEY- And we'll leave it at that.
AMAECHI- That's not the...
LEY- All right, Steve Garvey, John Amaechi, thank you, gentlemen, both for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.
When we continue, the emotional clash of a coach's power and the rights of players to wear their hair as they want, in cornrows, in braids.
LEY- Hair policies for athletes in several Texas towns -- that was our topic last week, specifically, policies that address, among other hairstyles, cornrows, braids and afros worn by African-American youngsters. It's an issue that collides with the rights of a coach to set team rules.
BILL WALTON, 3-TIME NCAA PLAYER OF THE YEAR (1972-74)- Participating in high school sports is not a right. That is a privilege that you earn by conforming to the rules.
The most important thing you do is the contribution you make to the team. And any time you take yourself out of that team concept, any time you put yourself above and beyond and away from the team, you are breaking down what you're trying to build here.
TODD BOYD, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA- But the team does not have a voice in this. The coach does.
Individuals should be allowed the opportunity to express themselves. And when you can convince me that someone wearing cornrows can't make a lay-up or can't hit a jump shot or can't, you know, stop someone on defense, then I can hear you.
LEY- From our in box, from Asheville, North Carolina -- "Who gives anyone the moral authority to say how I should wear my hair? How does wearing braids or locks make me a thug?"
From Bridgeport, Connecticut -- "If it's a rule that scholastic athletes cannot wear braids because of uniformity, so be it. But please don't try to justify it by saying that braids are street and are not a good character image."
From another viewer -- "Am I the only person that still believes there is no "I" in team? It amazes me that these kids and their parents are not willing to sacrifice something as simple as a hairstyle for the benefit of the team. What does that say about our culture?"
And from Middletown, Connecticut -- "The problem is picking an arbitrary issue like cornrows and attaching it to things like respect, discipline and team unity. Coaches should stop being intellectually lazy. They need to define the behaviors they expect, then simply hold players accountable for those behaviors."
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