i-186f7eed436a526f7d48b4f93f61b03d-blazers_bin.jpgAmericans revel in violence. We have an excuse for almost any kind of violent or oppressive act. When a young boy poking around, on a dare, in what he thought was an abandoned house was shot dead by my neighbor last year, the boy was vilified as a threat and the trigger happy crazy guy lauded as a hero, by my other neighbors. Why would that be? Earlier this week, an event happened in a nearby town that helps us to understand the sorry state our culture has attained.

During a high school basketball game between local teams Shakopee and Prior Lake, a “fan” ran onto the basketball court twice, interrupting the game. While he did this, his buddies were elsewhere in the gym throwing eggs at people. During his second interruption, the “fan” grabbed the basketball from a player preparing for a foul shot, and started taking layups. That is when activities director John Janke violently tackled the fan, bringing him to the ground.

Janke is now a hero in the local press. I beg to differ. Let me tell you why.

OK, in some kind of objective sense, if a person acts like a total ass, bad things that happen to them are their own fault. Frankly, I sometimes have a hard time feeling deeply sorry for a person who wields a gun, refuses to drop it, and is killed by police when the gun turns out to be fake. If you point a gun at armed individuals of any kind and threaten them, and they kill you, then you are asking for it.

At the same time I am perfectly capable of feeling remorse (at some distance, of course) for the individual, the family, as well as the cop (this hypothetical squirt gun wielding ass may be the only person this cop has to kill in his/her career).

So what does any of this have to do with a drugged-out fool being tackled by an activities director? In this case, an adult who works for a school carried out an act of violence against a young person. Perhaps it was justified, perhaps it was not. The proper way to address this issue is to ask that question, investigate, take appropriate measures, and carry on. But this is not what is happening.

Instead, the events are being framed by the press and others to ensure that the violent act is seen as an act of heroism, regardless of any pertaining reality. And, more disturbingly, the psychological toolkit being brought into play is that of fear and a sense of lack of security, which in turn is part of our new Post 911 world. Even worse, post911think has become part of our normal, daily, cultural fabric, and it should not be.

This is the statement made by the activities director:

Janke told the Prior Lake American he did what he thought was necessary “to maintain the integrity of the game and hopefully maintain a safe environment and get the situation under control as quickly as possible.”1

This attitude is echoed in the trope of the YouTube video shown below, and the local press coverage. In fact, the local Fox news station went through pains to do this. The only video they had was the YouTube bit, which does not show the young man who interrupted the game doing anything bad (other than being on the court), then getting very violently tackled by the big man in the red shirt. The news reporters made sure to tell the audience that this video is very misleading because it does not show how badly behaved this young man was. Admitting that the video may seem to show the activities director over-reacting, he really, really, was not . And so on.

Imagine that. Fox news explaining that a video may be biased and not tell the whole story. Is your “motivation detector” going off the charts?

Now, lets more closely examine the reasons the activities director’s actions were necessary, according to the activities director himself, and as verified and supported by the news reporting:

1) to maintain the integrity of the game;
2) to maintain a safe environment; and
3) to get the situation under control quickly.

I admit that if getting the situation under control fast is a valid goal, then tackling the guy was probably the best thing to do, because from the reports (however biased) we do have, this kid was not going to let up on the shenanigans easily. I question, however, the need to do this “quickly.” There are often ways to achieve quickness that are not considered appropriate. Most car chases by police can be ended quickly in a hail of bullets, but this is hardly ever done any more, for various reasons, often good reasons. If quick requires violence, then one needs to question quick.

Maintaining the integrity of the game is always a good idea. Maintaining the integrity of anything is a good idea, I suppose. But what is the connection between an outsider running on to the court and the integrity of the game? In a town not very far from this incident, the director of a local athletics association was recently caught stealing over $40,000 from the donations made by supporters. That is an issue of integrity of the process. If some of the teenagers on the actual basketball team were pumping up on steroids, or date raping cheerleaders, or cheating on the court, that would be a matter of integrity. There is not an integrity issue here, so I don’t think “maintaining the integrity of the game” can be cited as a valid reason for resorting to violence.

Number 2 is the real bugaboo in this list of excuses. The athletic director violently tackled the young man to the ground in order to maintain a safe environment. Somewhere in the homeland security office manual, I imagine an entry for the proper instantiation of a SEMO (safe environment maintenance operation). Perhaps there was a memo sent out to activities directors nation wide. Orange alert. Apply SEMO procedures where necessary.

This rather large red-shirted activities director could not know, of course, if this teenager was, for instance, al Qaeda. The child’s antics could have been a distraction for a terrorist operation happening in the locker room. Or he might have been trying to distract attention away from the cash box, where maybe some black guys were trying to pull off a heist. Or, maybe he was a drugged out hippie or, egads, an anti-war Democrat. In any event, tackling the villain is the best thing to do. To maintain a safe environment. Quickly. And with integrity.

I don’t use Sudaphed. It does not do much for me. But the other day I went to buy an over the counter medication for my wife, which included Sudaphed. In Minnesota, you have to sign for such things so they can later figure out if you are a running a meth lab. Fine. But it is also true, at Target, anyway, that there is a very large poster, next to the clipboard where you sign for the cold pills, explaining that if you put down the wrong phone number, name, or address on the form you are subject to extensive fines and jail time, under the Patriot Act. That is because the underlying assumption behind the Patriot Act is this: If you defy authority then you are al Quaeda.

Similarly, if you are a drunk asshole at a basketball game and you go out and take the ball from one of the squeaky clean all American players, you are al Qaeda. And if you are a large activities director named John Janke, and you tackle the ass to the ground, you are saving all the fans and players, and especially the cheerleaders, from a fate worse than freedom….

Thank you for your service, Mr. Janke.

Here is the video:


Chapter 4
1 Fox 9 news: link


[source of photo]

Comments

  1. #1 NJ
    March 1, 2008

    Sorry, Greg, but you are WAY the hell off-base here. There’s no doubt that the kid was doing something stupid (as you note), but that tackle wasn’t particularly violent. And did you know for certain that kid didn’t happen to have a knife? It’s easy to envision the video with the AD trying to drag him off the court and getting a serious wound in his belly for his trouble.

    And the al Qaeda tie-in? That’s not from the deep outfield or even the bleachers. It’s from 10 blocks outside the stadium, serious tinfoil hat region.

  2. #2 Elizabeth
    March 1, 2008

    NJ I think you have drunk the cool ade of the DHS. Greg’s al Qaeda “tie in” is insightful. His point seems to be not so much that this kid should or should not have been tackled, but that the excuse for taking this particular course of action is drawn from this larger fear factor we have going in this country, and also, that the media automatically buy into this.

  3. #3 Matt Penfold
    March 1, 2008

    I take the view that if violence is the answer to anything then we have already failed. If violence is the answer to stopping anti-social behaviour then we need to accept that we haved failed to create a decent society, and if violence is the answer to international disputes we have failed to master the art of diplomacy. True, there may well be times when violence is required but if it is then we need to admit, we have fucked up somewhere.

  4. #4 Petra
    March 1, 2008

    NJ, I think you simply did not get the point of the post.

  5. #5 Serjis Werking
    March 1, 2008

    Yesterday in Pasadena, California, somebody claimed they saw a man with a gun. The cops moved in with handguns and machine guns and put the whole school on lockdown for the entire day, treating children and faculty like prison convicts, and threatening them with deadly weapons.

    Of course no weapon was found. Whoever made the original prank call caused a great deal of excitement and got out of classwork for a whole day. So the culprit could be a teacher, student, or Lunchlady Doris.

    Terrorizing children by menacing them with automatic weapons is terrorism. It is certainly a serious felony.

    Those cops are guilty of thousands of counts of false arrest, false imprisonment, and kidnapping. Who is there to protect us from the criminals that the police have become?

  6. #6 Doug Alder
    March 1, 2008

    Greg – good post however there are two meaning for the word integrity. One is for morality the other is for continuity. I think you may have confused them here

    http://wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=integrity
    # S: (n) integrity, unity, wholeness (an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting) “the integrity of the nervous system is required for normal development”; “he took measures to insure the territorial unity of Croatia”
    # S: (n) integrity (moral soundness) “he expects to find in us the common honesty and integrity of men of business”; “they admired his scrupulous professional integrity”

    the comment “to preserve the integrity of the game” could be referring to ensuring the game is not broken up any more than it has been by the interruption. (not likely I agree but still a possibility)

  7. #7 David Canzi
    March 1, 2008

    Unlike you I do see a threat to the “safe environment” here but not directly from the young fool interrupting the game or his egg-throwing buddies. The first angry fan who came down off the stands to stop the young fool’s second interruption of the game would have been followed by more, and then things would have gotten really dangerous. And if some people had also been hit by thrown eggs, that would likely make it worse.

    Perhaps Janke thought this out before he tackled the kid. More likely he just lost his temper and acted without thinking. I’m not criticizing him either way.

    There is nothing admirable about pontificating from a safe emotional distance.

  8. #8 decrepitoldfool
    March 1, 2008

    All our cinematic heroes are toughguys and our politicians emulate them. Our national motto could be “Go ahead, make my day”. When redshirt guy assaults the interloper the cheerleaders clap, the crowd cheers, the cops rush to assist him, and he’s lionized in a video with triumphal music. Interloper guy had committed a serious crime in our culture; he disrupted a basketball game.

    No wonder it’s so easy to get us into a war.

  9. #9 jefrir
    March 1, 2008

    Personally I don’t see how jumping on the guy achieved anything that taking him by the arms and leading him off would not have done – and even if it did, an activities director stopping a game from being disrupted does not in any way make him a hero. In fact,I’d see it as kind of part of his job.

  10. #10 ...tom...
    March 1, 2008


    Hmmm.

    Transport this incident back ten years. I can easily see the same thing happening.

    I have to think that laying this at the feet of al Qaeda hysteria (to slightly mangle that cliché) seems a bit much.

    …tom…
    .

  11. #11 Stephanie Z
    March 1, 2008

    David, from a safe emotional distance is exactly where we should be discussing this kind of thing, at least if we want to think about it while we’re talking. Intoxicated kids (and plenty of other people) will do stupid stuff again. If we discuss reasonable responses now and ask people to think about better ways to handle things, the next idiot kid is less likely to get his face smashed into the bleachers, which almost happened this time. About two feet make the difference between cheering and screaming in this footage.

    And allowing people to cheer this unquestioned makes the kind of crowd reaction you hypothesize more probable too. Make the maverick the hero, and everybody wants to be a maverick.

  12. #12 Junco
    March 2, 2008

    This was the second time he ran onto the court? Why was he not removed after the first time? This might not have come to a violent confrontation if there was a nonviolent enforcement of behavior standards after the first incident.

    The athletic director and/or principal should have defined a policy of what constitutes acceptable spectator behavior. They should have put in place a nonviolent enforcement plan to deal with disruptive people. And they should have acted on it. Instead, they let the disruptive person stay and so bear direct responsibility for the second incedent. Is this really the first time some youth was disruptive in their high school?

    I disagree however that number 2 “safe environment” issue is a bugaboo. My take is the same as David Canzi above. I have been at sporting events that seemed very much in danger of turning into melees and/or stampedes because of disruptive fans arousing the ire of hundreds or thousands of people packed in close quarters. Unless, of course, the athletic director has actually made his justification for number 2 in terms of terrorism. If so, then shame on him.

  13. #13 grieve
    March 4, 2008

    I really was expecting a much more exciting tackle after all the build up.

    I really wouldn’t consider that violence, so much as aggression.

  14. #14 NJ
    March 4, 2008

    Sorry, but I’m not much of a koolaid drinker, Liz. The fear factor of someone out of control at a HS basketball game? More likely driven by Columbine, Va Tech and NIU than al Qaeda. And as Tom noted, 10 years ago the response would have been the same (plenty of video footage of nutcases disrupting pro sports events being treated similarly is available).

    Petra- I think I got the point of the post: Greg was using his personal indignation over that tackle to generalize about our excessive paranoia about terrorism. I think that his aim was a good idea, he just chose the wrong video snippet to support it.

    Matt Penfold- there’s a difference between force and violence. The AD used force to restrain the kid.

    jefrir- leading the kid off by the arm is an excellent idea…unless he has a weapon. And if you have someone off-kilter enough to disrupt a game like that, you have to take that into consideration.

    Again, let’s keep in mind that this was not a particularly powerful tackle. Anyone who has been in HS football, basketball (and even baseball on some days!) has taken and given hits worse than this all the time.

  15. #15 Eric
    March 9, 2009

    i think asses like greg laden are the al qaeda… i guess he feels good ripping on an ad who acted in safety of the players and others around. they didnt know if he was going on the court to unload a clip, start a fight, or anything else. i cant believe this guy writes this kind of horse shit

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