Friday, May 28, 2010

Commentary: Stuck at a crossroads

I wanted to hear both sides of the argument before coming up with a opinion regarding the possibility of eliminating or suspending certain sports at Greenville-Weston.
After hearing both sides of the argument, I still find it difficult to take one side over the other.
On one side, the primary objective of the school district is to educate its students. And on the other, sports pay a vital role in the upbringing of a child. (Most of my most visible memories came on the basketball court.)
So who should get cut: the debate team or the softball squad? Should the biology lab be eliminated to make room for the soccer team? Will the new classroom projectors make a bigger impact than practicing a golf swing?
To be completely honest, I don’t have a definite answer. But what I do know is that if it wasn’t for sports while I was in high school, my name would probably be in the newspaper for a totally different reason. Excessive free time isn’t always a good thing for a 17-year-old.
Sports serves as a outlet. Plus, it gives kids an incentive to even attend class. If a student isn’t at soccer practice, where will he or she be at?
Recently while talking to Philadelphia, Pa.-born boxer Eric “The Outlaw” Hunter before his fight at Harlow's Casino, he told me something I will never forget.
“If I wasn’t boxing, I’ll probably be stressing somewhere,” he explained.
I understand the district’s stance that money is tight and academics are the first priority. I take no issue with that. But at the same time, in some cases, having to run laps for being late to soccer practice can have just as (or even more) important role on a student’s life as the Pythagorean theorem. I’ve never heard of anyone being fired from a job for not knowing the story of Beowulf, but I do know several who ended up at Win Job Center for arriving late to work.
And college sponsorship is another reason sports play such an important role, especially in a rural town like Greenville. According to, over 20 percent of Greenville residents lived below the poverty line in 2007. And common sense will tells me that the recent economic downturn has only increased that total. And that number will most likely continue to rise unless those from the Delta have the opportunity to change the Delta.
And sports gives them that opportunity -- whether it be financially or though a Joe Horn-like message. (Joe Horn delivered a heartfelt message to students at Weston Academy several weeks ago).
Even if you disagree with the role of sports on a student’s life, if you get a monthly statement from Sallie Mae then you can truly comprehend the importance of a full-ride athletic scholarship.
The average college student leaves college with over $20,000 in student loan debt. That’s $20k (plus interest) that could have been spent upgrading the Delta.
Again, I’m not attempting to downplay the importance of academics, only show that life is not only about test scores.Test scores show how well you did that day, not how well you will do in life.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Commentary: Horn's visit short-lived, but long-remembered

Joe Horn's visit to Weston Ninth-Grade Academy last Friday lasted about an hour.
Horn — the face of the New Orleans Saints before Drew Brees soared to stardom after bringing the Lombardi Trophy to the still hurricane-ravaged city — spoke about various topics ranging from gang violence to Michael Vick.
Although the fact-filled message lasted only about an hour, the underlying essence of the discussion will be sketched in the mind of ninth graders for years to come.
The NFL icon didn't come to the school with the usual scripted and unthoughtful, "Do good in school, don't do drugs, and obey your parents" message.
As he stated, he kept it "real."
Wearing a white t-shirt, shorts and purple-outlined shoes reminisct of his favorite NBA team – the Los Angeles Lakers — Horn attempted to get to the root of each student's issue.
"If there's a gang member bothering you, having family problems or you just want to talk, I'm here," he told the crowd of intrigued students.
Proudly, several of them rose up and told their stories, some thanked him for taking time to visit while others waited until he finished to bombard him with autographs requests.
And like the honorable man is his, he didn't leave the building until everybody was satisfied — students, teachers and security guards.
Horn's visit proves that the message that youngsters so desperately need doesn't always have to come from an uptight, Armani suit-wearing guy reading from a powerpoint; it can come from someone who's actually been there and done that.
Never have I seen a speaker capture the attention of 14-year-olds the way Horn did. Instead of doodling on their notebooks, reading a text message or glazing at the wall, each and every student was glued to Horn's every word. And they seemed to soak it all in.
And so did I.

Select sports at GWHS in limbo

GREENVILLE — Schools districts nationwide recently have seen drastic cuts in their budgets, affecting nearly every department.
In the athletic sector, some schools have even considered nixing certain sports in order to save money.
Now, the Greenville Public School District is considering taking the same measures after Superintendent Dr. Harvey Franklin Sr. recommended to the board of trustees Tuesday to suspend non-revenue producing sports.
“Basketball, football and track are not included,” Franklin explained.
Franklin would not elaborate on which sports weren’t in limbo, but said sports that weren’t bringing in a sustainable amount of income would have to be reviewed.
Others sports offered by Greenville-Weston High include: fast-pitch softball, slow-pitch softball, golf, baseball, powerlifting, tennis, soccer and cross country.
His recommendation does not include junior high sports, he said.
“We can”t continue to spend money on programs that are not self-supported,” said Franklin. “We”ll have to make a decision in the next few weeks.”
To avoid non-revenue producing sports from being eliminated or suspended, the district will need additional funds, Franklin said.
“We”re trying to see if we can get more sponsors to support our children’s programs,” he stated. “That’s one of the keys.”
GWHS is also currently searching for a head high school boy’s basketball coach after Ernie Watson took the head job at Hattiesburg High. Plus, the district is without an athletic director, which Watson also served as.
Franklin said the search for both positions is ongoing.

Friday, May 7, 2010

NFL icon Joe Horn gets 'real' with students

GREENVILLE — For 14 years Joe Horn sent a message on the football field, combining for over 600 catches and nearly 9,000 receiving yards for three NFL teams. His two best seasons came in 2000 and 2004 as a member of the New Orleans Saints when had 94 catches and over 1,300 yards each season.
Thursday morning, the four-time pro bowler sent a message beyond the football field and into the classroom when he spoke to students and faculty members at Weston Ninth-Grade Academy.
The typical high school speaker hasn’t been known to get through to the average high school student. A monotone delivery, skewed view of reality and a dull presentation can immediately turn off 15-year-olds.
However, thanks to the faculty at Weston, male students got a bowl of reality and encouragement from one of the New Orleans Saints most recognizable faces in recent years.
“I have five brothers and one sister and we had to find a way to make it work with each other,” said Horn, who was raised in Conneticut before playing at Itawamba Community College — where he was coached by current Mississippi Delta Community College coach Jay MIller. “I have nieces and nephews that have been through a lot of stuff; I’m talking about being I’ve been there and done that.
“(It’s) nothing to you to sit in that seat and think in your mind this NFL football star who made millions of dollars, who got jewelry, and live in a million dollar house don’t know what’s going on,” Horn told the half-filled room in Weston’s auditorium.
“(You’re thinking) he don’t know about my cousin who selling drugs right now telling me I can make $500 every night. He’s going to get in the car with his homeboy and drive off to the next school and he’s not going to worry about me.
“But please get your mind from that,” Horn continued. “I’m not here to judge you guys. I love you to death.”
Horn told the students he sat in her same seat when Charles Barkley visited his high school and he had same thoughts.
“Charles wasn’t going home with me to my refrigerator and give me (any) food or put any money in my pocket. So I laid back like it wasn’t nothing,” he recalled.
“But guess what? I woke up 5 or 10 years later when everything Charles said made sense.
“You have to control you. You have choices in life.”
Horn spoke about numerous subjects during his estimated hour-long speech. He touched on subjects ranging from his flunking the SAT in high school to what he would have done if not for football.
“If I wasn’t playing football, I would be a teacher or a police officer,” Horn said. “I always wanted to help people.
“If I was a trash man, I would have been the best trash man in the city.”
The 38-year-old, who last played in 2007 with the Atlanta Falcons, also flirted with the possibility of retiring.
“I thought about going to the Chicago Bears to mentor (Devin Hester) this year, but I’ll probably retire during training camp,” he said.
Horn also stopped by to inform the students about his upcoming football camp in Shaw, which will be held June 18-19
“If you don’t have the money, we’ll make a way,” he told the crowd.
After spending four years with the Kansas City Chiefs, Horn signed with the Saints in 2000 where his career flourished. He had 94 catches and 1,340 yards in his first season in New Orleans. His previous high was 35.
Along with Duece McAllister, Horn became the face of the franchise, going over 1,200 yards receiving in four out of seven seasons.
Although he wasn’t a part this year’s Super Bowl team, Horn said the Saints’ journey to the championship was destiny.
“It was nothing the NFL could do to stop the Saints from winning the Super Bowl,” said Horn. “It was their time to be at the top. When it’s your time, it’s your time.”

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Nothing like the name Palasini at MDCC

GREENVILLE — Over the last several years, the last name Palasini and Mississippi Delta Community College have almost became synonymous.
Brothers Anthony and Hunter Palasini both played baseball two seasons at MDCC before transferring to Delta State.
Anthony played an integral role on DSU's 2008 Gulf South Conference championship team, and Hunter is currently on the Statesmen roster.
MDCC plucked another Palasini from the family tree Thursday — signing Washington School's Blake Palasini — making him the third of the four brothers to sign with the Trojans.
"I've been waiting for this day my whole life," said Blake, who is hitting .440 for the Generals this season. "It's a good (opportunity) for my education and baseball — to move on and follow my brothers."
Palasini will join teammate D.J. Elkins, who also recently signed with the Trojans.
The duo will be part of a signing class that will include more players from the Greenville and Greenwood area, Trojans coach Sid Naron said.
"We're in the process of pursuing some guys and it's going to speed up over the next few weeks," he said.
MDCC will lose half of their 2010 roster next season with 12 of 24 players graduating.
With such a large load of players leaving, signing another Palasini can really boost their roster, said Naron.
"Blake is baseball-savvy. The knowledge of baseball is a huge attribute," Naron said. "He also brings a great work ethic that his brothers have instilled in him as well."
Now that Blake — like his older brothers — is MDCC-bound, it leaves only one Palasini left for the Trojans to snatch up: Chase Palasini, a freshman at Washington School who along with Blake was named to the First-Team All-Conference squad.
Referring to the chances of Chase following in his brothers footsteps, "you never know," Blake said.