Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Sound of Silence

Hear that? It’s silence. That’s good as far as college hockey is concerned, after some of the goings-on that took place not long after the 2010 Frozen Four was finished.

Three Boston College freshmen were passengers on a sport-utility vehicle that was struck by an MBTA Green Line trolley in late April, with alcohol possibly having been a factor in the crash. Just days later, two Notre Dame freshmen were charged in another alcohol-related incident in Indiana. Finally, in early May, Boston University dismissed two players and suspended another for violations of team rules.

Regardless of the various circumstances in these incidents, it’s very easy to sit back as adults and say these kids should have known better, but that’s it - they are kids, no matter how big some of them look standing on a blueline. Saying they’re kids doesn’t excuse things they’ve done, but being younger, they are going to try different things - not necessarily all for the better - and they’re going to make mistakes, some more severe than others. They don’t have the experience most of the rest of us do, the kind you only get from living. Most of us now wouldn’t even think of doing things in our 30s or 40s that we did without hesitation in our teens and 20s.

It’s maturity, which a lot of kids simply don’t have while they’re in college.You could have a parent, guardian or mentor try to lecture you on right or wrong until they’re blue in the face, but their words probably won’t fully sink in until you’ve actually lived what they’re trying to teach you. That’s true for most people growing up - the question is, do they actually learn from their experiences?

Compounding the problem may be the sense of entitlement among some student-athletes, that they can do whatever they want simply because they’re on a varsity team. Hockey isn’t necessarily immune to this - but just because you can skate faster or shoot harder or were drafted higher than most everyday individuals shouldn’t entitle you to a free pass when you do something morally wrong or against the law. Unfortunately, though, sometimes that stuff does get swept under the rug at some schools because in the end, “they’ve got games to play”.

That isn’t right, either. It’s not fair to rush to judgment like the MBTA did in outright blaming the BC students in the Green Line collision before all the facts were in; but if students do something wrong and are just told that they were wrong and simply have to do community service as a result, what does that teach them? They would probably just gripe about the community service and not learn that there can be severe consequences for actions taken. Thankfully no one was killed in that MBTA crash - but what if someone had been?

The problem of entitlement is definitely more pronounced at the professional level. Sometimes the sports pages read more like a police blotter, with all the trouble that pro athletes seem to enmesh themselves in nowadays. Some of them think they can get away with absolutely anything just because of who they are and who they play for; and unfortunately that attitude, especially in today’s instantaneous information age, trickles down to the college and perhaps even high school levels. Some players have had their egos fed for so long because of how fast they can run a 40-yard dash that they think they’re above the rules the rest of us have to follow. Sometimes the law lets them off the hook, too, imparting more negative lessons to the youth who look up to those “role models”.

The three things that took place early this off-season don’t mean there’s some kind of epidemic of lawlessness about to run rampant in college hockey, with the familiar two-note clang from "Law & Order" right behind. The schools that had problems in April and May are all led by veteran coaches - BU seems to have taken care of their situation, and BC and Notre Dame will more than likely handle their own incidents in proper fashion. Let’s hope things stay silent on or near those campuses and everywhere else, at least for these next three months, until the puck drops again in college rinks all over the country.