‘Schooling’ oursports bad boys

Nov 30, 2004 3:54 AM

We notice the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and NASCAR are marketing heavily to kids these days. There is even themed bedding, and classes for kids.

We’re not sure where the leagues are going to look for role models or teachers, but we have a few suggestions for courses and faculty.

Sex education 101: Nicollette Sheridan of Desperate Housewives and NBA commercials, dressed, nude or in-between. She can teach the girls how to entice athletes, the boys how to catch flying blondes, and nerds how to measure the velocity of a leap into open arms.

Beginning finance: Latrell Sprewell of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who can teach the kids to forget team loyalty and think only of money. Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated was stunned by this guy’s greed. Sprewell makes $14.6 million a year, more than $14 million more than the president of the United States, but berates the Timberwolves for not paying him more, saying he has to support a wife and kids. Reilly suggested Sprewell better not run into an out-of-work piano mover late at night, who also has a wife and kids to feed, or he may face extinction.

Anger Management for Beginners: Sprewell again. This is the guy, after choking his former coach, told 60 Minutes, "It’s not like he was losing air or anything."

Chair throwing (Intermediate): Frank Francisco of the Texas Rangers, the PhD of hurling chairs into crowds.

Advanced modesty and humility: Terrell Owens of the Philadelphia Eagles. Self effacing and shy, he could teach kids how to overcome such handicaps and emerge into larger-than-life figures. For show and tell, Owens could bring along fellow NFL idiots who dance, shimmy, shake and strut after every tackle and touchdown.

Intermediate divinity (Love They Neighbor): The football goons of Clemson and South Carolina universities who, instead of the fraternal post game huddle to thank heaven they escaped the game without injury, decided to forego religion and opt for warfare.

Violence and Self Defense: Ron Artest of the Indiana Pacers. He could teach the kids how to leap three bleacher rows with fists flying at noisy spectators, while having the very good sense to back away innocently from a really tough guy like Ben Wallace of the Detroit Pistons.

These are basic courses for kids, of course.

For young adults, we recommend the University of Arizona, where a professor named Robert Bechtel recently told two of his classes that he killed a classmate 50 years ago. Why? Because classmates were bullying him. They called him names and urinated on his mattress. So he got two guns, intending to shoot up the dorm, but stopped after killing only one classmate at Swarthmore, a school that is not for dummies.

Bechtel’s story was told in local newspapers as a morality tale, not that Ye Shalt Not Kill, but that Thou Shalt not Harass or Bully. The theme was that harassment can lead you into real trouble, like getting shot.

How did this guy beat the rap and get to teach psychology, I wondered? And then, I read on.

He was declared legally nuts. He spent almost five years in a hospital for the criminally insane. Then, he says, he had an epiphany about heaven and hell. People in heaven help each other.

So now Bechtel teaches psychology at Arizona. As with pro athletes, you have to take a little of the bad along with the good to build a team.

One other question bothered me. Why would Bechtel tell his story now? I didn’t ask him. I didn’t have to. His daughter is working on a documentary letting people know that bullying is dangerous. Someone might shoot you. And he and his daughter have written a book and are hoping to have it published next year. It is called Redemption.

The University of Arizona’s president, Peter Likens, thinks Bechtel’s story is inspiring.

I think it is scary. I know one thing. If I were one of his students, I would be very, very quiet in class.