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Memo to all professors of sociology: Toss all the textbooks aside. If you really want to expose your students to the study of humans and their culture, not to mention exploring how Lincoln's "better angels of our nature" have taken a leave of absence, just take them people watching at sporting events.
It's real-life, real-time, one-stop shopping.
The latest example came last Friday at Norwich Free Academy, site of the Eastern Connecticut Conference championship game in girls' basketball. Tie game, closing seconds and Bacon Academy senior Carlee Putnam was standing at the free throw line for a one-and-one.
The gym, about filled to capacity, had assumed the rattle and hum befitting a title game. Cool atmosphere.
And so Putnam waited for the requisite, pre-free throw housekeeping, all the players and officials into their proper positions. This was right about the time a young lad, who looked about 12, took it upon himself to break from the bleachers as if someone had just told him to steal second base.
He had been seated in the section behind the Bacon bench. He ran down the aisle to the floor and to the baseline, where he proceeded to frantically jump and wave his arms in an attempt to distract Putnam.
This wasn't what we see on television, the student section behind the basket waving various body parts. The young lad was alone. The area between the out of bounds line and the wall behind the basket is, maybe, six feet. It had been vacant the whole game, save for photo journalists from the newspapers.
Putnam missed the free throw. NFA rebounded the ball and the game went to overtime.
As the buzzer sounded, the Bacon players and coaches were understandably chafed at why the young lad was allowed to break from the bleachers and act like a delinquent.
We'll never know if he truly distracted Putnam. My guess is that he did for the shock value alone.
It wasn't long until NFA athletic director Gary Makowicki found the young lad, who had returned to the bleachers. Makowicki marched him to a corner of the gym, issuing him a stern lecture.
Makowicki, talking about the incident after the game, said he asked the whereabouts of the young lad's parents. He was told they were not in attendance. The young lad was at the game with the parents of a friend. Makowicki told the young lad to find them and sit with them for the remainder of the game. They were seated on the other side of the gym.
The young lad's trip across the gym featured a stop at the NFA student section, where he was given a hero's welcome. It took longer than it should have for the young lad to sit. He managed to pull himself away again at the end of the game to join in the celebration when the NFA students and players rushed the court in victory.
After the game, Makowicki was left to defend himself from angry Bacon Academy parents and loyalists.
Makowicki said, "They kept asking me how I could let that happen."
Now let's pause for a moment to digest.
How could Makowicki have let that happen?
Doesn't that, you know, fail to scratch the problem where it itches?
I'm willing to submit this much: In future events, Makowicki will likely need security personnel in more points throughout the gym.
Otherwise, shouldn't the offended parties have at least asked how the young lad's parents allowed this to happen?
Or in this case: how the people entrusted with the responsibility of watching the young lad allowed this to happen?
There's that word again: responsibility.
Now let me just say this: If I am bringing my kid and his friend, neither of whom are high school age, to a sporting event at a full capacity gym, there is no way - none - that they would sit across the gym from me. They would sit next to me or in the general vicinity of me. Why? Because I am responsible for their safety.
I would find it difficult to assume that responsibility if I allowed them to sit across a packed gym. Too many people in between.
So rather than yell at Makowicki, who did all he could fix the problem - surely more than the game officials who could have removed the young lad from the premises, too - why wouldn't the offended parties at least inquire about who was responsible for the young lad in the first place?
This just in: It wasn't Gary Makowicki.
I hope this incident doesn't discourage NFA from hosting future events. The folks there - Makowicki, Kevin Winakor and many others - always give us a good show in a big gym and central location.
Once again, a sporting event provides the backdrop for life here in the roaring 2000s. Last Friday's topic: "Children who pull themselves away from their video games long enough to be a nuisance to the rest of society."
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.