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From the week of September 18, 2003

Smells Like Team Spirit

The parent trap:Regarding Eric Dexheimer's "First Down," in the September 4 issue:

When a group of thirteen-year-olds rebel against a coach, it is not the thirteen-year-olds who are rebelling. It's the parents. It is more sad than anything else that they feel a need to abuse their children by morphing them into vicarious conduits to purge themselves of their own childhood ineptitudes or failures.

Think about the message that's being sent to these kids: "You are the best, as evidenced by your ability to beat up on lesser teams." This is self-esteem run amok. This message is bad on many levels. First, the message contains an inherent devaluation of the opponent. The notion that "some gotta win, some gotta lose" has been perverted into "you gotta win, they gotta lose." The opponent is reduced to the role of the Washington Generals in their hapless plight against the Harlem Globetrotters.

Think how this "message" translates into other realms. A sense of entitlement infuses the psyche and breeds a generation of assholes. An embedded Manifest Destiny leads to a life of imperialism in some form. Dollars to doughnuts says these are the kids who run the "Operation Iraqi Freedoms" of the future. Another message involves the use of the coach as a scapegoat. The obvious message being delivered here: "It's not your fault; it's the coach's." All accountability has been automatically transferred to the coach, and the players (and parents) have been absolved.

If these parents could be taken on a Scroogesque voyage in which they could see themselves though objective eyes, their sense of shame would fill Invesco Field to overflowing. Thank you for exposing them for what they are.

Greg Young
Highlands Ranch

Off sides: I question your responsibility as a newspaper with your publication of "First Down." Not only are you writing about a team of minors, but you also publish some of their names! For pity's sake, these kids aren't even in high school! There is also the question of why you even published this pot full of moaning and complaining about team management. Eric Dexheimer sounds like a disgruntled parent whose kid lost a football game. Get real. How many games had the team played this season? Don't professionals lose games?

Write your articles about larger issues rather than picking on a kids' league! How about the lack of fields that league has to practice on, or the issues of dealing with parents who try to live their lives through their football-playing sons (and can't handle the disappointment of their sons losing a game). Show some journalistic responsibility, please.

Ann Fuller
via the Internet

It's not whether you win or lose:Thanks to Eric Dexheimer for the article about the Evergreen Cougars football team. Our son liked Mike Mahoney and quit the team when Coach Mike was "sacked."

Dexheimer wrote a good article, but some parents will disagree. In truth, it is impossible to find "truth" in this story. Every family will have a different perspective of the situation. Some parents will claim they were concerned about safety, because fundamentals were sacrificed to teach the new offense. Other parents think that safety was a secondary issue and a smoke screen to cover for a difficult start of the season. It is true that the former Division II team did not do well in past years, but the former Division I kids and parents can learn something from them. These kids love football, as demonstrated by their irrepressible spirit and determination. They would get knocked down, then come back to Monday's practice to work harder. More Division II kids returned to play this year than Division I kids. Mike Mahoney's coaching was one of the reasons for this.

It was unfortunate that Dexheimer made an embarrassing remark about Colton Himmelman's size. We admire Colton more than any player on the team, as we have seen him aggressively tackle players more than twice his size. He is utterly amazing to watch.

Getting back to truth and perceptions about Coach Mike: You could fill Westword with different stories and views of events that were mentioned in the article. Regardless of parents' differing perceptions of Mike Mahoney's coaching, it was inexcusable to treat this volunteer coach, who generously gave hundreds of hours of time, with no more respect than one would give a pedophile. Regardless of whether they agreed with his coaching, the MAMFA board and the players and parents who walked out owe this man an apology.

Tom and Cheryl Smith
former Cougars parents


Bush League

Bucking the Broncos:Bill Gallo's September 11 "Plumbing the Broncos" was more thrilling to read than it was to watch Denver's game against Cincinnati. Although those donkeys have broken our hearts, many of us still hope that our Broncos will be good enough to promote the awe that gave us the somewhat mixed blessings of the Elway legacy: a new stadium and another place to buy cars (the commercials for John Elway Automotive can be entertaining). There's always hope for those Broncos. At least they haven't asked for $87 billion, like another institution that's broken hearts and begins with a B.

Tabitha Dial
via the Internet


Verse-Case Scenario

Vocal locals:Regarding Laura Bond's "Poem on the Range," in the August 21 issue:

The Mercury Cafe is one of the first places I hung out when I moved here three years ago. I met a lot of people I know in Denver today through that place, mainly by seeing them at the Friday-night open mikes and Sunday open mike and slam.

One thing that struck me about the people who read there is that most of them tend to fall into two very distinct groups. There are the more established Denver poets, most of whom seem to have been reading at that place (or whatever Denver open-mike place predated it) for decades. Then there are the very young poets, who all seem to be in their early twenties or younger. You don't really find all that many people who are in between.

The slam poets tend to be from the younger crowd. Maybe it's because of this that they write about all those cliched sort of poetics -- like how bad racism is and how much your childhood sucked. And why they seem to be so, well, emphatic about it. It seems when you're at that stage in your life, and if you want to do something even faintly artistic or rebellious, chances are you're going to jump toward the most easily accessible themes or styles you can find. I think it's only later on that you really figure out your voice -- or even if you have one at all.

There are so many elements about the Denver slam scene - and slam poetry itself in general -- that I personally don't like. The cliquishness. The whole idea of proving that you are a better poet -- or better at least at performing your poems -- than anyone else. The sort of enforced bohemia that surrounds it all. Then again, I'm a good bit older than most of those in town who do slam. Maybe back when I was their age, particularly if I couldn't find anything else even remotely subversive, I would have thought it the epitome of cool, too. For now, though, all I can think is that at least they're actually writing. Maybe one day someone will come up with something so beautifully original it'll be worthwhile. Or maybe they'll figure out that it might be just the time to move on to something else.

Alissa Bader
Denver


Practice What You Teach

Ready, willing and disabled:I found Julie Jargon's August 28 "See Jane Read" on the Web. My wife could tell you horror stories about Dallas County schools and her dyslexia issues. They put her in special-ed classes, and the counselor swore she wouldn't even graduate. She got back in regular classes and managed to graduate in the top quarter of her high school and college. This young lady might be interested to know that colleges have to make accommodations if you have documented disabilities -- and dyslexia is a disability.

Mark Bradley
North Richland Hills, Texas

A touch of class:I am a special-education teacher with the Denver Public Schools, and I love and appreciate my job. However, the public really has no idea what occurs with special ed. With the reauthorization of IDEA, No Child Left Behind and ADA, the public-school system has many financial barriers to cross in order to be fully functioning. IDEA was supposed to give the public-school systems close to $75 million for proper special education; however, we have neverreceived that amount of money. What Colorado actually receives is about one-third of that amount, and we must make up the rest.

What I think the public needs to look at is how much we value our children's education. If we really valued and believed in our children, then there would be proper funding and support within the schools for both struggling teachers and children! This year my school has been cut, cut, cut. Last year we had two and a half special-ed teachers; this year we have one -- yes one -- with the same amount of kids (32!). I am responsible for the individual educations of 32 children, which is much more than the average general-education teacher. Thirty-two children who learn 32 different ways, who need to be taught 32 different things within a six-hour school day. Whew! I'm tired just typing that.

I also happen to use the same reading curriculum -- Language!, by Jane Fell Greene -- in my special-education classes. Let me say with no hesitation that I have seen, on the average, two to three years of growth occur within nine months of instruction. It is amazing!

I would like to send out a challenge to every Coloradan today: Go down to 900 Grant Street, fill out a substitute-teacher application and substitute-teach in our public schools. Come for a day and see what it is truly like. Don't go to Cherry Creek, but come within the city of Denver -- go to an urban school. I work in the northeast section of Denver and love our community; however, the challenges that exist are great. Mobility, poverty, homelessness, abuse, drugs, etc. -- we've got it all.

Let me say in conclusion that every child can learn and every person can teach. So the next time you encounter a teacher, thank him or her for a job well done. Because teachers are thought of as second-class citizens and are not shown the respect that I know we deserve. Way to go teachers: We do what others won't.

Name withheld on request

The same old story:I was fascinated by "See Jane Read" because it's so familiar. I have a son who, like Jane, is very bright but had problems that landed him in the special-ed system in Boulder in elementary school. I was basically talked into it by his school's staff, who convinced me the special-ed system would provide real help for him, but the truth was that their idea of help was to construct a yearly IEP and then stick him in a special-ed classroom with other kids with completely different needs and do almost nothing for any of them. In fact, I suspect the main motivation for the school's pressure was that they used the special-ed room as a safety valve for the regular classroom teacher so that she could get the more challenging kids out of her room for an hour a day.

I spent a great deal of time and money going to tutors after school to get him the concrete, direct instruction he needed. I used to fantasize about sending the school a bill for $5,000-plus for my annual expenses getting him useful help. One of the ironies of the IEP system is that the school will gather a roomful of highly paid specialists to write up a document that reads "Student will write coherent, 3 sentence paragraphs" without having any plan of making it happen. The responsibility for learning how to do the skills listed in a student's IEP is completely placed on the student.

Thankfully for my son, our family had the financial resources and the understanding needed to get help for him. I know for a fact that other kids aren't so lucky. The special-education system in Colorado is a farce. In my opinion, the school districts should be truthful and admit that they have no real educational services for kids with learning disabilities. By pretending otherwise, they fool quite a few parents into thinking that everything that's necessary and possible is being done for their children and delay or even prevent these kids from getting the help they need.

Sharon Solomon
Boulder

A family affair:Knowing Jane her whole life has been a pleasure. Watching Jane put together a dog for the show ring, at her age, is art. The team that is the Komperda family is amazing.

The article...priceless.

Joanne Cook
Deer Trail


Diss Honor

Air farce academy:Thank you for Julie Jargon's excellent "Honor Thy Academy," in the September 11 issue. I am especially excited to read that Andrea Prasse's case is being revisited. I've followed her cause with great interest and hope and pray that not only will Andrea will be cleared of these charges, but that her accuser must face punishment and be made to publicly apologize to Andrea for his accusations.

I look forward to more exposés.

Arleen Blackstone
Fort Walton Beach, Florida


A Bad Case of Sons Burn

Three strikes, Sheehan's out:Jason Sheehan should be appalled at his "Same Old, Same Old" review of Three Sons in the September 11 issue. Not only is he completely and totally off base about Three Sons, but his language is abysmal! I find it very difficult to respect the opinion of someone who cannot write a restaurant review without the vulgar language he chose to spout throughout his inaccurate and unfair tirade concerning a Denver landmark!

Amie Mayhew
Lakewood

That hits the spot: I'm no trained chef or restaurant critic, but I do think I know good food when I eat it. Especially Italian food (my mom and sister-in-law are both from Italy, and they are great cooks). I have to agree with Jason Sheehan about Three Sons. I think it fucking sucks, and has for quite a while. It was good long ago, but as he said, it's showing its age. Hopefully, Three Sons will read your review and it will give them the kick in the ass they need.

I love going to good, locally owned restaurants -- chains suck. It's one of the joys in life. I love reading Sheehan's reviews, too. Keep up the good work!

John Dickinson
Northglenn

Crackpot:With all due respect to Jason Sheehan, I believe he is "smoking crack," as all the young people say.

I have been frequenting Three Sons since 1972. I went to school with two of the three brothers, so maybe I am slightly biased; however, I have never in some thirty years had a meal there as bad as he described. I think he's being totally harsh on this one. Granted, I'm not an aficionado of all the trendy new LoDo restaurants, but I still believe my tastebuds are fairly intact and know good food.

I think Jason needs to direct his venom away from north Denver. Thank you very much!

Karen Arko
Denver

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