The ball rolled under my foot and sputtered off to the right. My face flushed red, and I glanced at the gym teacher who looked as bewildered as I did. He shrugged his shoulders and in his best ``let-me-make-you-feel-uncomfortable-voice'' said, ``Why don't you try again?''
Up until that point, I'd never known a person could acquire a strike in kick ball. Maybe I was the first to ever accomplish the feat.
The notorious gym nerds on my team berated me for my bizarre error and didn't hesitate to remind me of my past mistakes. Apparently, I was stupid for not catching the ball in the baseball unit; retarded for getting ``flagged'' in the flag football unit; and idiotic for losing possession of the ball after I accidentally traveled in the final seconds of our final basketball game during the final basketball unit of junior high. Because they were so sensitive about (of all things) gym class, I usually overlooked their pugilistic tirades; I didn't even have the heart to tell them that `idionic' wasn't really a word. But when they started laughing at me in the locker room for the kick ball incident, I lost it. Hell hath no fury like an anti-athletic dork on the prowl.
I told them I'd had a stroke, that the muscles and nerves in my body had tightened due to brain damage from that stroke, and therefore my body wasn't coordinated enough to do all the things that many people took for granted _ for instance, kicking a ball. Then I calmly asked them if they thought it was appropriate to make fun of someone who was handicapped. An awkward silence gripped the room even though it was the biggest crock of bull I'd ever concocted.
It is true though, that shortly after I was born, I did have a stroke, unbeknownst to my parents. Three years later, a standard MRI scan revealed a small amount of nerve damage in the right hemiparesis of my brain as a result of that stroke, and doctors diagnosed me with mild cerebral palsy. They projected that the muscles in the right side of my body would never function as well as the muscles in the left side of my body and that I would have trouble in future years grasping several mathematical concepts, specifically geometry and other special skills.
Therefore, I had told my classmates the truth more or less. And the success of that moment -- the fact that they stopped making fun of me and started feeling stupid -- inspired a devious chain of events in my last year of junior high.
When I missed 18 problems on a 22-question algebra quiz (the only quiz of the year that integrated geometry skills), my teacher held me after class to question why I'd done so poorly. I responded, ``Well, Mr. Q, it's because I had a stroke. My brain can't grasp geometry. The brain damage won't let it.''
My English teacher wrote ``nearly illegible'' on an essay I'd turned in about the Holocaust. He took off five points because it took him so long to read it. After class one day I told him I'd had a stroke, and my sloppy handwriting was the result of the affected muscles in my body not being able to hold a pen properly. He thanked me for telling him this ``key information,'' and then he gave me back my five points.
But it didn't stop there. Grades on art projects were curved accordingly (because I couldn't cut and paste properly). Grades on speeches were curved as well (because the damaged area included the part of my brain that controlled communication). Political correction had handed me everything I wanted on a silver platter. It was perfect.
Eventually, however, I found it necessary to abandon my scheming. Cerebral palsy can be described as a disorder of the central nervous system characterized by ``defective motor ability.'' Approximately 500,000 Americans are diagnosed with it, and only a third of those 500,000 have normal intellectual capabilities. I'm very lucky to not have the symptoms that some of my counterparts deal with every day, and I've realized now that it would be hypocritical to pretend that I do. I've realized that I'm lucky to have accomplished many of the things that they'll never be able to accomplish _ like obtaining a driver's license, or acting in the school play or writing for the school newspaper. I'm lucky that I'll have the opportunity to attend college. I'm lucky that I am able to take challenging classes in high school.
I'm lucky that, like any other anti-athletic dork, I get bullied in gym class. I'm lucky that, like any other lazy teenager, I got an 18 percent on a geometry test that I didn't study for. But it doesn't stop there. I'm lucky that I have crappy handwriting. I'm lucky that I have no artistic ability, and I'm lucky that I get nervous when I have to give an oral presentation in social studies class. In so many ways, I'm just lucky to be a relatively normal human being. After all, there was a 66 percent chance that the stroke might have really had a major effect on me. And that would have been much worse than inventing the kick ball strike in gym class.
I was down in the dumps the other day, so I decided to watch an episode of ``Behind the Music.'' Between drug overdoses and failed comeback albums, not to mention puffy hair, and even more drug overdoses, the musicians documented in the VH1 television series never fail to have it worse than I do.
Conclusively, watching shows like ``Behind the Music'' and ``The E! True Hollywood Story'' just might be3 the best organic medication to overcoming depression.
This particular episode featured the bombastic and nearly plastic ``nobody cares about you anymore so why don't you retire'' singer/half-actress Cher, who throughout the lengthy perfect-for-TV interview reminisced about her early years with Sonny Bono, her several months with Greg Allman, her countless cosmetic surgeries and her brief ``uncool'' period as an infomercial host.
``The worst thing in the world is to be uncool,'' lamented Cher. ``And I was just totally uncool.''
Yes, Cher, you modern-day Aristotle, the worst thing in the world is to be uncool. Forget about the fifty year war between the Palestinians and Israelis in the Middle East, forget about all the children in third world countries who are starving, forget about sexual assault, forget about suicide, forget about homicide and forget about genocide. No, all of these things pale in comparison to the moral dilemma of being uncool.
Cher epitomizes why celebrities shouldn't be role models. Somewhere along the journey of following their own big city dreams, celebrities become comfortable, settle down and lose sight of their goals. Suddenly, it's not about doing what you've always wanted to do _ acting, singing, dancing, half-acting etc. It's about how cool you can look in front of the camera, and how much you can make doing it.
Take, for example, the Recording Artists' Coalition (RAC), a fellowship of mainstream musicians who've gone to extreme lengths to lobby for ``artists' rights: Founded by Sheryl Crow and Eagles frontman Don Henley, the group is comprised of roughly 140 well-known singers and bands, including Beck, Bruce Springsteen, and Weezer. The official website describes the association as a ``non-profit, non-partisan coalition formed to represent the interests of recording artists with regard to legislative issues in which corporate and artists' interests conflict.'' In essence, these celebrities -- surprise, surprise -- want more money.
The RAC's major ``legislative issue'' is to overturn an amendment that exclusively exempts musicians from a California state law which limits personal-service contracts to seven years. In fact, the RAC recently sponsored four joint performances in Southern California to raise money for their cause. The star-studded line-up of the Eagles, Offspring, the Dixie Chicks, Billy Joel and Crow no doubt enticed fans in the locale to check out the venues. The concerts eventually accumulaed $2.7 million for lobby efforts against the restrictive amendment. That's right $2.7 million -- out of the pockets of interested, starstruck fans-will be used to overturn a measly state amendment. $2.7 million that could have gone to charity; $2.7 million that could have gone to something a little more global.
When they're finished with overturning the amendment, the RAC plans to attack record labels for misdistributed royalties. Layman's terms: We want more money. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails told the Chicago Tribune, ``The janitors in the music industry are the musicians.'' And maybe, to some extent, that's true. Maybe royalties are being misdistributed. Maybe the corruption of corporatism has seeped into the music medium. But at the same time, the average salary of a custodian, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, is $17.180. Even if Trent Reznor is being marginally cheated, certainly he still brings home millions of dollars annually. With or without the royalties he'll never have to worry about paying off a car payment, or a mortgage, or an insurance bill.
If celebrities want to band together for a worthy cause, fine. They are, indeed handed the great privilege of exposure. When the King of Narcissism himself, Michael Jackson, allied with a group of American musicians for 1984's We Are the World-USA For Africa, millions were raised for underprivileged children in Third-World nations. Same goes for the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh, as well as Know It's Christmas, and the more recent 9/11 updated Marvin Gaye anthem ``What's Going On.'' In these instances, musicians selflessly exhibited their talents for a noble objective.
What sets these unions apart from that of the RAC is the realization that music is a passion, not a business. All art forms -- be it dancing, acting, painting, writing or singing -- are born out of passion, not the legislative issues or the royalties involved. Music cannot rightfully be manipulated to upgrade Cher's cool quotient. It cannot rightfully be manipulated to increase Bruce Springsteen's earnings. If it is used in those instances, where the implication is that musicians have lost sight of their childhood passions -- well, quite frankly, that's just totally uncool.
After hitting the snooze button for the second time, you get up. You brush your teeth, wash your face and patiently stand in front of the toilet until you squint your eyes and your faint reflection in the mirror reminds you to sit down. The baggy pants you bought in the boys' section to hide your curved hips look all wrong with that t-shirt hanging sadly off your thin arms.
You look around your room and reassure yourself by the poster of Michael Jordan taped to your door and the Mortal Kombat video games on top of Sports Illustrated magazine strewn on the floor. But another look in the mirror at the reflection of a soft-skinned, hairless, curvy teen is unavoidable. Strange, you felt like a boy before looking in the mirror.
As with most female-to-male transsexuals, gender confusion like this was a reality for 32-year-old Palo Alto High School graduate Jed Bell when he was a teen. Bell, born a female and presently living as a male in San Francisco, spoke with Verde as a way to spread awareness of a group thrown under the umbrella term ``transgender,'' which includes everyone from crossdressers to transsexuals. His purpose is to demonstrate to outsiders, through his unique experience, that gender divisions go beyond a black-and-white way of thinking because they are just ``so much more complicated than that.''
During his childhood in Palo Alto, Jed did not know he was transgendered and grew up as a tomboy. Like many transsexuals, Bell cannot recall a time when he did not feel more like a male. ``I remember the second I put my foot on the asphalt in elementary school someone asked me `are you a boy or a girl?' '' Bell says. ``And that was how the rest of my school years seemed to play out.''
After graduating from Paly in 1987, Bell, living as a girl, came out publicly as a lesbian while attending college in Maine. It wasn't until a friend in Bell's ``queer circle'' gave Bell a book called Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg that he discovered what was so ``different'' about him. The book tells the story of Jess Goldberg a young girl identifying as a lesbian until she discovers her psychological gender truly relates more closely to that of a man. ``I just had this profound feeling that I was reading my own diary,'' Bell says.
The lack of information available to transgendered people is a common case for many sexually confused youth and was also experienced by Brynn (last name withheld by request), an FTM (female-to-male transsexual) born in the 1950s in a little town south of Los Angeles. ``The 50s was a really backward era,'' Brynn says. ``If you had a personal problem, you kept it to yourself. There was hardly any open communication.''
Because transgender people often feel like the issue is a social taboo, the lack of communication sometimes leads to violence and death. Fifty percent of transsexuals are said to die by age 30 from suicide, according to specialist Jennifer Reitz's site on gender dysphoria. At Paly, Bell says he never felt completely accepted. ``It seemed like there were all these perfect, beautiful, rich people and if you were any kind of freak because you were poor or queer or something, the feeling was you just didn't talk about it there,'' Bell says.
Once transgender people come to terms with their identity, there are various medical and psychological procedures available to them.
Most undergo extensive therapy and are commonly diagnosed as ``gender dysphoric,'' meaning their physical sex does not match their mental gender. With a medical diagnosis or a letter from a therapist, patients are legally allowed to have various sex-change operations. Before surgery, however, the patient must live as the opposite gender, aided by hormones.
Bell moved back to San Francisco in 1999 because of the city's large FTM transsexual population and began what is called ``transitioning,'' which entails taking hormones and living as the opposite sex. According to Henk Asscheman and Louis J.G. Gooren, authors of a science journal on hormone treatment in transsexuals, physical differences between men and women, besides the outer genitalia, can be attributed to sex hormones. Females who have taken male hormones, like Bell and Brynn, notice a deeper voice, facial hair growth and if taken during adolescence, a greater muscle distribution and an increase in height. Bell's voice had changed within a couple days of taking hormones ``which was really weird,'' he laughs, ``but I think it's really weird for teen boys also. It's like losing the voice you recognized as your own all your life.''
The transitioning and lifestyle of male-to-female transsexuals (MTFs) differs from that of FTMs. The female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, redistribute fat around the hips, create less oily skin than in males, and induce breast formation. However, the effects of these hormones on fully grown men are often imperfect. Increased height, the narrowness of the pelvis and the shape of male jaws cannot be changed after puberty, according to Asscheman and Gooren.
In general, it is easier for females to pass as males with the use of hormones than males as females. This could be attributed to fetal development in which every fetus starts as a female before developing distinct sex traits. Also the transition itself can be more of a challenge for MTFs. ``It's a very different experience (for MTFs) because guys (reacting to MTFs) are just more agressive, more difficult,'' Bell says.
Brynn did not start taking hormones until he was 40. He had put off his own self-discovery during therapy for many years to deal with his mother's suicide until he discovered that female-to-male-transsexuals really existed. ``It was like waking up from a dream in a way, or a nightmare,'' Brynn explains. By 1991, Brynn had come to terms with his transsexuality and was ready to take hormones, but he put his decision on hold because his 13-year-old daughter from an ex-husband wasn't ready to deal with his mother's gender situation. Brynn put off taking hormones for three years and six months later underwent chest reconstruction surgery. Although Brynn was distressed by his daughter's disapproval regarding his transition, he attributed it more to ``society (having) such ignorance about the issue.''
In transitioning, taking hormones is often the pivotal part for many transsexuals because one really begins to be seen as the opposite sex. Accompanying physical changes are often social challenges. Because of Bell's soft, female skin, he is often thought of as being much younger than 32 years old. ``It's weird to still get carded at rated R movies when you're 32,'' Bell laughs.
Bell stopped taking hormones because he preferred to be ``understood as all parts of who I am,'' including his history as living female, which is part of his philosophy emphasizing the gray space between males and females. ``I don't think transgender people are the only ones who feel this way about being understood for all that we are,'' Bell says.
The next step in the process for transsexuals who want it, is surgically modifying the body to appear more like the opposite sex. Both Bell and Brynn went through chest reconstruction surgery, which involves the reforming of the chest and often requires liposuction and major redistribution of excess skin, explains Beverly A. Fischer a physician specializing in transsexuals surgeries in the book True Spirit Conference.
After researching his surgery options Bell decided to head to Belgium for his chest reconstruction surgery. A transsexual friend had recommended this European clinic because of its high quality and cheap prices. There are clinics that perform transsexuals surgeries, from chest to facial reconstruction, found all over America but tend to be a very expensive, according to Bell. For example, lower half surgery available to FTMs have the option of castration. As an example of the vast modification on the classic surgeries, worldwide acclaimed Doctor Laub of Palo Alto specializes in his own invention: Metaidoioplasty which involves the reformation of the clitoris to appear as a small penis.
While transgender people willingly go through the pain and difficulty involved in transitioning, curious outsiders often ask: Why do people need to alter their body in order to feel comfortable with their sex?
Well, there aren't any easy answers to this question. However, new scientific research has given way to fledgling theories.
The creation of a human's sex is a complicated process, one not immune to inconsistency, according to Ari van Tienhoven's Reproducing Physiology of Vertebrates. There are five levels to successfully create a male or a female that include: chromosomal-genetic, or the development of the XX or XY chromosomes; gonadal, the creation of ovaries or testes; internal and external genitalia; and finally, the mental gender affiliation of the person.
Variations can occur on every level, but most often they are seen in the ``malformation'' of the genitalia. There have been cases of a male formed with XY chromosomes but due to undetermined malfunctions female organs develop and the male will be left with a uterus, Tienhoven explains. These people are often called hermaphrodites or intersexed and are more common than often thought. Approximately one in 2,000 babies is born somewhat intersexed, according to the North American Intersex Society. Intersexed people also serve a major role in the transgender community. ``They are seen as our allies,'' Bell says. ``A lot of our struggles are very similar.''
The ``abnormalities'' in people who are today classified as gender dysphoric or transsexual can be due to hormonal, fetal, mental or social issues, among others, according to Eric Allen and Tom Stewart's article, ``Physiology,'' Scientists researching questions surrounding transsexuals have been looking into brain development, specifically in the hypothalamus region necessary for sexual behavior. According to Allen and Stewart, the Netherlands Institute for Brain Research in Amsterdam announced a difference in transsexual brains when male transsexuals were discovered to have female brain structure when investigated in an autopsy.
The transmission and reception of hormones during fetal development may also be crucial to the child's mental perception of gender. Physician Carl Bushong, in his article ``What is gender and who is transgendered?'' explains that the absence or presence of testosterone and the baby's reaction to it actually determines whether the child becomes male or female. Research done on rats showed that when the female rats were given male hormones in the womb they display behavior that is typically male, Allen and Stewart write.
Brynn learned later in his life that is mother had been taking hormones while pregnant with him, but cannot be certain of the specific combination of hormones and their effect. Instead Brynn describes transsexuality as combination of factors: ``Essentially I see three factors (leading to transsexuality)...genetic make-up, environment inside the mother's womb and the environment outside of the womb.'' Brynn remembers the ``macho'' environment of his hometown and the effect it had on the great length of time it took for him to become aware of his transsexuality.
Bell, although supportive of scientific research, finds that problems with transsexuality lie more in humanity's inability to accept transgender people. He attributes it to what he calls social construction _ the idea that the way we know and under issues isn't necessary the way they should be understood. ``Ways of thinking are just artificial,'' Bell says.
Recent publicity for the transgender community from scientific research to popular films like ``Boys Don't Cry`` and ``Hedwig and the Angry Inch,'' is helping the general public to form its own educated interpretations of what ``transgender`` means. As with Bell and Brynn, most of the transgender community is just glad that ordinary interpretations of sex and gender are being reevaluated. But at the root of the issue, Bell explains, identity crisis and the feels of difference involved in transsexuality are often ``a common human experience.''
Coming to a moral consensus with 15 other teenagers at 3 a.m. on a train hurtling toward Los Angeles was not a part of Paly senior Sarah Lauing's summer program. But then again, neither was the purchasing and consuming of eight Valium pills by a member of the group.
Lauing's river rafting and community service trip was a success in terms of safety and fun, until the fateful overnight train ride back from the Southwest. Rachel (name changed), a member of the group with a history of addiction, decided to escape the monotony of the 12-hour train ride by buying eight Valium pills from two unfamiliar men she met on the train.
A few of the teens realized a change immediately and with their fears confirmed, helped Rachel drink plenty of water and regurgitate the pills. When she did not recover right away, the group was faced with a decision: they could either continue to care for Rachel themselves, or they could tell their group leaders who would possibly have the passenger-filled train stopped to rush Rachel to a hospital and have her parents called.
Lauing was surprised by Rachel's drug of choice. ``When you think of drug abuse you don't think of something you could get from your doctor,'' she says. Abusive prescription drug use among high school teenagers until now has been obscure in contrast with illicit drug use like marijuana, alcohol and Ecstasy. But students like Lauing are being faced with instances of abuse of a drug they never considered threatening.
In Rachel's case, the group leaders and her parents were notified and she eventually recovered. But whether Rachel's prescription drug abuse is a unique case among teenagers has been unclear until recently as local students are asked about their experiences with prescription pain killers, stimulants and depressants.
Stories like Rachel's are on the rise, according to a National Household Survey on Drug Abuse that shows 12-to-25 year olds as the group with the most prominent increase of recreational prescription drug use. Apparently, Paly students are not exempt from this group either. This year in Verde's first prescription drug use survey of 359 students, 42 students or 12 percent, said they had used prescription drugs for recreational purposes.
One outspoken prescription drug user, a former seller and high school senior at Menlo-Atherton High School explains how she and her friends became involved with prescription drug abuse and selling.
Two years ago Kate (name changed) broke a bone and was prescribed codeine, a pain-reliever. Instead of taking her prescribed dosage, she took extra Tylenol and saved her codeine to sell and use recreationally. ``People were like, whoa, you have codeine? Can I buy some? And I thought: hey, I can make money off of this,'' Kate says.
At a separate time, Kate was also prescribed Vicodin, another pain-reliever. With her previous experience, she sold her pills at $5 each, mostly to close friends, yet she recalls times when clients came from other schools, including Paly.
The Paly buying market, though, appears relatively small. Out of the polled students, 19 claimed to have purchased prescription drugs outside a pharmacy, only about 5 percent of students. But the jump to 12 percent of students using prescription drugs for recreational purposes creates a suspicious disparity, which may imply that abused prescription drugs often come directly from the abuser's own prescription, as in Kate's case. Though Kate stopped selling because she ran out of pills, she says she would tell them again if her supplies were ever replenished.
Kate's drugs of choice fall under the category of opiates, which are one of three most-abused prescription drugs among teenagers, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The basic function of opiates, which include drugs like Vicodin, codeine and OxyContin, is to impede the forwarding of pain sensations to the brain. In the fall of 2001, increases of new OxyContin abusers were most prevalent in the West, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Local students had found reasons besides for fun ad pleasure to abuse opiates as well.
A Paly sophomore explains how a little less than a quarter of his local sports team would take large amounts of the opiate codeine to avoid feeling pain while they were playing. ``(It) is a rough sport and some guys use it because they think it will help them play to the best of their ability,'' he says. Opiate use on Paly's football and water polo teams doesn't happen, according to interviewed team members.
Opiates also have an affect on parts of the brain associated with pleasure, producing sensation of elation similar to some illegal drugs. ``There are two reasons that people are abusing prescription pain medications,'' Dave Rolston, a program director of a rehabilitation center in Santa Monica says. ``They can be used as supplements to street opiates like heroin, and there isn't the same stigma associated with them.''
In agreement with Rolston, Kate describes her body high after about six Vicodin pills as comparable to how she feels after taking the popular street-drug, cocaine. While she says cocaine is her ``favorite'' drug, she feels safer using doctor-prescribed Vicodin. ``I'd rather take (prescription drugs) because I feel safer,'' she says. ``It's like you know what you're getting.''
The exhilarating rush that opiates often give its users makes it no surprise they are largely abused. However, due to opiates' ability to cause drowsiness, extreme dosages are capable of lethally slowing down the respiratory system, according to NIDA.
Reports of using Vicodin with other drugs because of their ability to produce drowsiness have been reported locally. One sophomore student from Paly explains how some of her friends take caffeine pills, or other stimulants, and then use Vicodin to slow down their heart beat and equalize their energy. ``I know one of them steals (Vicodin) from their mom,'' she says. ``And they'd mix it with caffeine because it's legal.''
Caffeine pills, though over-the-counter, fall under the category of stimulants, the second of the three groups of commonly abused prescription drugs. Prescription stimulants, including Ritalin and Dexedrine, are used to increase brain activity and overall attentiveness. Stimulants' most contemporary use has been for people diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and depression.
The appeal of Ritalin to teenagers may lay in its ability to increase dopamine, a chemical that often produces a ``high'' feeling in the brain, according to NIDA. Even prescribed users have found pleasure in consuming large doses of their medication.
James (name changed), a Paly senior prescribed Ritalin for ADHD at 15, would use his three-month supply in one week. Instead of swallowing the pills, James would crush them up and snort them. ``It is a faster way to get high,'' he says. Physician Christopher J. Welsh confirms this in The New England Journal of Medicine claiming that snorting a drug gives it faster access to the brain than orally taking a pill.
James says he would take large doses of Ritalin along with other drugs, like marijuana to ``stay high and awake.'' Still James finds a greater danger in taking Ritalin over illegal drugs because of the large quantities necessary to get high. ``It was really messing with me,'' he says. ``My heart was beating really quick and my blood pressure was like 180 over 120.''
James now has to take a slow-release form of Ritalin called Wellbutrin. It is a coated form of Ritalin making it more difficult to crush up and is often used for people trying to quit smoking while on the prescription drug. Throughout the day bursts of the drug are released in the stomach so multiple pills aren't needed.
Because of the increase in diagnoses like ADHD, Ritalin may be more readily available to non-prescribed users who want them. Today there are three to four million children and teenagers taking Ritalin for ADHD, which shows an increase in 600 percent over the past five years, according to Carleton Kendrick, family therapist expert and author of the book on teenagers, Take Your Nose Ring Out.
For first-time abusers of prescription drugs, the median age for prescription stimulants was lower than for tranquilizers and sedatives at 18, according to a 1999 poll conducted under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Paly junior Jimmy Fruchterman, who claims many of his friends are diagnosed with ADHD, recalls witnessing potential Ritalin-use by students without diagnoses. ``I saw some people trading Ritalin and Valium pills in one of my classes,'' he says.
Concerning the legality of prescription drugs on campus, all medication must have authorization both by a doctor and a parent, according to District Nurse Linda Lenoir. ``But when it comes to high school, I'm assuming there probably are students carrying prescription drugs that shouldn't be,'' she says. ``Unless there is something marked on the emergency card, we don't know that you may or may not be taking prescription drugs.''
The consequences of being caught with unauthorized medical drugs on high school campuses are not concrete. According to Lenoir, if caught, usually the student has to simply get a letter from a doctor and a parent's signature. ``(But) we just don't know what everyone is holding in their backpacks or pockets,'' Lenoir says.
The third category of most commonly abused prescription drugs is under the title of central nervous system depressants. These are drugs like Valium, Prozac and Xanax that are most often for people with sleep or anxiety disorders because of their calming effect. Out of four million people ages 12 and older using prescription drugs non-medically in 1999, 1.3 million, or about 35 percent if those polled abused depressants, according to a NIDA poll.
Despite rumors of students taking Prozac in combination with alcohol to intensify drunkenness, says one Paly student, depressant abuse remains more obscure than other prescription drugs. Out of the students who said they had used prescription drugs recreationally, only 17 percent said they abused depressants. Mixing a variety of drugs though, raises new concerns.
Anxiety over the dangers of mixing various prescription drugs rose about three years ago with the death of a student from Trinity College in Connecticut. His death was due to large doses of a lethal mixture of prescription drugs like Xanax and Valium and over-the-counter drugs, according to the March 2000 edition of The Boston Globe.
A depressant and alcohol combination is a particularly popular mix despite a label on the Prozac bottle that says ``do not mix with alcohol,'' according to James, who was prescribed Prozac a few years ago. ``Mixing a downer with alcohol is a recipe for disaster,'' says Donna Lera Program Director of the Substance Abuse Program at Adolescent Counseling Services in Palo Alto. ``You see kids passing out or going into comas.''
The mixture of prescription drugs in high dosages encompasses Lera's largest concern over teenagers' abuse. ``More kids are doing (prescription drugs) more often and in combination with other drugs which is deadly,'' she says. In a 1998 poll, 29 percent of 12th graders said they used two or more substances at the same time over the past year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Prescription drugs in all three of these categories have serious negative effects similar to those experienced by Kate and James if abused. In fact, negative reactions to prescription drugs may be one of the leading causes of death in the United States, according to a 1999 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. ``Even though it is on a smaller scale than illegal drugs, it is a much more lethal concern,'' Lera says.
A large number of these deaths could possibly be attributed to people who start using recreationally, or by prescription, and unwillingly become addicted. For example, pleasure-inducing dopamine found in stimulants like Ritalin can ``rewire''the brain so it stops producing its own chemicals, in turn making it necessary to up the dosage in order to feel the same high; when an addict stops using, the body goes through terrible withdrawals, according to NIDA.
The prevalence of prescription drug use among local students is nevertheless debatable. A 2001-2002 poll published in September 2002 edition of the San Jose Mercury News, shows that overall drug abuse among junior high school students, from marijuana to prescription drugs, has declined since 1999. And student use of sedatives and tranquilizers remains about 28 percent less the marijuana and about 5 percent less than Ecstasy, according to the Mercury.
``I heard that the practice around many schools was that some kids were apt to sell (prescription drugs) to other kids,'' Paly's assistant principal Doug Walker says. ``It could happen anywhere and it could happen at Paly. But I don't think it's widespread.''
Lenoir, Palo Alto's district nurse, is under the same impression as Walker. ``I think the bigger problem is not prescription drugs, but other illegal drugs,'' she says.
While there is a suggestion of a generally lower use of prescription drugs, it may be that certain populations are getting their hands on the drugs earlier, and then sharing the discovery with their friends. ``Paly's drug use is based on if a group of people are doing it, because then it's socially acceptable,'' Paly senior Ian Lindberg says. In the Paly survey, each year the amount of recreational prescription drug users increases, with the majority of recreational prescription drug users at Paly being in 12th grade.
Lera, as well as burgeoning population of others, believes that prescription drug abuse is ``much more prevalent than any parents or community are aware of.'' Lera concludes that because of the acknowledge prevalence of illegal drug additions they are easier to admit to, often leaving ``less-common'' prescription drug abuse and addictions in the dark.
The decision to expel three high school students arrested Dec. 21 for suspicion of planning to bomb MCHS and the Moffat County Courthouse was upheld at the school board meeting Jan 28. Steven Jackman, 17, will be allowed to return for the fall semester of 2002. Tony Jacob, 16, and Tommy Elam, 15, will be expelled for a full year.
They all face felony charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and participation in terrorist training activities. Jacob was also charged with felony harassment and stalking.
Jacob is suspected of making cards for the militia, organizing the group and having possession of diagrams showing where the bombs would be placed, according to District Attorney Bonnie Roesink.
History against boys in court
Apparently, Jacob had been suspended from two other schools in Nebraska and Kansas for threatening students and attempting to make Napalm explosive jelly, according to school resource offices Bridget Camilletti.
The students' interactions were investigated after Jacob brought a pocket knife to school in mid-December. He was suspended for five days with an investigation.
In accordance with State and Federal laws, violation of the 1993 district policy on weapons, if over a specific size, the student must be expelled. The other two arrested, Jackman and Elam, were involved in the plans to plant and detonate bombs in two locations.
Elam's fascination with explosives became a deciding factor in being ineligible for bond. Elam also faces charges of criminal mischief from an incident in 2000 when he brought gun powder to school
Jackman released on bond to Wyoming
@tx:Jackman is the only one to be released on $5,000 personal recognizance bond after the original bond was set at $50,000. Jackman left Monday, Jan. 14, to live with his father in Wyoming. The other two have been denied bond. Judge Joel Thompson released Jackman, saying he has no incriminating history and his involvement was very miniscule.
Some parents of the boys argued with local officials, claiming arresting the boys was overreacting. Police have compared this incident to the 1999 Columbine tragedy, saying under reacting was the biggest complaint of parents.
These students could have been tried as adults, which would have led to prison time, but Deputy District Attorney Bonnie Roesink, who is handling the case said they would not be tried as adults.
The three are being separately represented by Colorado lawyers, Jacob, by represented by Kris Hammond; Elam, by Norm Townsend and Jackman by James Grady.
School safety measures strengthened
According to Bergmann, the school will not be adding more safety measures, just adapting the old ones to fit the recent events. They have recently established the School Violence and Risk Assessment Task Force. This program was made for such incidents.
Police Chief Walt Vanatta and school officials conducted three searches of the high school in order to ensure safety. One included bomb search dogs from Colorado Springs. In a Daily Press interview, he said he did not think anything would be found and nothing was.
Prank traced to Routt County leads to another search of MCHS
Around 10:10 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 6, an unidentified caller phoned the Craig Police claiming MCHS was going to blow up on Monday, Jan. 7. The voice was of a juvenile male and was traced back to a Steamboat Springs pay phone. In order to make sure it was just a prank, the police and school officials searched the building one more time.
``I think that people who are treated badly over time sometimes come to a breaking point and lash out. Sometimes we get used to treating other people a certain way, and don't think about what that means for them,'' said MCHS student counselor Tom St. Louis.
Another juvenile in the community is on house-arrest with an ankle monitor for possession of explosives. This was an argument used to free Jackman, made by his lawyer, Norm Townsend.
Craig no immune or alone to violent threats
The threats are becoming more prevalent over Colorado as well as Craig. In early November, a 14-year-old freshman male was arrested for threatening phone calls directed to East High School in Denver. He apparently made the threats from a stolen cell phone. The school had been evacuated twice in four days. They received threats six times, some were not made by the 14 year old because he had been jailed before the last threat was placed.
In Boulder, Colorado, two 14-year-old kids were arrested and placed on a 72-hour mental health hold. They were handcuffed and removed from their school, Casey Middle School, after they made threats to kill fellow students. They also face expulsion hearings. Apparently the boys had a list of students they were going to kill and were telling their fellow students their number.
Resolutions stated need action from students
The questions students, teachers and the community of MCHS are asking each other and themselves is this, ``What needs to happen to prevent further incidence?''
``Make an effort every day to do a nice thing for someone else,'' suggested St. Louis.
New teachers, new coaches, new carpet, new cameras and now new pop machines. Maybe this is one of the best improvements made yet, or, maybe it is an enemy in disguise.
The Moffat County School Board signed a contract with Pepsi earlier this year, allowing only Pepsi to be sold on school grounds. Soon after the paperwork went through, old machines were removed and new, state-of-the-art, machines were installed. Bigger buttons, different varieties and one more machine popped up. Old machines, previously located in the lunchroom and by the athletic hall, have been replaced and a new one was placed on third floor by Room 326. Two of the six machines, on the first and second floor, serve only water and a selection of juices. These six new machines have created quite a stir.
New machines create concern
``I don't think that it is necessary to have pop machines on any floor except for outside the lunchroom area,'' said science teacher Aaron Kessler, whose classroom is across the hall from the newest, third-floor pop machine.
After surveying the third floor teachers, many agreed the the unseen side effects should have been considered.
``Studies show that American youth are overweight and contracting diabetes at a younger age than any other previous generation. I find it ironic and ridiculous that our school was paid off for a measly $25,000 so a company could strategically place these machines around the building and advance the process of early onset diabetes and obesity. The administration sold-out the health of our children for a few thousand bucks,'' said social studies and Spanish teacher James Neton. Neton was not the only teacher to recognize health concerns.
``I love the drinks, too, but it is nil on nutrients and high on sugars and caffeine (which are not supposed to be good for any of us) and for the most part the target customer is still at the age of growing and developing,'' said French teacher Terri Harjes.
``Students today drink more beverages than ever before. One statistic says that the average American drinks more than 53 gallons of carbonated soft drinks each year, more than any other beverage, including milk, beer, coffee or water http://www.ada.org/prof/pubs/daily/0202/0205pop.html. This same source notes ``that childhood obesity, childhood diabetes and the incidence in the childhood oral health problems in certain population groups has increased dramatically while at the same time the consumption of carbonated beverages, fruit juices and sports drinks has increased 500 percent during the past 50 years,'' said psychology teacher JoAnn Baxter.
``More than anything else, I think they are encouraging kids to increase their sugar intake even more. It seems a little odd that we require health and p.e. classes for graduation, but we further encourage students to take in senseless sugars/caffeine and we can't even make them walk very far to do it,'' said English teacher Susan Whinery.
``Were the third-floor pop machine to stock water or even juices, I feel that we would be serving that requirement of our graduation policy,'' said Harjes.
Machines benefit MCHS students, clubs, sports
Before deciding to accept Pepsi's offer, the MCHS School Board had an open form during their September meeting for debate. The only opposition delivered to the council was by phone messages, not appearance at meetings.
``I understand both sides,'' said Activities Director Jim Loughran. ``As long as the board will allow us to have pop machines in the school, we need to take advantage of the money to give to athletics and organizations.'' Approximately $10,700 was given to MCHS for direct distribution to clubs and athletics, plus the machines have the potential to generate $18,000-$20,000 more for the school. The money could be used for renovations to the gymnasium.
``I haven't noticed any increase in the amount of pop in my classroom and I prefer Pepsi over Coke, so it is okay with me,'' said yearbook adviser Paul Duzik.
``I think it's better because you won't be late to your classes,'' said freshman Megan Stehle. She was not the only student with a positive outlook to the addition.
``I like it because most of my classes are upstairs, and I do have to come down to the third floor every hour,'' said sophomore Mike Satterwhite.
Brakes skid. Truck tires spit gravel. Physics kick in, and Rich Hovland ejects violently from his vehicle. At 62 m.p.h. Through the windshield.
Minutes later, a groggy Hovland stirs.
A farmer who had heard the crash finds him and calls 911. Coincidentally, a close friend of Hovland's who happens to be a EMT arrives. He's taken to a hospital. He is shaken up and still drunk, but he's alive. In fact, he doesn't have a scratch on him.
This was it--it had to be. If a near-death car accident couldn't stop his drinking, what could?
It's six months later. Rich Hovland has just been given an ultimatum. And he's 10 feet from making a big, fat mistake.
The crash hasn't changed anything. He is drinking again. Jane, his wife of 10 years, has just forced him to choose between alcohol and his family. Hovland doesn't hesitate in grabbing the keys to his red Volkswagen and walking out the door, for good. He gets to the bottom of the steps.
He pockets the keys and walks back up the steps.
Rich Hovland is done drinking. Forever.
Dana Roller takes a pass and quickly disposes of a scout team defender with a crossover. He sprints up the sideline, eyes scanning the floor as the defense scrambles to recover. Roller pauses, then flicks a cross-court pass to junior guard Kenyon Wingenbach in the corner. Wingenbach calmly drops in the 3.
``Goddangit guys, that's good!`` Hovland screams. ``Jeez!``
Rich Hovland the coach is a study in positive reinforcement. When junior center Jordan Engel throws an inbound pass directly to a defender, Hovland doesn't blow up, or even point out the bad pass. Instead, with the patience of an elementary special ed teacher, Hovland tells Engel when that pass will work, and why it didn't on this occasion.
When the drill is over, they match up teams for a scrimmage. It's chaos on the floor, with players constantly moving and jockeying for position. Yet through the madness of the action, Hovland sees beauty. He smiles uncontrollably as players scramble for loose balls. He laughs out loud when a sophomore puts a move on a senior. The game flows from one basket to the other, from offense to defense. Hovland is always talking, coaching two teams at once, narrating the offense's next move vocally, and then the defense's reaction, teaching them to work within the system he has created and showering them with praise when they do things right. Then when a player improvises and breaks the rules, he praises their creativity even more.
While the team shoots around, Hovland keeps his arms crosses over his chest or holds his wrist behind his back, as though if he didn't, they would involuntarily grab a ball and start hitting fadeaways.
It's late in the 4th quarter of Century's season opener against Beulah. The game is tight. The team's shooing has been atrocious, 29 percent in the first half alone, but senior Andy Miller has just hit two big shots to put Century up by one.
Beulah calls time out. Does Hovland grab his board and start furiously drawing up plays?
``I told them to get a drink and catch their breath,'' Hovland said. ``I wanted them to relax and soak in the moment.''
Cameron Wingenbach, the forth-grade water boy, disperses cups to the breathless and surprised players.
``It was awesome,'' Kenyon Wingenbach said. ``He barely said anything. He was just like, `You guys can sit down. This is just relax time.'''
Hovland follows up Beulah's timeout with one of his own, this time to talk strategy.
``I called that second timeout without even getting up from my chair.'' Kenyon said, smiling.
``I just wanted them to relax and soak in the moment,'' Hovland said. ``We had crossed a major bridge there.''
Hovland's relax tactics, while unorthodox, work in calming the team down. They hold their composure and scrape by with a win in a game they had nearly taken themselves out of in the third quarter.
``He's really excited about the team,'' Jayne said. ``He thinks they're more like the teams he's had in the past. They're scrappy, and hard-working, and they seem to get along really well.''
Then, with a laugh, she adds, ``But if you know Rich at all, you know that he thinks he has a great team every year.''
Hovland the man is a study in intelligence and strength layered under modesty and poise. He doesn't fiddle with his moustache or scratch his neck when he admits that, yes, as of today, he has a drinking problem. He uses your name when you talk him. And when he looks at you with those big honest eyes and calls himself an ``Average Joe,'' you almost believe him.
It's hard to bring up drinking with Hovland without him offering advice here and there. It's part of the healing process.
``The truth is an amazing, freeing thing,'' Hovland said.
Hovland holds no reservations when it comes to sharing his experiences, and will not hesitate to talk to someone who needs help.
``Sometimes you get `F*** you, I'm outta' here,''' Hovland said. ``But maybe somewhere down the road, he thinks about what I said. Maybe what I said is one of the starts to the finish. But if you never start that race, you don't have to worry about an ending.''
Alcoholics lose minutes, hours, decades of their lives to their addiction. Rich Hovland almost lost everything.
``The toughest challenge and biggest victory of my life is that I'm sober,'' Hovland said.
When a player struggles or misunderstands, Hovland takes him aside and talks to him one-on-one. He holds running jokes with players.
``I've got one player who gets so down on himself,'' Hovland said. ``I've told him that if he needs a kick in the butt, I'll do it; he doesn't have to.''
But he understands his role. After 23 years of coaching North Dakota basketball, he know he is not molding future pros. He is instead making his players into a team that can work together and win.
He makes individuals from a group, and then turns those individuals into a team.
There is a stigma that exists about high school coaches that they are invincible monsters who breathe fire and have forgotten more basketball than their players could ever learn. Hovland broke down that wall very quickly this year.
At a get together with the players and parents, Hovland expressed his dislike for the policy that suspends players six weeks for getting a Minor in Possession. He told those in attendance that he believed if a player was using alcohol, it was indicative of a bigger problem.
And then Rich Hovland casually told everyone in the room that he was an alcoholic.
``I remember the first time I drank,'' Hovland said. ``I didn't know it until I started going to classes, but that's a bad thing. If you remember when you had that first drink, it's a bad sign.''
Hovland went on a camping trip when he was 14. One friend brought a 12-pack of beer, which they shared, each boy drinking three or four. It was harmless fun, but Hovland found something else.
``I remember in that first instance feeling nothing,'' Hovland said, ``and I think I found that terribly attractive.''
Although it had piqued his interest, Hovland didn't drink for the remainder of the summer, and did it sparsely throughout high school.
After graduating, Hovland moved on to college at Valley City State. Alcohol, once an occasional party accessory, became far more accessible. And it was everywhere.
``In college, even though we were under age, it seemed almost accepted,'' Hovland said.
Hovland was drinking every weekend, a rate that, for college kids, is not usually cause for alarm. What frightened him were his motives.
``I wasn't drinking so much for the social aspect of it, like other kids were,'' Hovland said. ``It was more important to me to feel it. That's another bad sign. Potential alcoholics don't just drink to do it. They really like it.
``I think I was scared from the beginning.''
After college, Hovland became a gym and health teacher. As his career in teaching began, so began the constant hiding. He couldn't let anyone know that he had become a full-blown alcoholic _ not his family, not students, not other teachers.
``I guess it was kind of like leading a double life,'' Hovland said.
He went out of his way to control any suspicions that others may have had, as evidenced by a trick he played at parties. Hovland would have one beer on one side of the room, then have another on the other side. This way, no one really knew just how much he was drinking.
``I suppose there were a few incidents that may have made people a bit suspicious,'' Hovland said. ``But it never amounted to enough to confront me.''
To make matters worse, Hovland now had one more person he would be forced to keep in the dark: Jayne, his future wife.
Despite the guilt he felt, Hovland kept up the act. For 12 years.
``We were married 10 years before I realized it,'' Jayne said. ``I noticed that he was going through more beer than usual. When I said that, he started hiding bottles from me.''
While Jayne's suspicious mounted, Rich carried on as he always had.
Then came the accident.
Driving drunk. Rich wrecked his truck on a country road. He probably should've died there. Instead he walked away.
``Looking back, I should've been dead 50 or 60 times,'' Hovland said. ``But there was never another car in that intersection.''
The aftermath of his accident would lead one to believe that a revelation ws at hand. Alcohol classes. A clean slate. A new lease on life.
But Hovland was not done.
``I'd say he quit for about a month,'' Jayne said. ``Then he started back again, I just think he wasn't ready to stop then.''
But Jayne was low on patience, and Rich had used up all of his mistakes.
After a few months of the same, Jayne told him he needed to make a choice. He would either quit drinking, or he would leave.
``It sounds cold, now,'' Jayne said. ``But I really didn't want to live my life that way, and I thought it was fine if he left.''
And he almost did.
``I remember kind of stubbornly thinking, `Well, fine, if that's how it is, then I'll leave,''' Hovland said. ``I walked down those steps, then thought to myself, `Man, what the heck are you doing?'''
Hovland didn't leave, and promised that his longstanding love affair with alcohol was over. Not surprisingly, Jayne was not yet convinced.
``It took two or three years to trust him, just because he'd been fooling me for so long,'' Jayne said.
But Hovland had committed himself to changing his lifestyle. He enrolled in the 28-day program at Heartview. He avoided bars for more than a year.
At 37 years old, after a 23-year relationship with alcohol, Rich Hovland made his own last call.
``I wish that day would've come 20 years earlier,'' Hovland says now of the day he nearly walked out on his family.
But he didn't, and in some ways, he's glad it had to happen that way.
``It made me realize the things I'd been missing,'' Hovland said. ``It sounds corny, but the feeling I used to get from drinking I get now from watching squirrels run around. Watching kids in my class get it and laugh. From watching my daughter smile when she plays a song on the piano for the first time. I guess in that way, I'm a grateful alcoholic.''
Hovland doesn't call himself a ``recovered`` alcoholic, because that implies past tense. He's quick to let people know that this is not a thing of the past _ he didn't used to have a drinking problem.
``There's no such thing as a recovered alcoholic,'' Jayne said.
Knowing that his disease is hereditary, Hovland has some concerns about his daughter Taylor following the same path when she gets to high school.
``But I think she'll probably have an advantage over other kids,'' Jayne said. ``Just because Rich is so open about it.''
Hovland too, acknowledges that it is on his mind, but addresses a more pressing issue.
``To be honest with you, I'm more concerned with the drinking I see right now going on at Century,'' Hovland said.
He scoffs at those kids who claim to have their drinking under control, saying, ``You know, control really has very little to do with it.''
You'd expect him to be more sad. You'd expect to look into Saul Helgeson's deep-set brown eyes and see the extreme pain of kid who's lost his dream. You'd expect him to talk less and blink more when the subject turned to football.
But he didn't.
You see, the saddest part of Saul's injury isn't the deep effect it had on him.
It's that he's been here before.
``Everyone thinks I'm taking this too lightly, but I'm not. I guess I just got used to it,'' said Helgeson.
Last year Saul was to be starting tailback on a talented varsity squad.
During two-a-days in the weeks leading up to the season. Helgeson tore his Achilles tendon. He never played a down.
With Saul out, the team suffered infinitely, finishing 1-8. Players felt they were the laughing stock of the school. Their own newspaper ridiculed them. And Saul could do nothing but watch.
Last year's teams played uninspired. They underachieved and at times seemed downright apathetic. That's why this year meant so much to Saul.
He was more than ready for it. In their third game, he spun, juked, and slashed his way to 227 yards, including breathtaking second-quarter runs of 61 and 62 yards. Century won in a 32-0 blowout. It looked like Minot brought their JV team.
Saul threatened Century's single-game rushing record, but neither he nor coach Ron Wingenbach realized Saul came out early, already feeling sore, he and Wingenbach agreeing to play it safe. When informed after the game how close he had come, Saul jokingly said he'd break the record next game.
``If I got another chance, I would've broken it,'' Saul says now.
This win put the team at 3-0, with huge wins over Minot and Fargo South.
No one was laughing now.
On the sixth play of the next game, St. Mary's quarterback Kyle Webber optioned right and turned upfield. Saul closing quickly to make the tackle and not surprisingly other defenders were upon Webber early.
Saul saw him stumble, the go down. He tried to avoid contact, but his knee collided with the QB's helmet at an awkward angle. Helgeson didn't know it yet, but something was wrong.
``There was not popping noise or anything,'' he said. ``But when I went to get up, I just couldn't stand.''
Teammates helped Saul off the field. Coach Wingenbach hoped for the best, but he knew this was serious.
``If Saul could've walked off the field, he would have,'' Wingenbach said. ``When I saw him half-walking off the field with two guys helping, I knew it was bad.''
The Saints scored early with the wind at their back, and Century never posed a serious threat to come back. Players looked around for someone else to step up. In this game, no one did.
Century lost 17-6. It is, to date, St. Mary's only conference win and Century's only loss.
On the sidelines, a doctor examining Saul's knee said he had probably torn his MCL, but an MRI would be necessary to determine if he'd torn his ACL. The test results would mean the difference between four to six weeks and four to six months. Coach Wingenbach hoped for the best, but he knew this was serious.
Century's next game was the big one _ a Friday night date with top-ranked Bismarck High. Their junior running back, Weston Dressler, had been racking up yards and making as many headlines as Saul. In a perfect world, this would've been the showdown that allowed one of them to step forward as the state's premiere tailback. But at 6:00 p.m., while Dressler put on his pads and uniform, Saul hobbled into the bowl on crutches.
Surprising everyone, Century dominated from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. The 10-7 score was no indication of how close the game actually was. The Patriots had pulled off a huge upset of their cross-town rival.
Once more, Saul Helgeson, the best player in the stadium, looked on from the sidelines.
On the sidelines, Saul was vocal and positive. This didn't look like someone who'd just been hit with bad news, as Saul had. Earlier that day, tests had shown that he tore both his ACL and MCL. He would undergo surgery the following Friday, and begin rehabilitation in two months if things went well. His high school football career was over. No shot at BHS. No homecoming game.
As could be expected, everyone had something to say to Saul. Family, friends, coaches and teachers all contacted him to find out how he was feeling and offer words of advice.
``Nothing really stood out, though,'' Saul said. ``Everyone ended up just kind of saying the same thing.''
Coach Wingenbach knew he could do little to help the situation.
``I told Saul that it isn't fair,'' he said. ``I just feel so sorry for him. There really isn't much you can say about it.''
And there really does seem to be something blatantly unfair about it all. This is Grisham with writer's block. This is Jay Z with a stutter. Saul Helgeson should not be on crutches.
``These are the same ones from last year,'' he says motioning to the crutches. ``I've put a lot of use into these things.'' He pauses and then: ``...been on them too much.''
The post-surgery outlook seems hopeful at the moment. Saul hopes to start working out on the knee soon. It may be healed in time for him to join he basketball team mid-season as he did after last year's injury.
``We're looking at him returning in February or March,'' says Wingenbach. ``It would be really tough for him to join up with the team then, simply because of the conditioning and shooting touch he would lack. But he may prove us all wrong, because he did last year.''
Beyond that, Saul plans on working hard throughout the off-season. He talks abut playing football on the collegiate level, which, although it may seem like a long shot for someone who played 3 games in two years, is certainly not out of reach.
``I wouldn't say that I'm injury prone,'' Saul said. ``I guess I've just been unlucky. If any coach looks at my work ethic, they will be at least give me a chance.''
``He came back from what would be a career-ending injury his junior year, and played very well in the first three games this year,'' he said. ``He may not see the scholarship money that he should, though.''
For three weekends, Saul was a high school football phenomenon. And now, he may have to walk on at a in-state college and impress everyone all over again. For now though, his role is restricted to observer and supporter of the current team.
And it's turning out to be quite a team.
A 13-7 win over Williston has placed them in a tie for first place in the West region. Coach Wingenbach says that, although they lost Saul, their outlook has not changed.
``We still want to play in November. We've still got 79 other guys, but now, we're a team without a superstar,'' he said. ``We're just average guys, but in the context of a team, we're pretty good.''
``Pretty good'' may turn out to be an understatement. But now Wingenbach and Saul are left to think about what might have been.
``Once in a while in a coach's meeting we'll catch ourselves saying, `Man, if only we had Saul.'''