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A Victory for Fear
It was supposed to be the biggest interscholastic game of the year in Los Angeles: 7-0 Banning High versus 5-1 Dorsey High, a pair of powers that have dominated the city's football standings for years. Instead, it turned into a sad commentary on how violence has affected high school sports in southwestern L.A.
Despite promises from Los Angeles police chief Daryl Gates that he would deploy 500 officers and use "antiterrorist tactics" to protect Dorsey's Jackie Robinson Stadium, parents of Banning players refused to allow their sons to play the game last Friday night. They feared violence from the gangs whose various territories surround the stadium and from the Dorsey fans and players who started a melee last year after host Banning beat Dorsey 21-20.
According to Banning assistant principal Charles Didinger, "The parents said, 'What's to say they won't attack us again, and this time we'd be down on their turf?' No matter what we said, what the police said, what anyone said, the parents refused to let their kids go. We could not field a team."
Last month, two students at the Dorsey High-Crenshaw High game at Robinson Stadium were accidentally struck by bullets fired by rival gang members. Banning parents who met with school board members on Oct. 28 wanted their school's game with Dorsey played at a neutral site. But Dorsey and district officials balked. "Of course we feel [the school] is safe," said Dorsey assistant principal Willard Love. "I wouldn't be here and our parents wouldn't let their children be here if we thought it wasn't. The police and the district said they would provide the extra protection."
Gates held a press conference on Thursday calling on the Banning parents not to "give in to terrorists." Said Gates, "We kept international terrorists from striking the Olympics in 1984. Surely urban terrorists should not stop two very fine teams from playing."
The concerns of the Banning parents are very real and quite understandable—who would want to put their children in danger? On the other hand, it is lamentable that they felt it necessary to give in to their fears. A clean, well-played game without incident would have sent the positive message that the high schools involved belong to their students, not to gangs and thugs.
Most runners finish their first marathon with new respect for the distance. Not so Liz McColgan, who debuted at the distance in Sunday's New York City Marathon. With her hair tied straight up as if it were a tiny wheat sheaf, she promptly turned marathon wisdom on its head by mowing down a strong field to win in 2:27:23. "It was hard to contain myself," she said afterward. "It's hard to run holding yourself back."
McColgan, who is from Dundee, Scotland, came to the race with impressive credentials at shorter distances, including a win in the 10,000 meters at the World Track and Field Championships in Tokyo on Aug. 30. Though McColgan had never run a marathon before Sunday, she did the smart thing: She contained herself as long as she could, shadowing experienced co-favorites Lisa Ondieki of Australia, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, and Joan Samuelson of the U.S., the 1984 Olympic champion.