Friday, July 31, 2009

To the family that replaces us

The too-small house is more cramped than ever. That's because, for one, the attic is empty. Everything that resided over our heads for years is around our ankles as we prepare for a move, and as the house prepares for a new owner.

If you're in the market, it's the one with the inch-high plastic rhino guarding the backyard gate at the post. Years ago, a son secured it in the wet concrete as I fortified the gate against dog escape. We've had no intruders since, though it didn't stop dog escapes.

Things, things, things. We've hauled so many to the curb and thrift stores as we've decided what stays and what goes.

In the process, I've thought of a hypothetical family arriving to replace ours here, and what it will need. I have a list:

* A water filter — It took us way too long to get smart, particularly when Waco water wasn't fit for carp. We spent way too much on water filtered and bottled by others, maybe out of their own bathtub taps.

* A pet — If you're new to town, go directly to the Waco Humane Society, Fuzzy Friends Rescue or Happy Endings and acquire a pet, or two, or three. Might as well do it now, for I guarantee: The pets will find you.

* A Bible — Not because you'll be required to read or assent to it. You'll just need it to keep up with the arguing.

* Shorts — Do your legs have the pallor of a whale's belly? Don't worry. Wear these, and they'll be the color of grilled salmon shortly, and you'll be cooler.

* Dr Pepper — You may not need this tip. I was a Pepper long before learning this was its birthplace. Anyway, in Waco, you can't run. You can't hide. So, drink.

* Chili — Go the store and get some Corsicana-born Wolf Brand. For an out-of-stater, it may take some acclimating. But shortly, you'll like the climate in your mouth.

* Fried okra — One of my great rediscoveries when moving here was this, a favorite of my Texas-born parents. It's just too bad that I can't direct you to Piccadilly Cafeteria for it, but options are many.

* A city map — Waco, you will quickly understand, has no directions, thanks to the diagonal route of the Brazos River. Hence: East Waco is to the north. South Waco is to the east. West Waco is a lake. In other words, ditch your compass.

* An open mind — Some people want to characterize Waco in ways that don't jibe with reality. They say it is politically or theologically homogenous. They say it has "good" parts and "bad" parts, and we all know what they mean. Well, I'd agree Waco has always had "bad" parts. Fortunately, some people haven't been content to let them rot. Because of them, good things really are happening where some dare not tread.

* Appreciation for diversity — Waco has all the challenges of larger urban centers. So do its schools. If someone tries to steer you away from public schools, say, "Is it because you think they're substandard or because some classes of people are above your standards?" The too-small house with the rhino at the gate? It's in the Waco Independent School District: our schools.

* Appreciation for history — For a young place in the grand scheme of time, Waco has much history and many stories to tell and to be told. Tell your children about it. Have them dip a toe in it at

* Walking shoes — Whether it's in your new neighborhood, at the Lake Waco Dam Trail, at Cameron Park or any number of city parks, get out of the car. I realize that might not be as simple here as in other places. As a newcomer who might have come from a more pedestrian-friendly town, tell policymakers how important sidewalks and pedestrian signals were in the place from where you came.

* Inquisitiveness — This may sound like an invitation to the library. Not a bad idea. No, what I actually mean is: Be curious about this place and its institutions — the VA hospital; the activities and opportunities at Baylor University, McLennan Community College and Texas State Technical College; the natural charms; the history.

Check it out, and you might stay awhile, like we did.

John Young writes for the Waco Tribune-Herald. E-mail:

Monday, July 27, 2009

John Young: Big as Texas; no, even bigger

ARLINGTON — I was touring the new Cowboys Stadium here along with Roger Staubach. He was in awe.

Actually, he didn't tell me as much. He didn't tell me anything, to be exact. But, really: Anyone with eyes, ears and spatial acuity would be in awe. Staubach has those.

And Staubach wasn't actually beside me. We media members, completing our tour at field level, noticed him about 40 rows up with Jerry Jones, who with this 80,000-seat stadium bids to become a sporting legend unto himself.

At $1.1 billion, he's built something that would wow anyone short of the general contractor for heaven and Earth. And maybe even the Almighty is rubbing his/her eyes.

Actually, the Supreme Being may be the only Cowboy fan in attendance who'll have a grievance with Jones.

Legend had it that the trademark hole was in the roof at the old Texas Stadium so the Lord could watch his/her favorite team. Whatever.

The new stadium has a hole, too (and a retractable roof.) But a big chunk of God's visibility will be blocked — by the mother of all scoreboards.

OK, "scoreboard" barely does it justice. Picture the United Nations building on its side, suspended over a field of specks in shiny helmets. (If you can't, Stanley Kubrick could.) Yes, it's the world's biggest TV. Actually, make that two. Add the two "mini" screens facing the end zones. It's 600 tons of big. Forty yards of big.

A tour guide says the two phrases you hear a lot at this place are "world's largest" and "spared no expense." Check.

World's largest sliding glass doors. Check. World's largest column-free arena. Check.

World's largest array of digital signage: 3,000 screens. Most luxury suites: 300.

The suites are at several levels, not just the upper reaches as with most stadiums. Fortunate souls in the first-of-their-kind field-level suites at midfield adjoin sprawling lounges for food and drink.

When the Roman gladiators — er, Cowboys — trot out of their sprawling locker room to joust for survival below the giant TV screen, they'll make their way through a velvet-roped Miller Lite Club. Presumably they'll do so without any of them snatching a brew ($7) from the clutches of a season-ticket holder.

Among a dizzying array of events in the months to come — Paul McCartney, U2, Jonas brothers, NBA All-Star Game, the Big 12 championship — Baylor is playing Texas Tech there Nov. 28. Bring money.

NFL's largest pro shop. Check. (Or Visa, or Mastercard). Most accessible toilets in the league. (They're free.)

"A celebratory environment. An aspirational environment."

Bryan Trubey of designing firm HKS is talking not about the toilets but the whole place. It would seem so in either case.

"More than just a stadium," Cowboys spokesman Brett Daniels says. Did we mention they spared no expense?

John Young writes for the Waco Tribune-Herald. E-mail:

Friday, July 24, 2009

Of cyclopses, sideshows and Cronkite

The first time TV regularly shared Walter Cronkite's history-changing voice, he was a clumsy-looking bystander.

Not his fault. Everything about CBS's "You Are There" was clunky. In black and white, it took us to relive moments in history on sets every bit as authentic as Flash Gordon's spaceship.

When Cronkite became America's preeminent newsman and watched our government argue that victory was around the corner in Vietnam, he may have thought he was back in another bad re-creation of history — French, or British, maybe.

For years the continuing escalation there had barely been challenged by anyone, least of all media seeing it all through the one eye of our government's cyclops lens.

Then Cronkite went there in 1968 and observed this with two eyes:

"We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds . . .

"For it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. . . . To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past."

Cronkite's commentary on that day is much-discussed. Some criticized him for crossing the line of reporter into pundit.

My question: Was it commentary, or was it reporting of the highest form?

You know, the reporting that conveys truth.

We are too accepting of reporting that simply conveys what people in power want to convey, even if juxtaposed by a response to those on the outs.

When does it become reporting for someone on the scene to tell what he or she sees without shadings supplied by those whose political future is vested in the perception?

Glenn Greenwald, writing for, contrasts Cronkite with the pack journalists of today, feeding off unquestioned power with unquestioning authority, relying solely on the military and hired military experts to tell the story of events in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Cronkite's best moment was when he did exactly that which the modern journalist today insists [he or she] must not ever do — directly contradict claims from government and military officials and suggest that such claims should not be believed."

But being manipulated by the government is only part of the problem. Another is being cowed into treating fringe attitudes and hunches as equal to those having the weight of evidence.

Hence we have reporting where the certainty about global warming over the last century is countered by industry-funded seeds of doubt. Giving equitable treatment to both is to present "balanced coverage." Really? Or is this just truth with time allotted for a corporate dissembling?

In Texas, when it comes to approving science textbooks, there always seems to be a debate about evolution. That's odd, because when it's the scientists discussing it, they're not debating it. They're simply understanding it.

Somehow an anti-science constituency has positioned itself to be the "other side" for the purpose of scholastic balance. How so? Please define "scholastic."

We see this on cable television — someone who doesn't know science saying that science has it wrong, and serving as the "other side" for "balance." Generally, this is like a slug worm riding on the scales opposite a nuclear submarine. The fallacies of his claims are immaterial. That person knows that gut feelings and self-serving predispositions have market value.

Somehow the practice of reporting the news has ceased being a search for truth. It has become a service industry for vested interests and popular passions.

Cronkite reported what he saw with his own eyes. Talk about crossing the line. Guilty as charged.

John Young writes for the Waco Tribune-Herald. E-mail:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A pitch for inconsequence

"Men are so strange," said my wife, as Barack Obama made the ceremonial first pitch before the All-Star Game.

She was remarking on the fact that Obama, so as not to shame himself by winging it up into the stands, had taken a few practice pitches in a subterranean batting cage.

"Why would men worry so much about making a good throw?" she said.

Because we are men. Just as we are prone to jump to touch the awning above us on the walkway, we do it because it is there.

Her befuddlement was about the pointlessness of practicing for a ceremonial pitch. All I can say is: Women do pointless things, too.

All defensiveness aside, seeing this guy with a world on his shoulders — seeing the child-like bounce in his step because he'd taken in a ball game — made me think: I need to do more pointless things.

I need to go to more ball games. I need to examine sunsets and storm fronts more closely. I need to spend more time with my dogs.

You, too.

Thinking of how we live our lives, I'm reminded of a man who once was struck by lightning.

When he realized he was alive, the first thing he had to do was instruct himself to breathe.

How many of us need instructions these days?

We are so, so busy. In our down time, we are so sapped that we just want to zone out.

Hence, the difference between doing nothing and doing something that, though utterly pointless, is exceedingly rewarding.

The Internet is full of important things. But mostly it is nothing.

Television is swarming with important things. But like the airwaves themselves, it is mostly nothing.

Then there's baseball. Do you know the sweet thing about baseball? It's all the nothing that connects the consequence on the field.

But it's a different kind of nothing. It's the kind that, at the ballpark, causes you to remark on the shade of the grass or the sky. Or the smells from the concession stands. Or the cavalcade of ball caps around you.

At the ballpark the flag isn't a ceremonial object. It's a wind gauge.

At the ballpark you are all business one moment — who knows when that foul ball might come your way? And then at glorious ease.

What's the difference between sitting in front of the tube and sitting on your porch?

The big difference: Television will not abide nothingness. Dead air is the cardinal sin.

On your porch, air is the main event. And it's alive.

I've got to breathe in more of that.

I've got to spend more time with my dogs and figure out what excites them so.

With them it's always an episode of the "X-Files." Something is out there. Can't you hear it? Can't you smell it?

I can't right now, but I can try.

Yes, I've got to do more things that make absolutely no sense, except as they reward my senses. I think that's what we have them for.

Now, where did I put that baseball glove?

John Young writes for the Waco Tribune-Herald.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Um, because it was illegal?

Dick Cheney, meet Oliver North.

Donald Rumsfeld, meet Caspar Weinberger.

George W. Bush, meet Ronald Reagan — he who, knowingly or not, presided over a rogue operation that resulted in 11 criminal convictions in the Iran-Contra scandal.

Eric Holder, meet Elliott Richardson.

Richardson was the attorney general who refused to fire Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox under Richard Nixon's orders, resigning instead.

Holder this week appears poised to do something President Barack Obama says he doesn't want: Probe the Bush administration for criminal acts in the use of torture.

At the same time, Congress is getting into the spirit of seeking truth under oath after CIA Director Leon Panetta said an anti-terrorism program illegally was kept secret from Congress under Cheney's direction.

Even amid partisanship thicker than snow-cone syrup, the responses about these matters seem odd.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn said Panetta's claim "looks to me suspiciously like an attempt to provide political cover" to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who accused the CIA of lying to her in 2002 on its use of waterboarding.

Wait. Panetta providing cover for Pelosi? If you recall, he and she almost came to blows over her claim. Oh, bother.

Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., called the uproar over Panetta's revelation part of a "continued attack on the CIA and our intelligence-gathering organizations." And an assault on freedom, too. Right, Senator?

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., sounds like the only one who should have the keys to the Capitol cloakroom. He said Congress should investigate Cheney and the secret CIA program "because it could be illegal."

Do you think?

We interrupt our carnival of equivocating for this from the sporting world:

The NCAA is investigating whether former Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford got two free tickets to an NFL game.

That's right. Two free tickets, illegal inducements for an amateur jock.

The NCAA is committing its institutional weight to making sure that such a micro-infraction is taken seriously. For, you see, it has rules. What in Hades' name is Congress doing?

I understand why Obama would not want Bushites testifying under oath for alleged crimes. What a distraction for an administration calling itself forward-looking.

But Holder's job is to do what the NCAA does — take violations seriously. In the tradition of Richardson, who appointed the special prosecutor who took Nixon down, Holder's job is to do what the law requires, not what the president prefers.

Dick Cheney? He's become a caricature of Ollie North, with worse posture. North, when caught funding an illegal war in South America with arms sales to our enemies, wrapped himself in the flag and posed as freedom's champion. That didn't make it legal. He was convicted on felony charges. For his role in the gambit, so was former defense secretary Weinberger (the latter pardoned by Bush).

For Cheney to say, "Trust me, everything I did was for your safety," rationalizes nothing. Particularly when we find that surveillance programs were far more vast than Americans and Congress were led to believe, and that little of what was gleaned has anything to do with terrorism. Particularly when we find that torture yielded far less useful information than claimed.

Everything the Watergate burglars and their White House enablers did was within their sense of what was good for the nation.

So, too, with Team Reagan apparatchiks who armed and trained South American rebels to wage a secret war. It's no excuse.

The whole idea behind the enterprise we know as America is that nobody can decide that he or she can command the horsepower of government and take it for a joy ride without clearing it with the owners: us.

John Young writes for the Waco Tribune-Herald. E-mail:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Honestly, jail way too comfy for this character

His credentials say "FBI," but the rap sheet for Lovett Leslie Ledger Jr. says "one sick puppy."

He may claim to have had his head on straight when he used an air rifle to plug a tiny dog.

He may claim that what he did is not so demented as to preclude him from carrying FBI credentials and arresting you and me.

That depends on what we want from our FBI agents.

This one is sick.

Last week he pleaded no contest to a state jail felony charge of animal cruelty in the death of his neighbors' Chihuahua.

So doing, he wriggled his way out of the "jail" part of that felony. District Judge Matt Johnson sentenced him to two years deferred probation and 300 hours community service.

Many readers found Ledger's penalty ridiculously lenient. They thought he should have at least spent a night in that state jail.

More grievous: Deferred probation means that if Ledger successfully completes his probation there would be no final judgment of guilt.

Ledger could represent the law again as if no offense ever happened.

This for two crimes: one, killing the neighbor's dog; two, lying to investigators about it. If you analyze it, you acknowledge that prisons are packed with dual offenders of this nature. They committed a crime, then lied to investigators and/or a jury about it.

The FBI oath says: "I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Whatever its lineage, a Chihuahua doesn't meet either definition of a public enemy. And if the dog's a nuisance, we have remedies other than pellet guns.

It takes some chutzpah to be a Chihuahua hunter. Some aim, too.

That is, this crime took some doing, and some malice aforethought.

It's the kind of malice that often gets acted out in other ways — a good reason why we darned well ought to take animal cruelty seriously. It is a telltale harbinger of even more unmentionable acts.

Self-defense? We hear about the rancher rightfully protecting his herd from roving dogs. We hear about animals that menace and attack.

A Chihuahua? This one's name was Sassy. Three whole pounds of menace.

Well, so much for heightened animal cruelty penalties in Texas, sanctions inspired by another celebrated Waco atrocity.

Two Baylor University baseball players were arrested in 2001 on charges of shooting and decapitating a stray cat that employees of the Taco Cabana had befriended, fed and named Queso.

The story drew worldwide attention.

Taunts at the ballpark and infamy in the press were the only penalties the offenders incurred, though. A jury acquitted the first of the loose-cannon jocks in part because Queso had no owner. Charges against the other were dropped afterward.

With Queso as a sad cause celebre, the Texas Legislature changed the law, elevating comparable acts from misdemeanors to felonies, and taking away the "no-owner" defense.

Sassy had owners, the Jason Davis family. And Sassy had a pink collar. Just below that collar landed the shot that killed her.

So, deferred probation for the federal agent/dog killer, eh? I agree with the readers. That's ridiculous.

But I'll differ with those who think that jail is the suitable sanction for Ledger. Considering his crime, jail is a little too cushy.

A man who pleads guilty to such an act should be dusted with flea powder, bathed with a garden hose, and sent to bed for a few nights at the local animal shelter.

Oh, and if such an offender happens to be an agent of the law, his first act out of the puppy pokey should be to find another career.

John Young writes for the Waco Tribune-Herald. E-mail:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

They call it information

Upon hearing of Michael Jackson's death, two pained sensations struck me:

The first was sadness over creative brilliance being snuffed. The second was the knowledge that our celebrity construction/deconstruction machine was about to perform up to its usual, um, standards.

And what a bravura performance it has been. I know this and I have abided by a vow not to watch cable news or morning news shows amid the sensation. But, really, simply turn on your TV and the ambience of overkill seeps through like dead rodent through a wall.

A few years ago I decided forever more to boycott the media phenomenon of the moment — the missing blonde coed, the celebrity trial, the ill-fated end for someone rich and famous.

How obscene the coverage has become.

It used to be that treatment of the sort we saw about Jackson was reserved for acts of war and deaths of presidents.

Meanwhile, networks that donned flag pins and went 24/7 drumming up war in Iraq barely have time to report the U.S. pull-out from Iraqi cities.

If connected to your world by coaxial cable, you might be hard-pressed to know that North Korea shot missiles into the Pacific soup, that the United States and Russia agreed to cut nuclear arsenals, or that the federal government dropped the Bush-era restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.

You say the current frenzy is justified by the death of an unmatched entertainment icon. So, too, with the 2,200 journalists on hand for the verdict four years ago when Jackson was acquitted of child molestation charges.

Would that 1/100th of the attention given to Jackson's trial back then had gone to war aims and claims that drove this nation over a cliff.

One constant dimension of today's "news" coverage is that so little of it is news. The ribbon below the talking head says "breaking story." It's none of the sort.

Most of what passes as "news" is speculation. And most of what fills the 24-hour cable void is speculation by paid experts who suit up to deliver educated guesses to the masses.

This trend gained traction back in the sensational case of murdered child beauty queen Jon Benet Ramsey. The "coverage" of her case lasted just about as long as has U.S. occupation of Iraq, with barely any more light shown on motives and perpetrators.

Most of the news coming out about poor Jon Benet's death wasn't news at all. It was speculation, a direct kin to expectoration. In most cases, it wasn't even well-informed speculation, the little girl's harried parents becoming the focus of a nation of voyeurs. News "consultants" became career rumor mongers relative to her fate. One little girl's death, one industry of info clutter.

She's still dead, by the way. Not a word greeting our waiting ears altered her fate or helped catch her killer, whoever that is.

Michael Jackson is dead. That is the "breaking story" even today. How did he die? I'll be curious to know when evidence emerges. But I won't sit spellbound as panels of experts theorize or create suspects out of thin air.

As for the non-stop tributes, that's to be expected. The irony is, as with so many people who die famous, we already know about what they did to get that way. That's why they're celebrities.

Tell us something we don't know. That would be news.

John Young's column appears Thursday and Sunday. E-mail:

Sunday, July 5, 2009

At least students have right to remain clothed

"You have no right to remain silent. You have no right against self-incrimination. No attorney shall be appointed for you. Don't like it? Who asked you?"

Such are the court-tested Miranda warnings for the lab animals otherwise known as students.

But at least one civil right now is affixed for students— the right not to be strip-searched by your school.

Fortunately, only one Supreme Court justice, Clarence Thomas, thinks the practice is OK after an 8-1 ruling in favor of an Arizona middle-schooler who'd been strip-searched on suspicions that she had ibuprofen on her body.

Yes, ibuprofen. Also known as Advil. Oh, after shaking out her panties and her bra, school officials didn't find any.

Thomas, the lone dissenter, said the ruling opened the door to the prospect that students now would hide drugs in their underwear. And bazookas, no doubt.

He wrote that, "preservation of order, discipline, and safety in public schools is simply not the domain of the Constitution."


As aghast at that statement as you and I might be, realize that Justice Thomas, like Rush Limbaugh and, oh, Kim Il Sung, have bigger constituencies than rational sorts might imagine.

Considering the overreaches so common in today's "zero tolerance" climate, it's a wonder that a girl standing naked before school authority can count on any support whatsoever on our highest court.

Then again, that support is the essence of civil liberties. Of course, listen to what many so-called conservatives say about the subject, and understand that civil liberties are just about the most dangerous thing going.

Did I say lab animals? In many ways the school is the laboratory for those who, though they claim to be conservative (a strain of thought with supposed roots in freedom and libertarianism), are really frothy authoritarians. Generally they'd be OK with a police state, so long as the police don't take their guns.

How blithely they nod when such proposals come down the pike as student uniforms, random drug tests, or turning schools into Shawshank-style lock-ups.

Students? They have no rights. And civil rights are a pernicious influence in society anyway. Right, Justice Thomas?

Hence, you have the suspension of three Westchester (N.Y.) high school girls for saying "vagina" in a presentation of — you won't believe — the Vagina Chronicles.

You have the New York student suspended for holding up a "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" poster at a non-school event. He lost his appeal to this Supreme Court.

Incidents like these, and the gamut of overkill under the guise of "zero tolerance," led the New York Civil Liberties Union to push for something called the Student Safety Act. The words evoke images of razor wire and drug-sniffing dogs. Actually it's just the opposite, a response to "schools' reliance on over-policing and overly harsh disciplinary policies." It's a proposal with an audacious premise: that students do have rights.

Advocates point out that too many schools have begun abdicating discretion to zero-tolerance policies and campus police, often resulting in a "suspend now, talk later" mind-set.

I am well aware of the opposite condition, chronic troublemakers endangering others and disrupting class without sanction and without relief for those who want to learn.

Neither situation is acceptable. But the most unacceptable proposition is that we would require individuals to show up at a place — school — where the freedoms enumerated in the Bill of Rights are only things that you learn about, things that apply to your parents but not you.

John Young writes for the Waco Tribune-Herald. E-mail:

Friday, July 3, 2009

End game of the sporting deceit

Few athletes have had better college careers than Curtis Jerrells.

For four years, he started every game at Baylor University, leading the team in scoring and assists each year.

No one could watch this fearless floor leader from Austin's Del Valle High and not project him in a pro uniform.

No one, that is, except possibly the pros.

Last week when the NBA draft sputtered to a close with picks that wouldn't even excite Dick Vitale, Jerrells was exactly like those of us of leaden feet and sofa-toned torsos. No pro teams were calling us, either.

Jerrells will be making money in his sport this year. I'd bet a week's pay on that. But most likely it'll be in Europe or the Continental Basketball Association. Regardless, it will put him in rarefied company.

Being asked to participate in the Dallas Mavericks' NBA Summer League team alone makes it so.

One who won't be in that elite company is a young man named Larry. He was just a kid when he came to my attention — a third-grader who chose to slough off at school because, he said, he was going to be a pro athlete. He was big and athletic. No doubt, adults had encouraged the notion that someday . . .

It never came. He never finished school.

How many times? How many futures have been squandered on such a pretense?

You hear those who have made it, and who have shoe contracts and posses and agents, tell audiences, "Just put your mind to it and you will succeed." It's baloney, of course. They know it. They know how privileged they are.

It's child abuse for young people to be strung along with unrealistic hopes when they could position themselves for countless realistic, and rewarding, hopes. What they need to hear is, "You can't know what the future brings, but you are in control of your future if you keep your options open."

Instead, they get overwrought footwear slogans. "Just do it."

Look up "sport" in the dictionary. It says nothing about "life" — or "death," for that matter. It does mention recreation and enjoyment. Here's a Gatorade slogan that won't fly: Sport is a diversion.

Unfortunately, we look around and see how it's become so much more — so much money for so few, so much angst and attention. Worse yet, we see so many young people thinking it's their ticket. Instead, too often it's a life pass to disillusionment.

The sneaker commercial dares the young to dream.

When young Larry chucked it all as a high school student, his dreams were downsized beyond belief — from making the gargantuan shoe contract to finding the next day's meal. What a comedown. And who was to blame? Many players.

I'm sure one reason Larry set his sights on the unattainable was because he had no father at home modeling how fulfillment — success — can be attained in mundane ways. All he had modeling for him were those who wore the sneakers, who flew over the court, and flashed up and down the field, sort of like what Larry did on the playground among his undersized peers.

For his purposes, Larry had the worst role models imaginable.

He didn't understand that only in the rarest of circumstances do fleet feet and better-than-average size represent a ticket to fame and fortune.

No, the ticket to success is much more basic and entirely devoid of glamour: education, understanding, having a grasp of the world outside the lines.

It's an understanding that you will be happy to know Curtis Jerrells attained somewhere along the line. In May, along with teammates Kevin Rogers and Henry Dugat, he got his degree from Baylor.

Pros or not, they're going to be all right. Instead of waiting in vain for the phone to ring, they'll make the calls.

John Young's column appears Thursday and Sunday. E-mail: