{Sat, 20 October, 2007}   Tell me, again, why they can’t have nice things?

Special Olympics scandal… Received the coming week’s Sports Illustrated this Wednesday, 17th October 2007, & read the front newsbriefs with more interest than usual. Why, particularly? There was a featured article about a “renegade” Special Olympics coach & organizer in Texas who is leading his charges not just to participate, but to compete, to try to be the best athletes (not just the best coginitively-disabled participants) they can be. & yes, sometimes, he finds it beneficial for them to trash-talk.

Now, why this is news, why Special Olympics officials in Texas would find this not just off-putting, but punishable, is beyond me. Did the Special Olympics not just face the dilemma of the Farrelly Brothers’s “The Ringer”? Further, did they not make the choice to put the S.O. brand on the film, with minders from the organization overseeing filming & ensuring a fair treatment of differently-abled (but certainly not unabled) athletes & actors? & did the film not feature, in the foil for Johnny Knoxville’s fake-disabled protagonist a character (“Jimmy Robinson”) who was a trash-talking Special Olympics sprinter?

Really, this rehash in Texas strikes me as a dead letter. I find favour with the “renegade” coach — among whose players is his sixteen years old mentally-handicapped son — & see nothing but animus for the disabled, who are sometimes the detractors’s own children, among those opposing the coach’s effort. To that end, two quotes stick out for me, one from the coach (since banned from competition) & another from one of his opponents:

 “Don’t tell me that special-needs kids don’t realize what they’re wearing”, said Steve Fleming, with respect to the matching, well-made kits in which his players are dressed, as opposed to the odds n’ sods cast-offs typically supplied to Special Olympians (& the handicapped in general).

 (I have been having this same thought for years, having seen the majority of the mentally-handicapped to cross my path outfitted in mismatched sweat-suits & sporting mullets, bad teeth, & Coke bottle glasses.)

“Some parents just can’t accept that their child isn’t going to be normal, no matter what kind of fancy uniforms you dress them in”, responded Vicki Griffin.

(The scorn for her own disabled child practically drips from the page. & while I feel some empathy for her, knowing that she knows that after she’s dead, no one will love her child as she has, to admit that she considers the disabled to be other than normal, & always to be that way, defies the mission of the Special Olympics. As the Shrivers intended, these games, & other events for the disabled, are intended as normative experiences that will demonstrate that the physically-handicapped & mentally-retarded aren’t perpetual human cripples that can never be expected to be more than fed thru one tube & have their waste excreted thru another tube. Clearly, though, Ms Griffin never got the message.)

Again, I really don’t see the issue with Fleming’s method. I also saw no one forcing the kids to play only for him. Other parents would have been free to withdraw their children from Fleming’s teams (he coached basketball, golf, & soccer) & place them on other teams. But because Fleming contravened the duality of loving & scorning one’s disabled kids, he had to be sent off.


Steve Fleming says:

This is a perfect example of a person truly trying to uderstand what the Mustang program was trying to achieve. I only wanted the athletes to enjoy athletics. The biggest piece that is missing, you caught. I started the program for the 7 athletes that I coached. To my suprise I had over 60 athletes that left the old program to be with me. I do think Special Olympics realized that a mistake was made. Lets hope that it’s not too late.

May the good lord bless you.

Steve Fleming

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