"Coach Collins," Feature, 1/4
Thank you for a fascinating and well-written article. I'm not even a sports fan and I couldn't put it down. Coach Collins sounds like a wonderful dad, a real natural. I wonder if he would be able to give his players so much care and attention if he had kids at home. Maybe it's good that he doesn't. He can do a lot more good in the world this way.
Jan Van Dusen, Oakland
More Coach Collinses, Please
Wow! What an amazing story! The young men that Coach Collins has had the fortunate opportunity to mentor must be very proud. Learning the most important lesson of their young lives, no, I'm not talking about basketball; I am referring to the lesson that there is more to life than the violence of what you see in your neighborhood! There is another road open to them, the road to success, safety, and security. We need more teachers, coaches, mentors, and volunteers like Coach Collins to prepare our children for their futures and ours!
Robin Norwood, Fair Oaks, California
"The Air Jordan Frenzy," Raising the Bar, 1/4
Bad Timing, Nike
The article on Nike's evil legacy, Air Jordan, shows promotion doesn't even begin to reveal how many parents who formerly may have liked the brand — which, to me at least, used to represent the checkmark of inclusion — now feel disgust at the way our children were excluded from buying shoes just before Christmas, shoes that we painfully and diligently saved for.
My son and I arose at 5 that morning — a work day for me and a school day for him. We drove to downtown Oakland's Footlocker and he determined that the line was already too long for him to get his popular shoe size, as we knew supply was limited (although to this day we do not understand why, as it only creates bad faith, false scarcity, and opportunities for scavenger-scum resellers who had inside connections to obtain the shoes).
We then drove to Telegraph Avenue, to Sheik Shoes, which has subsequently closed, and he found out that the store would not start selling the shoes till 9 a.m. My son's school starts at 7:40 a.m., and although it could have caused conflict beside the extreme disappointment, my son has already learned the right values from me so understood why he needed to be in school and not waiting on line. Bad timing, Nike. Why not have held the promotion on a weekend day?
Needless to say, my son is such a good kid that he did not accept my offer of me waiting on line and missing work (not to mention putting myself at risk of getting accidentally involved in any squabbles that may have arisen on line). I am proud of him, because he embodies the true student-athlete spirit Nike is so quick to appropriate as an outcome of buying and wearing their gear, instead of facilitating and rewarding that spirit by fair play.
Nike: Let everyone who wants to buy the shoes have them. Do you really know how many single moms and sons were out there? You have excluded us and I can only hope we will now go on to exclude you; at least I will until I get a personal apology and a college scholarship for my son from your inept and misguided marketing team. By the way, the only family we know who got those shoes had a connection. Is that the image Nike wants to be remembered by?
Wendy Schlesinger, Berkeley
The Enemy Is Us
I can appreciate Mr. Youngdahl's article in that it is not another of those oh-so-tiresome bitter rants against capitalism and corporate greed and how we'd all be better if we lived communally with nature. Kudos to him for staying in the realm of intelligent conversation. However ...
It might not be fair to criticize, when the article was clearly not long enough to fully articulate the larger points of his beliefs, but Mr. Youngdahl suggests that "The occupiers have challenged all of us to put blame where it is due when we see problems," and he pins that blame on society and corporations (in this case, Nike). Nowhere does he ask that the blame be put where it not only ultimately belongs, but where it will do the most good: with the people.
Mr. Youngdahl states that we are the sufferers of an unfair society and culture, and I agree with him. My entire life has been lived out of touch with the mainstream. Sometimes it was not by choice, but even when it was I still found it occasionally hard to resist what our society and culture demand. Mr. Youngdahl characterizes us as addicts. Like many courageous fighters of things that cause addiction, Mr. Youngdahl lays all the blame on the thing itself.
We might be led (coerced, pressured, whatever) into doing something, whether it's drugs or buying sneakers, but ultimately it's because we let ourselves be led. We might seek help in overcoming these addictions, but all the help in the world will do no good if we choose not to stop the addiction. I speak as someone coming from a history of addiction who also works with teenagers and addicts.
Mr. Youngdahl raises the larger issue of the Occupy movement, and he echoes the problems I have with it. I'm not against what the occupiers are for; I'm not even really against how they do it (though I'm not fond of it). I'm against that they're asking the problem to change itself. Until we (the people) are willing to accept the responsibility (and, yes, the blame) and force change to happen, it's not going to. You can ask your dealer to stop selling you dope because you have a problem, but if you keep giving him money he's going to keep giving you the same dope.