If you’ve read the reports about the “Barefoot Bandit,” you know that Colton Harris-Moore’s situation was not simply a result of his going to the wrong school. (Harris-Moore’s alcoholic mom used to smash his toys when she was drunk.) The 17 year-old runaway, who was apprehended earlier this month by Bahamian police after a speedboat chase, complete with gunfire, in a scene right out of James Bond movie, had been on the lam for the past several years. During that time he’s become something of a cult hero, a modern day Jesse James with 25,000 members on his Facebook, largely because of his uncanny ability to evade the law by stealing “planes, trains, and automobiles.” (Harris-Moore actually taught himself how to fly via an Internet training program, and he crash-landed at least 3 of the 5 planes he’d stolen!)
While I occasionally rail against the dangers of overemphasizing athletics, today with Colton Harris-Moore on my mind, let me take the opposite tack. (Who said, “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative”?) For some boys, nothing can come close to igniting them the way sports do.
If we could climb into the “Sherman and Peabody” time machine and get Colton to a school, we’d take him to a boys’ school, somewhere in the heart of the SEC circa 2008. There he’d meet an Admissions Director who might offer him this mulligan:
“Colton, it says right here that you are 6 foot 5. Is that right? And it also says you’ve got an intuitive ability to solve problems and be creative. Ok. Well, you sound like you’d be a good fit for our school, but here’s what will need to happen for this to work. First, you’re going to need to slap some shoes on those big ol’ feet. Those shoes, by the way, will look right smart alongside the shirt, tie, and blazer you’ll wear every day.
Classes run from 8 to 3. Some you’ll like. (I think you’ll really enjoy your English class. They read “Huckleberry Finn” and something tells me that particular story might just click for you.) Some classes may not be a thrill-a-minute, but you’ll have a mandatory study hall each night, and a peer tutor or two to help you get through the rough patches.
At 3 pm each afternoon you will put a helmet on your head and spikes on your feet and join me on the football field. You said you’re 6’ 5” right? Well, let me tell you something, son: God put you on this good, sweet earth to catch balls across the middle. Did I say deep middle? If you’ve got the “quicks” to evade the law, you can certainly beat a free safety or two. I think that we’ll just play a little pitch’n catch this fall with you.
When the air turns cold, you’ll go inside, and you’ll learn to love the sound of squeaky sneakers. You’ll also learn to pound the glass. I don’t know how they say “offensive rebounds” in French, but that has got to be your next tattoo. Are you with me on that, son?
When spring rolls around, we’ll head back on outside and put a 6 foot pole in your hands. You’ll get to whack folks with it. Have you ever played lacrosse? I can tell you’re a quick study, and you’ll really enjoy that game. You whack, I mean “discourage” enough attackers, and they’ll give you a long look at the Ivy’s.
Anyway, there are lots of schools out there. Some will have extracurricular programs that consist of laser tag and jump frog. But we are what we are. We’re sort of a meat n’ taters kind of school, but I like that diet, and I hope you will, too.”