Thursday, May 4, 2006

Can you find the victim in this story?

Today's Boston Globe includes a story on a star New Bedford high school basketball player who's college career may be in jeopardy because he's been arrested for stabbing another teen at a party. The story focuses almost exclusively on the effect the arrest may have on the promising player's career, burying the details of the alleged assault at the end of the article. Here's the open:

Stabbing charge facing hoop star stuns New Bedford neighbors
By Megan Tench and Kathleen Burge, Globe Staff May 4, 2006

NEW BEDFORD -- The fight lasted less than a minute, but it has left many in the city holding their breath about the future of Brian Rudolph's basketball career.

Rudolph, a New Bedford High School senior and one of the Whalers' best basketball players ever, averaged nearly 24 points a game, and his ball-handling ability coupled with an accurate midrange jump shot caught the eye of a host of college recruiters. After the 17-year-old guard was offered several scholarships this winter, he decided to play for Providence College next fall.

But yesterday morning, Rudolph was photographed in a suit instead of his red-and-white basketball uniform, pleading not guilty in New Bedford District Court to charges that he stabbed an 18-year-old at a party two weeks ago. The victim spent days in a hospital and was released.

Earlier in the day, Rudolph and a 16-year-old friend turned themselves in to police.

''His life is pretty much basketball," said Ed Rodrigues, his coach. ''He's worked extremely, extremely hard at it."

Rudolph, who made the team as a sophomore, is the only basketball player in the history of New Bedford High School to score more than 1,200 points and have more than 600 assists in his career, Rodrigues said. Since his sophomore year, Rudolph has never received a grade lower than a B, Rodrigues said.

It is not clear yet what effect the charges of assault and battery will have on his basketball career.

Which, of course, should be of great importance. Let's hope the alleged perpetrator didn't ruin his basketball career by stabbing another teen. But the article doesn't completely ignore the victim. We finally get to read about him in 19th paragraph:

When the teenager who lived at the house tried to end the party and shoo out the students, a fight began between a 16-year-old who was a friend of Rudolph's and the 18-year-old who was identified in court documents as Jose Raposo.

Rudolph's friend began hitting Raposo, and then Rudolph hit Raposo once in the head, Assistant District Attorney Daniel Igo said in court yesterday. With a sweeping motion, Igo said, Rudolph stabbed Raposo in the back.

''It was just the two boys, and then Rudolph got involved," Acushnet Police Chief Michael Alves said in a telephone interview. ''Right after the victim got assaulted by Rudolph, the fight was over. It probably lasted less than a minute."

Raposo spent several days in the hospital recovering from the stab wound to his lower back, near one of his kidneys, prosecutors said.
So the allegation is that our basketball star was essentially the third man in (hockey term), and then stabbed the victim in the back? And why is the potential loss of his basketball scholarship the tragedy here?

The lead of the article talks about the city "holding its breath about the future of Brian Randolph's basketball career." That's particularly sad. It's not that the city is "holding its breath" about the epidemic of teen violence in our society, or about another unsupervised party with thirty-plus teens, or the health of the victim. They are worried about the star athlete.

I am not suggesting that Rudolph be vilified like the Duke lacrosse team, or other athletes have been. He is innocent until proven otherwise. But I don't think we should be approaching these sort of situations as though it is some sort of a tragedy that our fearless sports stars are somehow victims when they get in trouble. It's not. The tragedy is that there is another teen with a stab wound in his back. And that would be the real tragedy regardless of the pedigree of the person accused of the crime.

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