Thursday, March 4, 2021

Pee Wees: Confessions of a Youth Hockey Parent

Pee Wees: Confessions of a Youth Hockey Parent, by Rich Cohen, is an insider's look at the Darwinian forces at work in metro New York youth hockey. Published in January, Cohen's book recounts how he and other parents brood and obsess over their kids' success on the ice, usually more than the kids themselves, as well as the ego-driven, intramural squabbling between parents and coaches.

"The Fairfield County Amateur Hockey Conference (FCAH) fields four travel teams. From highest to lowest, it goes AA, A, A1, B. The season is long, 50 games culminating in a state tournament. For the parents, this means waking up early, staying up late, and driving for hours. It means living like a long-haul trucker, making the same sort of calculations and drinking the same amounts of coffee. It means visiting each town in the state, coming to know every mascot and jersey as well as the net income, fashion preferences and pedagogical style of every sort of hockey parent."

This is nothing new. I played Pee Wee and Bantam youth hockey in the Mid-Fairfield Youth Hockey Association in the late 60s and early 70s, and well remember the pre-dawn practices, long drives every weekend, and the one-upmanship between certain parents and players. I later coached a championship Squirt youth hockey team in Westchester County, New York. It was a blast.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Skating the Canals of Amsterdam


Don McNeil and The New York Times

Last July, New York Times op-ed editor Bari Weiss sent an eviscerating letter of resignation to A.G. Sulzberger, the paper's publisher and family scion. Weiss heaped scorn on the woke and biased culture at the paper, and Sulzberger's timid and equivocating leadership. Now, just seven months later, Sulzberger's back is against the wall again as the paper's illiberal workforce demanded the firing/resignation of 45-year veteran Don McNeil, an internationally respected science writer, just days after Dean Baquet, the NYT's editor in chief, thought they had contained the damage with a negotiated apology from McNeil.

The offense?

Bret Stephens, NYT op-ed columnist and former deputy editorial page editor at The Wall Street Journal, put it this way in a column he wrote for his paper that Sulzberger refused to print. Days later, the column was leaked and published in the New York Post.

Late last week, Donald G. McNeil Jr., a veteran science reporter for The Times, abruptly departed from his job following the revelation that he had uttered a racial slur while on a New York Times trip to Peru for high school students. In the course of a dinner discussion, he was asked by a student whether a 12-year-old should have been suspended by her school for making a video in which she had used a racial slur. 

In a written apology to staff, McNeil explained what happened next: “To understand what was in the video, I asked if she had called someone else the slur or whether she was rapping or quoting a book title. In asking the question, I used the slur itself.” 

In an initial note to staff, editor-in-chief Dean Baquet noted that, after conducting an investigation, he was satisfied that McNeil had not used the slur maliciously and that it was not a firing offense. In response, more than 150 Times staffers signed a protest letter. A few days later, Baquet and managing editor Joe Kahn reached a different decision. 

“We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent,” they wrote on Friday afternoon. They added to this unambiguous judgment that the paper would “work with urgency to create clearer guidelines and enforcement about conduct in the workplace, including red-line issues on racist language.”

We are living in a period of competing moral certitudes, of people who are awfully sure they’re right and fully prepared to be awful about it. Hence the culture of cancellations, firings, public humiliations and increasingly unforgiving judgments. The role of good journalism should be to lead us out of this dark defile. Last week, we went deeper into it.

In a recent employee survey at The New York Times, only 51% of employees answered affirmatively to the following statement:

"There is a free exchange of views in this company; people are not afraid to say what they really think."