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Today's Note From a Madman

February 4, 2008

 

The Giants Win Super Bowl XLII

Today's Note From a Madman isn't political. It's about football and my own fanaticism. I promise to get back to my other favorite sport, politics, tomorrow.

I love football, especially the NFL kind. And, in case you didn't know, I'm a huge New York (really, New Jersey) Giant fan and have been all my life. There's a rule when it comes to rooting for your favorite sport's team - you are what your father is, and my father was a Giant fan as well, although you'd never know it. Whenever you asked my father, Abraham Greenberg, who died in 1975 before our team ever dreamed of winning a Super Bowl, the dialogue would go something like this:

ANY OF ABE GREENBERG'S SONS: Dad, what team are you rooting for. What fan are you?
ABE GREENBERG: Electric.

That was my Dad.

But I wear my blue on my sleeves. I can still remember how I became a Giants' fan. On most Sundays during the football months, my Dad would relax in bed and put the game on. In those days, you got one game at 1:00PM and one at 4:00PM. The Giants usually played at 1:00 and the game was on CBS, New York's Channel two. (The New York Jets usually got the 4:00PM game on NBC.) The Giants were pretty bad back then and there was many-a-time when my Dad would just fall asleep. We had quarterbacks with forgettable names and even more forgettable careers. Even Fran Tarkenton, the quarterback who came over from the Minnesota Vikings, then went back to the Twin Cities to lead his team to three Super Bowl appearances (all losses); the quarterback who, at one time, held no less than seventeen National Football League records couldn't help my Dad's Giants.

I remember the team of Pat Summerall, a former Giants' great-turned-announcer, and Tom Brookshire announcing the games for CBS. I often wondered how they knew all of this stuff. Of course, being a child, I didn't know that there were half-a-dozen guys whispering sweet facts into their ears from some production truck in the Yankee Stadium parking lot.

That's right - back then the New York Giants truly were the New York Giants and they played in the same place the New York Yankees played - The Bronx. I was also a big Yankee fan and , in those days, they were just as bad as the Giants!

If memory serves me correctly (as it does less and less), from the time I started watching football with my Dad to the time he died, our team had only one winning season. They were ugly. (It wasn't until 1978 when the Giants had their worst moment known as "The Fumble", when they lost a ball and allowed the hated Philadelphia Eagles to win a game they should have lost. Herm Edwards, who later coached the Jets, was the then-Eagles' player who made the recovery and touchdown.)

So today, as I think about what to write, I have the New York Football Giants on my mind. (They were called the New York Football Giants because there was a New York Baseball Giants as well until they left for San Francisco in 1958.) I think about those bad teams and my Dad, Abie (as his friends called him) Greenberg. If he were here today, I'm sure he would have loved this upset win more than the other two Super Bowl wins under coach Bill Parcells ending the 1986 and 1990 seasons.

Tomorrow as the Giants ride down New York's Canyon of Heroes (lower Broadway in the Wall Street area) to a tickertape parade, there will be countless politicians waiting for them on some platform hoping to have some of their charm "trickle-down" onto their political lives. But the real stars are still Eli Manning, the much maligned quarterback who many thought didn't show enough emotion; David Tyree, the last-string receiver who made the greatest first-string reception I had ever seen; and a defense that shut down the big bad Patriots of Boston (that's right, I said Boston, not New England). something no team had been able to do in eighteen previous games (not even the giants in week seventeen).

And I think of my Dad and his New York Giants and I smile. They're my team now.

-Noah Greenberg



MEAN GIRLS BECOMING GANG GIRLS
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008, Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.


On January 24, West Philadelphia High School was locked down for a gang fight precipitated by two girls fighting. Numerous teens were arrested. The same day, six girls and two young adult women were arrested and charged in the January 15th slashing attack on 15-year-old Shakia West at 48th and Spruce Streets, outside West Philadelphia High School. West and a 16-year-old friend were attacked by eight girls and two young women after school while they waited for a bus. In the assault, West was held down by two of the young women, while the others attacked her with box cutters and razor blades.

West’s nose was nearly severed from her face at the bridge and she required over 120 stitches in her face. Her family says she will also need plastic surgery and that she is permanently disfigured. Photos taken of West by her family were gruesome. West also sustained cuts to the back of her head, her cheeks and her arms.

She was not the intended victim of the assault.

There have been no arrests yet in what Philadelphia police are calling the “Broad Street bullies”–girl gangs of as many as 20 teens robbing women on the Broad Street subway between the Erie and Olney stops, taking purses, iPods, cell phones and other valuables. These attacks have been ongoing for several weeks and on January 19th, LaSalle University issued an alert to its students, alleging that there had already been four attacks on young women from the college. The Olney stop is only a few blocks from the school.

All the attacks have occurred in the afternoon. Victims have said the girls are extremely intimidating.

These events of girl gang fights and attacks are far from anomalous. Videos of girl gang fights abound on YouTube and MySpace, among them girl gang fights at West Philadelphia and other local high schools. The girl gang phenomenon, once considered more hype than reality, is indeed a growing problem, as is violence among girls in general.

On January 24th, hundreds of parents and students met at Bartram High to talk with police about the gang activity at that school involving the national Crips and Bloods gangs. The subject of girl gangs was not raised, however. Yet the increase in girl-on-girl violence in Philadelphia schools and across the country needs to be addressed.

Girls tend to fly under the radar when it comes to violence, according to many child behavior experts. What starts out as “mean girl” actions–bullying, name-calling or extreme teasing–escalates into actual assaults. Shakia West’s mother, Tracy, told reporters after the assault on her daughter that she had warned the school that her daughter had been being threatened because she was new to the school. West was concerned that the threats would turn violent.

Attacks like the one against West are happening with increasing frequency everywhere across the country–in cities as well as small towns. The confluence of “mean girl” behavior with the desire for the flashes of fame accorded by YouTube and MySpace have coalesced to make many girls act out for the cameras.

On January 24th, a scandal erupted at Parkland High School in Allentown when the District Attorney ordered more than 40 of the high school’s students to erase pornographic images of other students from their cell phone picture directories or face arrest. Police officers were sent to the school to assist in the enforcement of the order. Students at the school say that the distribution of the photos was far more widespread, however, than just the 40 odd students whose parents were notified by police of the incidents.

What began with a girl emailing a topless photo of herself to other students escalated into students emailing photos of sexual acts between students. DA James Martin noted that because the girls in the photos were underage, the photos were considered child pornography. The students with the photos have been given several days to erase the images or face prosecution in juvenile court.

A similar case occurred earlier this month in Texas, when a group of high school cheerleaders posed for photos exposing their panties and holding sex toys in provocatively sexual poses while drinking alcohol. Charges are still pending in that case.
Last week in Suffolk County, New York, police arrested three teenage girls for assault after the girls posted a video of themselves attacking another girl online. The video showed the girls viciously attacking a 13-year-old--kicking and punching her and pulling her hair violently. The video showed other teens watching the beating, but none intervened and some were cheering.

The videotaping of girl fights and girls engaged in extreme behavior increased after a mud-slinging brawl at a girl’s soccer game last spring, when four members of an Illinois high school soccer team were so badly injured they required hospitalization. The most shocking element of the video of that girl-fight--which included kicking, beating, punching, violent hair-pulling and face gouging--was that there were parents shown watching the fight even after blood was obvious on some of the girls and the girls’ screams were gut-wrenchingly loud. Violence among teenage girls has increased exponentially in the last decade, yet there’s been little organized response from schools, parents, counselors or other venues to that sharp rise. Like at the meeting at Bartram High last week, the issue of violence by girls is utterly ignored; the attention is focused solely on violence by boys.

Violent assaults by girls have been minimized or outright ignored–until crimes like the one perpetrated against Shakia West make it clear that what are dismissed as merely “mean girls” are actually gang girls or girls intent not on just cutting remarks, but slashing attacks on their victims.

The Department of Justice statistics on juvenile crime are disturbing. In the past decade crimes by teenage boys decreased by more than 16 percent while crimes by teenage girls increased nearly seven percent.

But the most shocking statistic from the DOJ covers assault. Despite the revival of gangs like the Crips and Bloods, violent assaults by boys rose by only a little over four percent in the past decade. Yet in that same time period assaults by teenage girls rose a startling 41 percent.

What is causing the change in behavior by girls?

A report issued by the Harvard School of Public Health which studies trends in behavior, including patterns of violence, found that girls were mimicking boys in violent behavior, were themselves victims of violence, either in the home or at the hands of boys and also were using violence the way boys use it–as a problem-solving tool and as a way to gain peer acceptance.

Violence makes girls–who are routinely victimized and who witness teenage girls being victimized on TV and in films, as well as in popular video games and music videos–feel empowered and in control.

What should concern parents, schools and other authorities is that girls are beginning to accept violence as an alternative means of dealing with problems more and more often. The assault on Shakia West was an extreme example of this–an attempted murder.

West was permanently traumatized as well as physically scarred by the event and she is not alone. Although the attack on her was particularly extreme, the affect is the same whenever girls attack other girls. These attacks shatter the sense of comradery and safety girls generally feel with each other. Fear and mistrust can lead to other violent behaviors which potential victims might view as proactive, but which are really reactive–and dangerous, because they threaten to perpetuate a cycle of violence among girls, the trend we are beginning to see in Philadelphia and elsewhere.

This harrowing trend needs to be addressed before it becomes deeply entrenched, like violence among boys is. Girls need to be taught problem-solving techniques as well as ways to avoid becoming victims of violence.

The milieu that girls find themselves in today devalues women and links femininity with being a victim. Images of violence against women and girls abound and some girls are naturally going to incorporate that violence and use it themselves to fight back.

With the number of incidents in Philadelphia growing, the school district and parents need to pay close attention to girls as well as boys and work to reverse a dangerous and alarming trend that is escalating daily. Teaching girls as well as boys about the consequences of violence is an essential first step to stopping the escalation of violence while we still can.


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-Noah Greenberg