Wayne Hills won another NJSIAA North 1, Group III state playoff game the other night, defeating Paramus in convincing fashion. It's something that the school has done practically a gazillion times over the last 30 years. Winning is an annual ritual at Wayne Hills.
But so is the actions of their head coach and athletic director Chris Olsen, who continues to act like he's part of a Steven Seagal movie, you know "Above the Law."
Nine of Olsen's players were allegedly involved in a brutal beating of two players from neighboring Wayne Valley a few weeks ago, one beaten unconscious and dragged to the curb like the weekend trash. There are reports that the victims were not only beaten, but then kicked and stomped while lying on the ground. Yeah, real Boy Scouts, true credits to their school and program.
However, instead of facing punishment for what they did _ and one, a beautiful young man named Andrew Monaghan, who is supposed to be an adult now because he's 18 years old _ Olsen used his massive influence to have his entire team wear their football jerseys and appear at a Wayne Board of Education meeting convened to determine the bastions of goodness' eligibility to play.
So the Board of Ed, feeling the immense presence of Olsen and the gigantic pressure of winning at all and any cost, said that there wasn't sufficient evidence to prove that three of the alleged geniuses were actually there at the incident, so therefore, they should all play.
Now, that's one of the greatest rulings of all time. If we go on that premise, then several of the Manson family _ including Good Time Charlie himself _ should have never been charged in the horrific Tate-LoBianca murders, because, hey, they weren't there.
There is no way in the world that these kids should have been anywhere near that football field Friday night. None.
There are a lot of issues to address here.
First, let's start with the least culpible people, the members of the Wayne Board of Education, who allowed these wonderful role models to get on the field.
They first made a ruling, declaring the nine kids ineligible to play. Perfect. Smart move. But then they reconvene after some legal eagles step in and provided "evidence" that three of them weren't present during the attack. So there was another vote, one with 60 or so other Wayne Hills players present wearing their football jerseys (gee, you think that was organized on their own?) and allowed the nine to play.
"Because it is a criminal investigation, the attorneys were reluctant to give us everything they had," Board of Education trustee Allan Mordkoff told the Record of Hackensack.
"It wasn't a full-blown trial," Mordkoff said. "But we wanted to give it another look because what we were presented wouldn't let us sustain a suspension."
Perhaps the victim's medical records or photos of his battered face would have been enough proof.
Another lawyer, who apparently represents six of the nine accused Wayne Hills players, said that there was no proof of a "beating or stomping."
Again, the suggestion is an interview of the victim or perhaps the Wayne police members investigating the case.
So to these Board of Education members, who were elected by the citizens of Wayne, elected to represent the needs of their constituents, the question remains: What about the victims? After all, they are students in your own district. Sure, it's a rival school, but their parents are Wayne taxpayers all the same. Are you turning a blind eye for the good of the almighty Wayne Hills football program? What do you say to those parents who had to endure their children's hospitalization and recovery?
That's a disgrace. Wayne Valley has always been the ugly stepsister in the eyes of the Wayne Board of Education, that everyone always catered to the needs of Wayne Hills first and foremost. Well, here's proof.
Now, to address Coach Olsen.
I want to say that Chris Olsen is someone I've known for almost 30 years. He's someone who I respect as a football coach and unlike other members of the media, who despise him, I personally like him. He's always been very good with me. He's invited me to his home on several occasions. I've written many stories about him, his team, his sons. I've been fortunate to say I've never had an issue with Chris whatsoever. In that respect, I am of the minority, because he's had issues with a lot of others.
And now, honestly, this is just another case of Coach Olsen truly believing that he's like Steven Seagal, namely above the law.
It was that way when he was the coach of Paterson Eastside, brought in to turn around the Ghosts' program by the immortal educator Joe "Lean on Me" Clark, a man who realized how important football was to the overall discipline of his students.
Olsen eventually wore out his welcome at Eastside, eventually even alienating maybe his lone ally in Clark, simply because Olsen only wanted to coach football and nothing else. Olsen didn't see the situation like everyone else did and he resigned, because he simply couldn't get his way.
Olsen has moved on to Wayne Hills and the controversy has continued. About 15 years ago, Olsen was allegedly involved _ and later legally embroiled _ in a fistfight with one of his assistant coaches. It was a case that lingered for almost two years, with accusations and allegations flying about. It was so much a "cloak-and-dagger" case that I had several meetings with people involved in the altercation, but only in secluded, out of the way places, because they didn't want to be seen or spotted saying anything negative about Olsen.
Olsen maintained that he did nothing wrong in the incident with his assistant coach and he couldn't believe that news of the fight was leaked to the police and later the media.
Olsen was also involved with another controversial incident, one that Olsen couldn't avoid a suspension, even though he truly believed he did nothing wrong. Again, above the law.
Olsen used his then 12-year-old seventh grade son in a scrimmage. The NJSIAA got wind of this case and suspended Olsen for four games at the start of the season. Olsen insisted that he put his son into the scrimmage to prove a point, a learning lesson so to speak, to the rest of his Patriot players that being the quarterback wasn't that difficult, because his grammar school aged son could do it.
Olsen truly believed then that he did nothing wrong. When asked if he thought he put his pre-teen son in physical danger, he said that he was the boy's father and knew what was best for him.
Now, this case. It's a bad pattern.
Chris Olsen should have used better common sense in all of the aforementioned incidents, including this latest slice of controversy.
Is he a good football coach? Absolutely. I also believe he's a decent man, a good father. But Olsen wears blinders that prohibits him from seeing the whole picture.
If it's about winning at all cost, his team more than likely would have still defeated Paramus on Friday night without the nine players. It throws salt into the wounds of Paramus _ and the victims of the "physical incident" _ that Monaghan, the only 18-year-old charged in the crime, scored a touchdown.
And yes, it has to be called a "physical incident," because after all, the legal eagles say it wasn't a "beating or a stomping." Yeah, the victim was unconscious on his own, left in the gutter to bleed on his own.
And to actually organize the remaining players to show up at the Board of Ed meeting wearing their jerseys? There's no way in hell that these kids did this on their own. They were coached.
Chris Olsen is once again guilty of thinking that he is truly above the law, that he should determine what's good and right and just.
Those kids should not have played. The suspensions should have stuck.
And for those who believe that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, yes, I agree. In the court of law. That's where it applies. These kids are indeed innocent until they face the charges in court.
However, high school athletics is not the court of law. It's not life. It's a privilege.
A high school kid is privileged to be able to participate in athletics. It's not a state-mandarted requirement, like English and math are. It's not something that has to be provided by the Board of Education. It's a reward for hard work, discipline, teamwork, getting good grades.
And once you get arrested of a crime _ yes, aggravated assault is a crime _ then you lose all of those privileges, until it is proven in the court of law that you are innocent. You relinquish those privileges. Plain and simple.
I've had this argument with several coaches over the last few years, after local athletes were arrested for similar crimes. I'm steadfast with that belief. You get arrested of a crime, you're done until you're proven innocent in the court of law. End of privilege.
If you allow an arrested kid a chance to play, what message does it send to everyone else? "Hey, he beat someone to a pulp and can play. Why can't I?" It's an awful message. And what lesson, punishment is provided to those who were involved? None? Aren't we in the business of education?
But hey, some said that since the incident didn't take place during school hours, it should not relate to the athletic fields of play. Yeah, right. If you're an athlete, you represent your school. You get arrested, you disgrace your school.
So Wayne Hills will move on to the Group III state championship game and a rematch with Old Tappan and the state's best quarterback, Devon Fuller. No harm, no foul, right?
Try saying that to the two kids from Wayne Valley who were beaten, stomped, dragged, whatever way you want to slice it.
ESPN should be totally ashamed of itself for running with this "Behind the Lines" segment, implicating Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine.
It looks like the network, which also believes it is the pinnacle of everything in the world, is racing to put this sensationalistic slice of shiite on the tube without any justification.
We're going to get a slew of these stories now after the disgusting Penn State saga, but this one, without a legitimate police report, arrest and simply the allegations of two men (who happen to be brothers of all things), is just wrong.
You can read more of my work at www.hudsonreporter.com (Athlete of the Week story this week is a Hollywood script), www.theobserver.com and www.dailyrecord.com
So these Wayne Hills kids will remain eligible and pay