by Thomas Keister
Just when you thought the obsession over high school sports could not possibly have gotten anymore ridiculous, here comes a story that probably won't be a front-runner for a sequel to Hoosiers. Fittingly enough, this story takes place in Indiana, as well.
Last Saturday, Elkhart Memorial was set to square off against Munster in a regional tournament match-up. Yep, fairly typical game for Indiana high school basketball, but that is where the story stops being run-of-the-mill.
Seems like the night before, Mark Barnhizer, the coach of Elkhart Memorial, was picked up on charges of driving while suspended and driving while intoxicated. Barnhizer passed a blood alcohol test, but was arrested after a drug recognition test. According to Barnhizer, he takes methadone on prescription for pain management issues. Uh...yeah. I think we all know what kind of pain management entails the use of methadone.
But what about the big game? Whatever was the Elkhart Memorial boys' team to do? Not to worry, after Elkhart Community Schools made a request to the Elkhart Police Department, an officer gave Barnhizer a ride to the game, 45 miles away in Michigan City, after Barnhizer had bonded out of custody.
Yeah, I hear you. What the damn? I have never asked a cop for a ride anywhere for any reason, under arrest, bonded out, or innocent as a newborn. The one and only time I have even heard anyone ask a police officer that, the answer was bluntly put across that a police car is not a "fucking taxi." Anywhere but Elkhart, Indiana, that is. Elkhart Assistant Police Chief Tim Balyeat approved the use of a squad car and officer to chauffeur Barnhizer to the game. A cop gave a guy a ride to his job after he bonded out. Must be the nicest goddamn cops in the United States. I bet they even say please and thank you when they rough up a suspect.
Balyeat stated that no overtime was used, and no lights and sirens were employed, which was kind of disappointing to me. The level of courtesy the Elkhart Police Department were extending Barnhizer, I am surprised they weren't blocking intersections miles ahead to speed his trip there, or using a three-car motorcade, like this guy was Governor Mitch Daniels or something. Along with defending the ride because of the impact the schools and athletics have on the community, Balyeat was also quoted as saying "We felt you shouldn't penalize 10 young adults for the mistakes of one person."
Okay, let's take a look at that. I am not going to argue the impact schools and athletics have on a community, but I will argue the efficiency of those schools when the wrong people are running them. Anyone who agrees that having the coach brought straight from the holding cell to the big game, outside of some B-grade movie, is the wrong person to be making decisions. Any cop who thinks taking someone straight from the holding cell to his job, coaching high school kids, is the wrong cop to be making decisions. As for not penalizing 10 young adults for the mistakes of one person, how's about penalizing one grown-ass adult for his own mistakes? If I'm not mistaken, isn't that why teams have assistant coaches? I'm sure that day will come in court, unless the officer convienently forgets to show up. After seeing how this whole situation has unfolded so far, I'm not going to bet against anything.
Naturally, there was no comment on the school's side of the equation, other than a statement from Doug Thorne, Elkhart Community Schools' director of employee and student relations, that the district was reviewing the matter. Barnhizer did not have a listed phone number to be reached for comment. I can imagine, that there is, will be, or damn well should be some comment from the parents of students at Elkhart Memorial High School.
As for the game, Elkhart Memorial lost, 48-39. Barnhizer made it with about six minutes left in regulation. Yeah, some impact.
Information for this commentary taken from WBBM Newsradio 780 - WBBM780.com
by Thomas Keister