Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Lighten up, Francis

As regular readers of my mother ship blog know, I love children. They're our future. We can teach them well, and then let them lead the way. But our future is apparently in trouble. Because somewhere along the line, we forgot to teach the children how to take a joke. And if you can't take a joke - especially when you've set yourself up for playful derision and ridicule - maybe you're not ready to get along in modern society. Perhaps you should consider a career in the military. Or the monastery.

Have you heard the story of Joshua Vannoy, a 17-year-old Pennsylvania high school student who decided it would be funny to wear a Denver Broncos jersey (No. 7, John Elway) to school, only to be "dehumanized" by his Steelers fan teacher? The educator apparently made his student sit on the floor of the classroom and asked the rest of the class to pelt the young man with balls of crumpled paper.

(Photo via AP)

It should be pointed out, however, that a test was scheduled during this particular class period, so perhaps the teacher's judgment could be called into question a bit. Maybe not the best idea when a kid's worried about taking a test. But maybe he was trying to lighten the mood on a tense day. The teacher, John Kelly, insists that "it was silly fun," and "can't believe [Vannoy] was upset."

"If he felt uncomfortable, then that's a lesson," he said to the Denver Post. "That's what [the class] is designed to do." The class, by the way, is an honors course on ethnic relations.

Vannoy claims he was so shaken and humiliated by the experience that he left 20 questions on the 60-question exam blank. (I'm betting he'll get to re-take that test.) He also says that he wants out of Kelly's class because the teacher is "going to want revenge somehow," now that this incident has reached the media.

Say, how do you think the story reached the media? I found three different articles on this story, with three different pictures of Vannoy posing in his Broncos jersey for cameras. In each of them, Vannoy has just the right look of persecution and humiliation.

I don't suppose it ever occurred to the kid that his teacher might be joking. Having a few friends who work in education, I'm all for respecting the authority of your instructor. But c'mon - telling the kid to sit on the floor? Calling him a "stinkin' Broncos fan"? Asking his classmates to throw wads of paper at him? Does that sound serious? That never struck him as vaguely humorous? A bit goofy? Never mind that he was wearing a jersey from the Broncos, the team playing the hometown Steelers for a chance to go to the Super Bowl, and knew that might open him up to a joke or two. The teacher wearing a Steelers jersey might have been another tip-off.

How about just saying, "No, I'd rather take my test" and laughing it off?

Plus, we're talking about a 17-year-old kid. He's not too far from going into the real world. You think he won't be teased when he wears a Broncos jersey in a Steelers town? Check out this story from Deadspin. A guy shrink-wrapped his co-worker's cubicle and draped a Steelers flag over it! It only gets worse (and much more creative). So he might as well learn to laugh. Or keep the sports jerseys in his closet. Life's too short, man.

(Image from "Pearls Before Swine" ©2005 Stephen Pastis/ Dist. by UFS, Inc.)


  • At January 24, 2006 2:05 PM, Blogger Lolita....... said…

    Its the same in ireland between celtic [theyre catholic] and rangers [theyre protestant] and people have been actually murdered over it and the coutry can literally be divided between who follows rangers or celtci [northern ireland mostly rangers, the rest msotly celtic] So pointless, people must have no lives if they have to murder each other over a game of football

  • At January 24, 2006 3:31 PM, Anonymous Kevin A. said…

    When I first heard the story, I felt bad for the kid, assuming he was some young boy (10-13). I know those years are tough, so I felt for the poor kid.

    The I realized he was 17 flipping years old.

    When I was 17, I hardly ever had emotional breakdowns!

    Grow a pair, dude.

  • At January 24, 2006 4:34 PM, Anonymous josh b said…


    I'd feel sorry for this kid except for the fact that it appears he's already feeling sorry enough for himself.

    He's probably still a bedwetter too. Okay, that may have been harsh.

  • At January 25, 2006 10:33 AM, Anonymous Evan said…

    I only skimmed the links... was this a public or private school? If it's a public school, I think the kid probably has a little bit of a legitimate complaint given that it was a testing day.

    However, if it was a private school, shut up and deal. My 11th grade history teacher made fun of me every day. I'm better for it.

  • At January 25, 2006 11:15 AM, Blogger Greg Eno said…


    My knee-jerk reaction was, "That teacher is kind of a jerk."

    Then after reading it and digesting, my thought is, "That student is kind of a weenie."

    Plus, the class was about ethnics; the teacher was actually trying to teach a lesson!

    My only concern is maybe it could have happened on a day other than during a test, but still -- to leave 20 of the 60 questions unanswered?

    Gimme a break!


  • At January 25, 2006 11:40 AM, Blogger the sports dude said…

    I think the kid just forgot to study and was looking for an excuse to get a make up exam!

    Besides, you just wore a Broncos jersey to school after your team had it handed to you by the home town team, what the hell do you expect? And the fact he still has the jersey, when will you learn.

    Some people just don't get it, but hey, I remember high school well... I just never wore any jerseys, it was safer!

  • At January 25, 2006 4:16 PM, Anonymous susannah said…

    Not to be obnoxious, but this kid needs a serious reality check if he finds this "dehumanizing" behavior. I'd also just like to say that if the Avs had just beat the Wings to go to the finals, and some kid showed up to his school wearing an Avalanche jersey, I don't think the teacher would have to ASK anyone to throw paper at him.

  • At January 26, 2006 1:13 AM, Blogger twins15 said…

    While I do think the kid is a bit of a weenie, the teacher clearly crossed the line here. I'm not above good-natured ribbing, but having the kid sit down on the floor to take the test while kids are throwing paper at him is a little much.

    The being-too-flustered to answer 20 questions and that awful picture I have no defense for, but IMO, the teacher clearly crossed the line.

  • At January 28, 2006 8:10 PM, Blogger Akita said…

    Seems a little odd to me that the family chose to contact the media in Denver rather than the local media. Not to mention the fact that they should have gone through the proper channels of dealing with the incident before running straight to the press. All the students in that ELECTIVE class (as well as their parents) are required to sign a waiver at the beginning of the year pretty much saying that they understand they will be discriminated against at any time, in any way or form, for the purpose of understanding what ethnic intimidation feels like. He knew what he was signing up for when he chose to take the class. Other students in the past have read the waiver and chosen NOT to take the class because they weren’t comfortable with what was going to take place. If, as the family claims, this was purely about his grade and nothing else, then they should have turned down that stupid heated recliner that John Elway is giving him. Please! Oh yeah, and the FAMILY issued a press release yesterday inviting the media to come to their house and witness this great event of the chair being delivered.

    I listened to students on the radio yesterday who were actually in that class on that particular day who report that John Kelly never laid a hand on Josh like he claims. They also reported that Josh was laughing along with the class and with Mr. Kelly while he was sitting on the floor. Now tell me, who is worse in this whole debacle? The teacher who was joking with the kid the same way he’s joked with all of his students who have worn any other teams’ jersey to his class, or the parents who chose to take advantage of this situation for some sort of monetary gain, whether it be Super Bowl tickets (because, come on! why else would they have called DENVER the day before the AFC championship game…that the Steelers were not expected to win) or some stupid Barka lounger from John Elway? If they attempt to sue the school district or the teacher, SHAME ON THEM!


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