Following are two stories, one of a scientific study of aggression in young men and the other the incomplete story of an unfortunate incident told four times. They are the same story – and before one jumps to the conclusion that’s it’s all football's fault, I refer you to Seventeen Reasons Why Football is Better than High School by Herb Childress. - smf
BULLY’S BRAIN FEELS JOY IN OTHERS PAIN
from Science Briefing in the LA Times
November 8 - Brain scans of teens with a history of aggressive bullying behavior suggest that they may actually get pleasure out of seeing someone else in pain, researchers said Friday.
The researchers compared eight boys ages 16 to 18 with aggressive conduct disorder to a group of eight adolescent boys with no unusual signs, tracking brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging.
In the aggressive teens, areas of the brain linked with feeling rewarded -- the amygdala and ventral striatum -- became very active when they observed pain being inflicted on others, according to the study in the journal Biological Psychology.
They showed little activity in an area of the brain involved in self-regulation -- the medial prefrontal cortex and the temporoparietal junction -- as was seen in the control group. -- times staff and wire reports
- NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION PRESS RELEASE: Bullies May Enjoy Seeing Others in Pain: Brain scans show disturbance in normal levels of empathy
- Abstract: “Atypical empathic responses in adolescents with aggressive conduct disorder: A functional MRI investigation” by Jean Decety, Kalina J. Michalska, Yuko Akitsuki, and Benjamin B. Lahey.
EAGLE ROCK COACH HIT WITH HELMET, ALLEGEDLY BY EX-PLAYER, GAME AT BELMONT CANCELLED
By Gerry Gittelson, Staff Writer | LA Daily News
Article Last Updated: 11/07/2008 11:14:13 PM PST
Eagle Rock High School football coach Johnny Lopez, seen in this 2008 file photo, began his tenure in the job in a difficult situation: The players remained loyal to their former coach, who left Eagle Rock under bad terms, as reported in an Oct. 25, 2008 Daily News story. On Thursday, Nov. 6, an ex-player allegedly struck Lopez in the head with a football helmet, and the team canceled its Friday, Nov. 7 game with Belmont. (Hans Gutknecht/Daily News)
Nov. 8 - - Eagle Rock canceled its game Friday at Belmont of Los Angeles after Eagles coach Johnny Lopez was allegedly assaulted by a former player Thursday on the school's practice field.
According to reports, the unidentified player speared Lopez with a helmet in the back, then jumped the fence as Eagle Rock players looked on.
"Someone hit him with a helmet, a (graduated) defensive lineman who was hanging out with us," said senior lineman Nick Obregon, who witnessed the event but declined to reveal the ex-player's name. "Everyone was antagonizing (the former player), saying he wasn't down to do it, and that they would pay him five bucks to hit (Lopez) with his helmet. Coach (Lopez) went down for about 10 seconds. He didn't even chase
Johnny Lopez's difficult road
at Eagle Rock (10/24/08)
him, just reached for his radio."
Sources said Lopez was taken to the hospital.
Practice had just been canceled Thursday because not enough players dressed.
Eagle Rock principal Salvador Velasco announced that Friday's game was canceled "due to not enough practice," said Mike McKay, an Eagle Rock teacher and former football assistant.
Lopez and Velasco did not return phone calls Friday.
"The kids were upset when they heard the announcement," McKay said. "If I was Belmont, I would be ticked off. There's a lot of frustration, and people have done some dumb things."
Belmont head coach Robert Levy was not available for comment. Belmont assistant John Cunino said: "I'd rather not comment. It's not my place."
FOOTBALL GAME CANCELLED AFTER UNNECESSARY ROUGHNESS
Eagle Rock High school nixes game with Belmont High
By Keith Esparros | KNBC News
Updated 4:39 PM PST, Fri, Nov 7, 2008
It was one hit that in part caused the cancellation of tonight's football game between Belmont High and Eagle Rock High, and that blow was delivered a day before the game was to take place.
According to Eagle Rock principal Salvador Velasco, a former player attacked head football coach Johnny Lopez with a blindside tackle. The hit was enough to send Lopez to the hospital, to get checked out, and is the latest spark in a rocky relationship among Lopez, his players, the school, and a former coach. Yesterday's practice had been canceled because not enough players showed up, and Velasco says it was that lack of practice that led him to cancel tonight's game.
He says Lopez's trip to the hospital was purely precautionary, and that Lopez was expected back to work Friday afternoon.
Lopez took over the football program this year, replacing Jerry Chou. According to an article in The Daily news, Chou was well-liked, and had led the Eagles to four divisional titles. Depending on to whom you speak, Chou either resigned, or was essentially fired by Velasco. Either way, all sides indicate the present players have issues with Lopez. Up until now, those players expressed their displeasure with verbal criticisms and by refusing to attend some practices.
The Daily News reported about the team's frustration in its October 25 edition.
"At first, we were very rebellious against him," senior running back Andrew Trejo told the paper. "But we did give him a shot. It was, `This is what we got, let's make the best of it.' Now, the only reason we haven't quit is because it's more like, `If you quit, I'll quit.' If one of us quits, 11 of us leave. Everyone's just kind of waiting for one to go."
Lopez doesn't want that to happen. He told The Daily News it pains him to be coaching players who, quite frankly, don't want to be coached by him. He sees it, he feels the glare. He knows where the loyalty lies.
Now the dispute has been elevated to a new and troubling level. Officers with the LAUSD school police are investigating the incident.
EAGLE ROCK HIGH SCHOOL COACH IS ASSAULTED
He is struck from behind during practice, allegedly by a disgruntled former player apparently upset about the firing of the previous head coach. Friday's game is canceled.
By Corina Knoll and Eric Sondheimer | LA Times Staff Writers
November 8, 2008 -- An Eagle Rock High School football coach allegedly was assaulted by a disgruntled former player who graduated last year, officials said Friday.
It was the latest episode in a series of conflicts related to the firing of the previous head coach.
Coach Johnny Lopez was bending down to pick up a ball when a young man struck him from behind during practice Thursday afternoon, witnesses told school Principal Salvador Velasco.
Lopez, who used his walkie-talkie to alert school officials, suffered minor injuries, Velasco said.
The school canceled Friday's game against Belmont High School, mainly because officials said too few students had practiced.
Velasco did not reveal the name of the alleged attacker, but said he believed him to be a former student who had played football for the Eagles.
"This person came into one of our offices [Thursday afternoon] upset about his former coach. He was . . . told to leave the campus," Velasco said.
Reached Friday, Lopez said: "I'm kinda like on pain pills. I really don't want to talk to anybody."
The incident appeared to be related to a controversy that erupted earlier this year when hundreds of students circulated a petition and held a protest in response to the firing of former football coach Jerry Chou.
Velasco has maintained that Chou wanted to resign but changed his mind a few days later when it was too late. Since then, Chou's supporters have been outspoken about their dislike of Lopez, and some players refused to participate in practice.
Chou, who remains at the school as a physical education teacher, said he does not condone the students' actions.
"It's sad, but kids make bad decisions," he said. "I think there's a lot of frustration and anger still going on at this school."
Velasco said the decision to forfeit Friday's football game against Belmont High was not because of the assault. "Half of the team being on the bleachers instead of practicing made it clear to me it wasn't safe for them to play," he said.
Belmont football coach Rob Levy said he was disappointed.
"It was our last home game," he said. "You don't want to win a game on forfeit."
ASSAULT ON COACH SHOWS CRACKS AT EAGLE ROCK
By Vincent Bonsignore, Staff Writer | Bonsignore is an assistant sports editor in charge of local content at the Daily News.
Nov. 9 -- The call arrived at 8 a.m. Friday morning, the male voice on the other end saying: "You're not going to believe what happened with the Eagle Rock football team."
The caller then proceeded to explain how a former Eagle Rock player allegedly assaulted first-year coach Johnny Lopez at practice Thursday by attacking him from behind while wearing a helmet, apparently sending Lopez to the hospital and forcing the cancellation of the Eagles' game at Belmont on Friday.
With just one game remaining, it wouldn't be a surprise if they just canceled the rest of the season.
Reportedly, the player was egged on - perhaps even paid - by current players on the team to carry out the cowardly act.
It was a shocking story, but the saddest part is that I wasn't surprised it happened.
If you've paid any attention to what has happened at Eagle Rock over the past year or so - and the Daily News has reported on it every step of the way - you understand a terrible disservice has been done to the kids on the football team by most of the adult figures in their lives.
It goes back to Eagle Rock principal Salvador Velasco's decision to get rid of coach Jerry Chou after last season. Chou had submitted a letter of resignation during the season in protest of Velasco's handling of some coaching matters at Eagle Rock. But Chou was under the impression his differences with the principal were resolved when he reached an accord with Velasco and coached the final few games of 2007.
Chou was shocked when Velasco informed him he'd have to re-apply for his job if he wished to coach the football team again.
Insulted, Chou declined to re-apply and ultimately moved to Glendale High as an assistant while remaining at Eagle Rock as a teacher.
The parents and players were enraged, pleading with Velasco to reconsider through protests, phone calls, letters and meetings.
Velasco held firm.
In came Lopez, the innocent victim in all this, blindly walking into an impossible situation. The players, out of loyalty to Chou, never gave Lopez a fair chance, disliking him for the sole reason he was replacing the coach they adored.
Whether Lopez is a good coach or not - some around the program argue he's in over his head - is irrelevant. He's the coach. Period. And the players and parents at Eagle Rock should respect that.
The players' initial disappointment is understandable, but that it was allowed to fester shows they didn't receive the proper guidance, which would have allowed them to move on and accept the new coach as their leader.
When that disappointment turned into unchecked hate, an event like the one that happened Thursday became possible.
Neither Chou nor Velasco is above blame for their original disagreement, and we'd like to think both would handle certain things differently if given the chance.
But what happened happened. Life goes on.
The real damage is what transpired in the aftermath of Chou's dismissal and the chaos that has ensued since Lopez was hired to replace him.
It's an injustice so truculent it has created a poisonous culture in which high school football players actually think it's OK to express themselves through physical intimidation. All because of a lack of perspective and guidance - by adults.
The line of guilt is long and clear.
There is Velasco, the principal who completely misread the situation, then bungled any chance of reconciliation out of arrogance. All Velasco had to do was understand where Chou was coming from when he first submitted his resignation, then tear it up after the two reached an accord.
Instead, he embarrassed the popular coach by making him beg for his job. In the process, he turned his back on the people he's paid to serve - the parents and students at Eagle Rock - by disregarding their support for a coach they loved.
This was a successful coach who guided the Eagles to four straight league titles and two consecutive City Invitational championships.
Chou deserved better, but when players and parents tried to convince Velasco he was making a grave mistake by getting rid of him, Velasco turned a deaf ear.
But Velasco isn't the only one to blame.
Chou, the ex-coach, is apparently too proud to sit his former players down and explain the importance of getting over their disappointment and moving forward in a positive direction, rather than linger on in rage.
I'd like to think Chou pulled his former players aside and told them he appreciates their support and devotion, but it's time to move on and fully support the new coach.
I'd like to believe that, but in light of what happened Thursday, how can anyone be sure?
If he has, clearly he wasn't forceful enough. Chou is probably the one person who can quell the discontent, but the fact the outrage continues tells plenty.
And let's not forget some of the parents, so emotionally tied to the program and former coach that they either stoke the flames of outrage or do nothing to extinguish it.
Either way, they've allowed a fury within their sons to burn so intense that at least some players appear to believe physically assaulting the new coach is acceptable behavior.
Is there anyone at Eagle Rock capable of teaching these kids right from wrong? Is there anyone willing to step up and tell the players life doesn't always work out in your favor, but you can't resort to breaking the law as an outlet for your disappointment?
The kids deserve blame, too. No doubt they were hurt by Velasco's decision to let Chou go, but after expressing their displeasure and voicing their feelings, Velasco stuck to his decision.
It might not seem fair, but that's the way life is sometimes, and it's high time the players at Eagle Rock understand that. You can either accept it and support the new coach or move on. But to resort to physical violence is unacceptable.
An innocent man was assaulted on a football field Thursday, and his only transgression was replacing a popular high school football coach.
It should never have happened. But the actions of the adults at Eagle Rock High allowed it to.
They should be ashamed of themselves.