Posted on December 05, 2011

Heading into my senior year of high school basketball I knew we where in for a tough season. We had graduated most of the starting line-up the previous year. The other guard, Randy, and I were named co-captains by our coach and had the duty of starting the fall “captains’ practices”. These were merely a rouse to start the season before you were allowed, made “legal” as long as the coach did not participate. Our coach would just stand near the door of the gym pretending to talk to someone, while actually taking notes on all the younger, unknown, new crop of kids. Around the first week of the practices coach called Randy and me over to him. He wanted us to meet Charles. I remember thinking that Charles sounded like a very grownup name for a kid.  And a kid he was.  Coach went on to tell us, with Charles standing nervously next to him, that he was from Boston and just starting his first week as an 8th grader and wanted to play basketball with us.  This of course was code for “take this kid out there so I can see what he can do”.  He was, like Randy, an African American but with much darker skin.  He was about 5 foot 10 inches tall to my 6 feet, and he sported the Kid N’ Play type triangle haircut.  I started with the ball at the top of the key and drove the lane looking to dish it off as I got swallowed up by the defense.  I tossed it off to our junior center who stood all of 6 foot 4 inches.  He attempted to lay it in but was too strong, it shot over to the other side of the rim.  Then Charles appeared.  Like a rocket, and playing closer to the rim than I had ever seen anyone in that gym, Charles, in one motion, collected the ball and kissed it off the glass for the bucket. The power and speed of that play told me in an instant that this kid was here for the sole purpose of playing basketball.

Charles went on to be the first player in the school’s history to make the varsity as an 8th grader.  He played a healthy amount of minutes that year as well.  We used to joke with him that he played like he had springs in his shoes.  I had never seen an 8th grader dunk before I saw Charles. He was a quiet kid who kept to himself and struggled with the structure of team basketball.  We were a horrible team and had a losing record that year, but I kind of had a feeling that would not be the case for long, as Charles would be there for the next four seasons.  I went on to college and left high school behind for good.  I was not one of those people that attended every alumni event and stayed in touch with my high school friends.  In fact I have never been to any event at my high school…. ever!  So it came as a bit of surprise to hear today that Charles is suing the Boston Red Sox for five million dollars.

The front page of the Boston Globe told the story of Charles Crawford.  In the year after I graduated, Charles got a job working for the Red Sox as a clubhouse attendant.  The clubhouse manager at that time was Donald Fitzpatrick. This is a scandal that has been told already, when back in 2003 the Red Sox settled a lawsuit for $3.15 million with seven Florida  clubhouse attendants victimized during spring training by Fitzpatrick.  There is a second unidentified student from my school who is joining Charles in the current suit.  I cannot imagine the horror felt by these two, when this occurred, and I am sure it is something that one can never forget or truly recover from.  But I think they face an uphill battle to say the least.  First, this is all coming in the wake of the Sandusky Penn State scandal, which was quickly followed by the Syracuse Basketball scandal.  Are these two, now men, simply empowered by what has happened with these other stories and have the courage to speak about it?  Maybe.  It certainly is not to stop Fitzpatrick from doing harm to others as he died in 2005.  Certainly there will be some public perception that this is an “after the fact” grab for compensation, in effect, striking while the iron is hot.  Another problem with their case is they do not have any witnesses like in the Sandusky case.  While a witness is not the “end all-be all” when it comes to this type of accusation the case would be a different animal if one existed.  The alleged events happened 20 years ago, and one could wonder why this did not come up during the 2003 case that was already settled?  Not to mention Charles, or Chuck as we called him, has a bit of a checkered past after leaving high school, including 5 children with 5 different women and child support issues as well.  Was what is being alleged to have happened to him a cause for how things have turned out for Chuck, or are the current life problems the reason for the allegations?  I guess that is for the courts to decide.

We know based on that case that Fitzpatrick was a pedophile sicko, who in my opinion deserved to die a lot sooner than at the age of 75.  We know that this will not be the last time in the next few months that allegations of sports coaches taking advantage of students or kids will be making the front pages.  If you are a molester of children and still alive today, having never been accused or caught, this current environment has to have you shaking in your sick, twisted, dirty old man, slippers.  Do us all a favor, coach, and end it before that knock on your door comes.

Good luck Chuck.

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