Letters to the Editor

Overdosing on "ecstasy" scare stories; why are female sportswriters whining?

Published July 14, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

The big E


Ah, it's that same article again. A new drug arrives, or an old favorite
becomes fashionable again, and we're served up the same old warnings, either
the drug is so addictive that one hit will make you an addict (cocaine,
crack, marijuana [during the '30s], heroin), or so
dangerous that one hit will cause permanent brain damage (LSD, X, DMT).

Or maybe not -- other researchers find no problems or inconclusive results.
Gosh, it's all so scary; you'd best stick to alcohol and nicotine, the
government-sanctioned drugs of society. The government has cried wolf on so
many drugs that even if MDMA is a one-way instant route to brain damage
(doubtful), no one will believe the warnings until it's too late.

-- Travis Hartnett

I had the experience of watching my former roommate go to the psychiatric ward. After taking the drug and having fun for a night, she could no longer sleep, she couldn't concentrate and she couldn't verbalize a complete thought. She spent nine days in a clinic, suffering from depression, paranoid and very scared. The doctors there thought she would die from such a shock to her system. Luckily she has recovered. She ended up having to go through massive amounts of drug therapy; she had to restabilize her thought processes, her sleeping and eating patterns and so forth. Sadly enough, she also dropped out of school the semester she was to graduate from college, and is still paying dearly for the consequences.

All she started out with was $25, a pill and a glass of water. And look where it got her.

-- Margaret A. Dessypris

Blacksburg, Va.

Bill Hayley's model of testing ecstasy is already in place in the
Netherlands. The government provides free ecstasy testing to make sure
their children are not getting an adulterated product. Amsterdam has
established regulations for rave events, calling for air-conditioning, cheap soft
drinks and chill-out rooms. I queried several coffee-shop owners in Amsterdam
about the impact of ecstasy on their culture. The response was
overwhelmingly positive, saying that ecstasy had reduced youth violence and
contributed to the reduction of street thuggery. The pharmacological
nuances of individual ecstasy use are being heavily scrutinized. Are there
quantifiable social benefits that are being ignored/overlooked?

-- Tim Fuller

After 10 years of rave culture in the U.K., we're fed up with being told
about this "evil" drug. We're sick of the double standards that shriek
hysteria about one girl's death when our mates have suffocated in their
own vomit after a night out on the beers, have gotten pissed up and wrapped
their car around a tree, have gotten knifed outside a pub by some drunken
lads. We're sick of seeing our parents coughing their lungs up, wasting
away from chemotherapy that's supposed to kill their cancers
slightly faster than it kills their own bodies.

If you wanted to stop young people dying, then write
about alcohol and tobacco. Hell, write about sniffing glue; that kills
10 times as many people in the U.K. than E does.

The scare stories
about E arise for two reasons. The first, of course, is money. Brewers and cigarette manufacturers pay
taxes; people selling E don't. The second reason that E gets so much attention is that its users are
young and middle class, not the trouble-makers you'd find sniffing glue
or taking dodgy drugs like speed or smack. Heaven forbid that these
bright young things should lose their faith in the authorities. If they
did that, then some of them might not get jobs, buy cars or saddle
themselves with mortgages! It would be the end of civilization as we
know it!

-- Jez Weston

Playing from behind


Hey --- such doom and gloom! Things really aren't that bad. Yes,
I'm appalled by the Samantha Stevenson-Julius Erving situation. Any time a
relationship between an athlete and a sports journalist becomes something
other than professional, it's a problem. Stevenson broke the rules and her
reputation is shot. But don't use her sorry story to paint the situation for
the entire industry. Women sports journalists are thriving. The Associated
Women in Sports Media group, started a dozen years ago by a handful of
women, now has hundreds and hundreds of members. Almost every major daily
newspaper in the country has at least one female writer or columnist and
many more working on the copy desk or as editors.

Of the 12 bureau reporters
here at ESPN, four are female. Dozens and dozens more are working as producers. I
don't think any of us feel as if we're not taken seriously by our
colleagues and by the athletes and organizations we cover. Respect doesn't
come in this business simply by entering it -- you've got to earn it. Sure,
some of us have left for other areas of journalism. But a lot of us haven't --
and there are a lot of great reasons why. For those who know what we do and
why we do it, Stevenson's lack of judgment 20 years ago doesn't set back anything
about us. It's her problem, not ours.

-- Shelley Smith

I'm really tired of the same, stupid clichis about poor female
sportswriters trying to "make it" in a world dominated by sexist
Neanderthals. Well, sisters, what do you expect? These men are
trained (and paid) to win at violent contact sports. It's fair to say than many athletes -- who often come from poor and/or underprivileged backgrounds (unlike the mostly white,
upper-middle-class female sportswriters) -- are not the most mannerly
men on the planet. If aggressive, boorish male behavior offends
the delicate sensibilities of female sportswriters, then perhaps they
should write about opera.

Secondly, why shouldn't athletes resent
female presence in a locker room? In this civilization, bodily
privacy is probably one of our most fundamental rights. It's always been a given
that locker rooms and dressing rooms are single-sex environments.
Unfortunately, all of this is trashed at the expense of "equal
opportunity," and athletes who don't like getting caught (quite
literally) with their pants down are put on the defensive by the
political correct police.

I am confident that male sportswriters covering women's sports have nowhere near the level
of locker-room access given to female sportswriters who cover men's
sports. Could you imagine the outcry if the privacy of female
athletes was routinely compromised by male sportswriters?

-- Robert Mau


The article on sportswriters quotes Jennifer Frey on "all the amazing statistics about men beating their wives on Super Bowl Sunday and the link generally between sports and violence."

There are many such "amazing statistics": talk of admissions for
domestic-violence injuries increasing 40 percent on Super Bowl Sunday;
women are advised to leave the home that day or have a suitcase packed.
However, none of the claims are backed up by research. The myth has its
origin in the gross distortion of a study done at Old Dominion -- despite the
fact that one of its authors, Janet Katz, when asked whether Super Bowl
Sunday was worse then any other Sunday in terms of domestic violence,
replied simply, "That's not what we found at all".

-- Ben Walsh

San Francisco

Leaving the stage


Sherryl Kleinman did nothing more than "dare" to stop doing
something she wasn't very good at. If the lectern
puts that much fear and dread into her, might I suggest that she's investing it
with a little too much psychological importance? It's only a barrier to an
energizing two-way interaction if you let it be, and it wasn't the lectern
or the room layout that beat Kleinman's creativity down. It was graduate
school -- that vast wasteland that hammers into you the attitude that it's good
and right to have your imagination crushed into powder. Was the podium to blame
for her lackadaisical public speaking and stomach-churning fear, or was it that
she willingly believed that idiot who told her that mediocre teaching was

Kleinman is paid and those students are forced to blow ridiculous sums of
hard-earned money on tuition for a reason. They should get their money's worth
-- and sometimes, no, most times, that translates to listening to the teacher
lecture. If you have an advanced degree in the subject that your students are
trying to learn, damn it, that translates to a responsibility to work on getting
that information in their heads. To shirk that responsibility just because you're
too damned scared or lack the confidence necessary to communicate it with real
verve and energy is a failure -- a failure to live up to what your students need
from you, and what they've paid up to five figures for. Kleinman
may truly believe that she has nothing more to teach her students than they
have to learn from one another, but I bet she still cashes her paycheck.

A good teacher keeps her toolbox filled with all of the instruments at her
disposal: small discussion groups, films and, yes, even the dreaded lecture.
Of course small discussions are more "enjoyable"; they take almost no preparation,
whereas planning a good lecture can take several hours. The plain fact is that
lecturing is very hard work; it can be intimidating, and even exhausting --
especially if you want to do it right. It's dishonest to avoid something
demanding, shortchange your students and disguise your laziness and fear
as an epiphany about the nature of teaching as a whole.

-- Janis Cortese

San Diego

I attended college to learn from someone who knew more than me. It
never dawned on me that I was there for the benefit of the professor. I
believed that engaging myself in my studies, forming (and sometimes
answering) complex questions in my written work and succeeding in
class was all that they expected of me.

The best professors I ever had let it be known from day one why they were
in the front of the class and we were seated. They had mastered their given
field of study and were prepared every day to remind us why. They were
never afraid of simple Socratic give-and-take, but always expressed
confidence in steering the discussion back to their seemingly bottomless
fount of knowledge. That's what kept us coming back.

Every student has horror stories of professors who found a way to make Chaucer unbearable or
the civil rights movement tedious. But the idea that a professor can shrug
off their obligation to pass along as much knowledge as possible on their
students, or worse, to expect that the students teach them, is ludicrous. The
best teachers impart knowledge, always encouraging students to think for
themselves, but never to think for the teacher.

-- Carl Mason

Winston-Salem, N.C.

The muddle people


One more "k" word for you: In North Carolina, KKK members are
referred to as "kluckers." It's derogatory and probably derived from
'kluxers,' but infinitely more delicious.

-- Bert Wiener


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