Taking a stand when it’s good and bad all at once
(Editor’s note: All the characters in this column are fictitious) Guy walks into his local taproom and is gratified to see his favorite spot open.
“April, how’s your day going. I’d like the Boojum IPA, Hop Fiend.”
April fills the glass and wipes the bar in front of Jocko before putting down a coaster and setting the beer on top.
“Have you heard about the local football coach who resigned?” Jocko asks.
April tucks the end of the bar rag into the back pocket of her jeans, sweeping one hand through her hair and tucking it behind her ear. Jocko caught the slight, almost impulsive eye roll at the mention of the subject. For most patrons, April would just nod and get back to work, but not with Jocko. He liked the banter between them, and so did April. She knew he was truly interested in her opinion.
“I hear a truckload of women accused him of making sexually suggestive remarks that were inappropriate,” she says. “So yeah, I heard about it, as has everyone around here.”
Jocko, who’s nearing retirement age, has a well-known appetite for local news, local gossip and good craft beer. He just shakes his head.
“Yeah, some are saying it’s too bad he didn’t fight the charges, that the accusations weren’t that bad and that he was a good football coach, and the kids loved him,” muses Jocko, still shaking his head back and forth and pursing his lips in a gesture that indicates “maybe really bad, maybe not so bad.”
April puts her hands on her hips before replying.
“Seems everyone knows you just can’t get away with that stuff in this day and age,” she says. “If it’s as many women as I’ve heard, I gotta think the guy’s a bit creepy.”
Jocko listens, crosses his arms and nods in agreement. “You’re right, but a lot of mothers on social media and even at the school board meeting are defending him. Say he’s been good for their boys, that he instills good values about hard work and sacrifice.”
April laughs out loud, catching Jocko by surprise. She walks down to the only other customers, a couple at the other end of the bar wanting to pay their bill. She returns, a bemused look on her expressive face.
“Hell, if I had somebody working at my establishment that messed with that many of my girls — customer or employee — I wouldn’t ever let him back in here, so surely you can’t accept it in a school setting. Who says you can’t be a great coach and mentor but still a jackass toward women. No one’s perfect, we all got flaws, some worse than others,” she says.
Jocko’s face shows relief at her comment. April sees his point, that there can be some benefit in what the coach does. In her mind, though, if the accusations are true then the bad outweighs the good.
“How’s your son?” Jocko asks. April knows he’s trying to change the subject, but she’s not biting.
“Well, interestingly enough, he’ll be in the ninth grade next year and wants to play football at Tuscola,” says April. “He’s growing up fast, seems all he cares about are video games, sports and now girls.”
“Wow, has he asked you about the coach and what’s going on? Surely the kids are talking about it,” Jocko offers.
“Yeah, we’ve had several discussions, something that’s all on me to handle since dad’s out of the picture, as you know,” April said, exhaling a long breath, one hand swinging the rag, the other arm extended to the bar. “As he’s becoming a young man, it’s provided a real-world opportunity to talk about some important stuff: how to treat women, how life often throws you a curve ball you weren’t expecting, how people can be flawed and talented all at once. I told him there’s almost always a clear line between right and wrong when it comes to relationships and even teenage banter.”
“I’d say you’ve got a pretty good handle on this. That’s gonna mean good things for your son,” says Jocko. “Too bad those people on social media won’t just let this play out and keep quiet.”
“Look, if I fire someone from this place, I won’t tell you why it happened. Why does anyone expect a state organization like the school system to provide lots of details on human resource issues? Hell, they’d get sued in a heartbeat,” says April. “He was accused of acting inappropriately by multiple women, he decided to resign rather than fight, case closed. Don’t know why others are fighting his fight for him if he chose not to.”
Beer finished, Jocko lays some bills on the bar.
“Gotta go, time to start dinner so it’ll be ready when my wife finishes her yoga class.”
“Tell her hi, and that I hate I missed that buti class,” says April, with a smile and a wave. “We’ll talk again soon.”