Penalizing player who was shot was a bad call

MICHAEL OLESKER

September 10, 1992|By MICHAEL OLESKER

Early on the morning of Aug. 30, Buddy Edmond opened the Sunday edition of this newspaper and saw the stuff of youthful dreams.

He saw himself.

Sitting in his East Baltimore living room, he saw a big photo and a long, glowing story with thrilling tributes from people attesting to his wondrous abilities on a football field.

"I felt so proud," he was saying the other day.

It lasted about 24 hours.

The very next day, the geniuses who run such things did a rewrite of Edmond's dreams: Forget the story in the paper, forget senior year of football, forget staying in playing shape for college.

The story in the Sunday paper told of Edmond's spectacular athletic exploits for Patterson High School, and all the glory expected in his upcoming senior year, and all of the overtures from college coaches around the country who wanted Edmond to play quarterback for them.

On Monday, as Edmond trotted off the field after practice, he was summoned by Coach Roger Wrenn.

"There could be a problem," said the coach.

The problem is simple: On March 10, 1990, as Edmond was getting out of a car by a friend's house in East Baltimore, he was shot in the right side of his abdomen. The bullet missed his spine by an eighth of an inch, then exited his back.

Edmond looked down and saw a hole in his pants. Bleeding badly, he fell to one knee, then struggled back into the car. The friend drove him to Francis Scott Key Hospital. With his life slipping away, Edmond underwent surgery for eight hours while his family was told that he might not make it. Three weeks later, there was another eight-hour operation, and again they all held their breath.

Another five minutes in the street, the doctors said, and he wouldn't have lived. As it was, he spent six weeks in the hospital and lost 60 pounds, missed the remainder of the school year and had to repeat the 10th grade.

And there's the rub.

Edmond played one year of junior varsity and three years of varsity football for Patterson. The Maryland Scholastic Association says athletes can play four varsity seasons, which would allow Edmond another season of athletics at Patterson.

But the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association has slightly different rules: four years of athletics, period, with no distinction regarding varsity or jayvee.

And, as of Sept. 1, city athletes come under the rules of the MPSSAA, whose lengthy list of initials is apparently exceeded only by its insensitivity.

Coach Wrenn appealed to the association's top officials and to Baltimore school Superintendent Walter Amprey, who met with Dr. Frank Thomas, Patterson's principal.

Final word came in a phone call from Thomas to Edmond's parents. Buddy picked up the phone in mid-conversation and heard the bad news: All appeals were denied. They were afraid his case might set a bad precedent.

The parents, Charles and Mary Edmond, were enraged. Buddy went for a long walk through the neighborhood, wondering why the fates had conspired against him.

"I feel heartbroken," he was saying a few days later, sitting at Sam's Hoagies on Eastern Avenue, where he works part-time. "All my friends are at Patterson. I figured that's where I'd graduate."

Instead, he's transferred to Mount St. Joseph. Because St. Joe is a private school, Edmond can play another season, though he's already missed one game and will have to learn his new team's system.

But that begs a bigger question: Why is Edmond being penalized for being shot?

The rule itself -- limiting students to four athletic seasons -- makes a certain sense. It's aimed at kids who fool around academically and tells them they won't reap any athletic benefits in the process.

But here's a kid who was already victimized once -- and now the school system's doing it to him again.

We're not dealing with someone who plays ball simply because it's fun. For Edmond, it's a potential future. At 6-feet-2 and 226 pounds, he's got college coaches salivating. First team All-Metro at quarterback last fall, he's received more than 400 letters from college scouts.

Eight months ago, he had to change his home phone to an unlisted number. The scouts were calling too late at night.

In his two varsity seasons, Edmond passed for nearly 3,000 yards and 29 touchdowns, rushed for 400 yards and averaged about 40 yards per punt. Also, playing both ways, he starred at linebacker.

Those are numbers to make a kid dream about scholarships to pay his way through college and even, long-distance, about the possibility of a professional career. Street and Smith's, the football bible, calls him one of the country's top prospects.

In the face of all that, losing a year of football means a lot. The body loses its fine tune. College coaches lose a little interest. The game passes you by a little bit.

The only choice was to transfer.

"I'm happy I got into St. Joe's," Edmond said the other day, as he rose to race off for a day of orientation at the Southwest Baltimore school. "It's a good school. But it's not where I expected to be going."

Tomorrow, his old Patterson teammates open their season, playing Ball High School in Frostburg. Edmond will attend class at Mount St. Joe. But his heart will be elsewhere.

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