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Jumping to Conclusions in Connecticut

Can you accurately judge the motivations of others in five photos or less?

 

There’s a whole lotta jumping to conclusions going on in Connecticut.

Lisa Lindley, the once-celebrated girls lacrosse coach at , is accused of during a recent championship match versus . Regional news outlets published photos of the incident, which show Lindley, appearing enraged, lifting herself off the ground and knocking the player backward as other players walk nearby, apparently oblivious.

In another embarrassing public incident, the New Canaan in a highly charged online debate over whether or not the mother of four children should have been arrested for for roughly thirty minutes. While the mother was away, one of the young children wandered into a neighbor’s yard. The neighbors called the police to report the incident, who subsequently arrested the mother.

Viewing the pictures associated with the Lindley event or reading the basic details of the New Canaan arrest, it’s easy to draw fast conclusions. Lisa Lindley should be fired — now! — many Darien Patch readers wrote, because what kind of lunatic puts her hands on a child? And what’s wrong over in New Canaan, where apparently choice one when a kid wanders into your yard is calling the police — instead of simply walking the child back home and offering to babysit?

But truth’s publicity department doesn’t work with the same sense of urgency as the Internet rumor mill or even journalism itself.

In New Canaan, for example, the Patch comment thread later revealed that the neighbor of the arrested mother lived on a pond. The child had wandered over on multiple prior occasions and the neighbors were at wits’ end over the child’s safety, because other children and animals had drowned in there in the past. Suddenly, what was once obvious is now unclear — and in the meantime, the reputations of the arrested mother and the neighbor were in online tatters.

The photos of Lisa Lindley make her look bad. But let’s pretend that the dialogue that accompanies the photos sounds something like this:

HEY! GOALIE! Where’s your head? Where’s my star? WE NEED YOU RIGHT NOW! YOUR TEAM IS DEPENDING ON YOU AND YOU’RE NOT FOCUSING! This is it, your last chance before graduation to show your teammates that you can do your best, AND YOU’RE LETTING YOURSELF AND ME AND YOUR FRIENDS DOWN. Is this how you want to leave Darien, on the coattails of a sad-sack effort? YOU’RE BETTER THAN THAT! REMIND GREENWICH WHY WE’RE THE BEST TEAM IN THIS TOURNAMENT! NOW GET TO WORK!

Suddenly, the photos don’t seem so damning, do they? But those who have played competitive sports at a high level know that these words and the intense way in which they’re delivered are the currency of top coaches around the world.

As a high school athlete in upstate New York, my teammates, coaches and I enjoyed a tremendous amount of success. I can’t recall that our coaches ever touched us as the Lindley photos demonstrate, but they were definitely tough. They pushed our limits physically and forced us to focus and leave our entire effort on the court and field at every game and at every practice and with no excuses—but we loved them for it and cared about winning desperately.

One coach in particular — Coach Cleve, I’m talking to you — expected nothing less than excellence every single day. Her caring and commitment to us and our sport brought us all the way to the state tournament. And I’m certain that every member of that team knew what teamwork was about by the time graduation day came.

Commentary columnists expect and enjoy the debate that comes from the sometimes-incendiary words we write to inform and entertain. But before we jump to conclusions about local news and engage in hurtful, personal online attacks, let us remember that these "debates" chip away not only at reason, but at the communities in which we live. 

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