Back in my high school days I had the fortunate experience to watch some very good HS basketball.
While I was at O'Dea one of my schoolmates was Clint Richardson who was one of the most amazing athletes I ever had the privledge of watching close up. Over at neighboring Garfield and then at Seattle University I was aquainted with a guy named Keith Harrell who was also one of the all time great players in Washington history.
The most amazing athlete though that I ever watched at that time was a young woman by the name of Joyce Walker. Joyce was the greatest woman's basketball player to ever come out of this state, in fact she was good enough to have starred on any HS boys basketball team of that era if the rules would have allowed her to play. I remember watching her scrimmaging over at the old Green Lake gym and she was just marvelous, and more than held her own with the best men's basketball players of her day. If Joyce was just coming out today she would be on the cover of every sports magazine in the country, and an all star fixture in the WNBA, she was that good.
Fast forwarding to the future Joyce went to LSU, and then went on to be one of the first women to ever play for the Harlem Globe Trotters. Joyce eventually returned home, got into coaching and reached the pinacle in 2005 when her Garfield Bulldogs won the state championship.
She had a chance to move on to the next level which would have been as an assistant coach in division one basketball. The University of Washington wanted to give her that shot as late as last year, but undislosed personal problems, and illness prevented that from becoming a reality.
Today the Seattle Times ran an article today on her recent struggles that make you want to cringe. The Seattle Times has been very good at making people cringe lately. Joyce who once had substance abuse problems before cleaning up in 1990 has suffered a relapse and recently went back to rehab to take care of the problem. I don't know what to think of this article, once again it seems the Seattle Times is selling papers by pointing out the misery and mistakes of others. Once again they are focusing on a black athlete who is a local legend.
It is a very sad story with a potential happy ending because Joyce is seeking the care that she needs. Addiction is a terrible thing, and once your an addict, you are always an addict even if you stop being a user. Recovery and maintenance is a life long path that never truly ends for a person with substance abuse. Things may never be the same after she is finished getting healthy, she may never be allowed to coach the game she loves again at the HS level.
"I love purple and white," Walker says, scanning the championship pictures on the window of an office that used to be hers. "I don't know anything else."
Joyce is as much a part of the social fabric of the school, city, and neighborhood as anyone whoever attended school at that campus. She shares a legacy with other Garfield greats are such as musician and composer Quincy Jones. Joyce is part of the culture, and right or wrong in her past, she deserves a second chance to get it right. Joyce is the epitamy of what the struggle is like growing up in the inner city. She has risen to the greatest heights only to be pulled down by her inner demons. Joyce has a lot of teaching left in her about life, personal demons, and basketball.
Addiction is an illness. It should be treated as any illness, and it shouldn't have the stigma of tje Scarlet Letter that ends your professional life once you have had the courage to recover. People in general should also realize that the recovery is a life long process.
Let's all hope and pray that Joyce stays healthy and gets her second chance in the future, because of all the former students who have walked through the doors of Garfield HS she is among the most special, and gifted.
The Seattle Times
Sure there is a story here, Joyce is a local celebrity, and legend who had the great responsibility of being a high school coach. The article allows her to face her demons publically which is part of her 12 step recovery process. On the flip side the Times takes advantage of this tragic story by using it as another controversial vehicle to sell newspapers. Once again the target is an African American just as it was in the 2000 Rose Bowl series. You can't make excuses for the members of the 2000 team that screwed up, and you certainly can't make excuses for what has happened with Joyce. You can however wonder why the subjects of these recent stories are all black, and why local white athletes who have screwed up just as bad, or worse are simply deemed not as interesting a subject.