Thursday, February 21, 2008

Joyce Walker

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.


prrbrr said...

johnb, well said. I too am a Garfield alum, but never got to see her play.
Interesting to me, I also noted her counselors advised her not to do this
interview so early in the process, yet the Times still ran it. I hope she can recover for her lifetime, but it is an addiction. Go Bulldogs

John Berkowitz said...

The thing about the Times that bothers me is that they had little concern about what was best for Joyce personally from a psychological standpoint. The story was going to come out one of these days, but it would have been nice if they had waited for her recovery.

Anonymous said...

She didn't have to agree to the interview. Get over it.

Anonymous said...

Why do some people always have to make it an issue of race? It sure gets old.

John Berkowitz said...

Why do some people ignore the obvious? The issue has been been brought up by quite a few other people recently not just me.

Let me see we have the four UW football players, Spider Gaines, and now Joyce Walker...what do they all have in common?

In the case of Spider, and Joyce there are similarities in the way those investigative stories were developed. In both cases it seems that the subjects of those investigations were taken advantage of.

To me a lot of investigative journalism today is more of a confidence game.

John Berkowitz said...

Yaz - I think you are pretty naive on how all this works.

The interview was granted because the Times was going to run a story on it whether she agreed to be interviewed or not.

The reporters typically pressure the subject of the interview with the reasoning that they will be able to tell their side of the story, and it will look much better than if they decline to comment.

I think Joyce, or anyone in that position has enough baggage on the table at this point to deserve a little privacy until they are able to get themselves back together.

Her counselors felt the timing was bad for an interview because of the stress involved. Pretty much the Times was waiting at the door of the rehab center for her.

John Berkowitz said...

Yaz - All posts that include name calling get deleted. However I posted feedback to your post above.

Rob said...

i think the article was positive overall. a lot of people misunderstand addiction and the more avenues there are to expose people to the recovery process the better. she said herself that she feels shame is good for her and while i understand why her counselors might have felt her giving an interview this soon into recovery, but a lot of the article focused on the overwhelming support she has from the community, and that is not a very common reality for many addicts. as to what spyder gaines, jerramy stevens, curtis williams, jeremiah pharms and joyce walker all have in common, well, they're all athletes. if you read stories from the section on politics you might assume the times had a vendetta against aging white men. if you can compile a list of caucasian local sports stars who are well known and have had personal and legal troubles, then i might reconsider my opinion, but as of right now i don't feel your case holds up.

John Berkowitz said...

Its all about the debate, and that is what keeps things interesting.

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