Saving Troubled Boys

I don’t know about you but the more I live the more I feel that being rich and privileged is more of a liability than an asset.

Today I woke up to the tragic news of the death of Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach’s son, Garret Reid. He was only 29. He seemed to be on the rebound from drug abuse. He was young. He had money. He died alone. He had a famous father.

It was the second tragic death of a son of a football coach in just a few months. Michael Philbin, the 21 year old son of then offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers (now head coach of the Miami Dolphins), Joe Philbin, died after he fell into a Wisconsin river and drowned. Toxicology reports revealed that he had alcohol and marijuana in his system. He was young. He had money. He died alone. He had a famous father.

Though troubled, one could argue these boys were just kids who were given too many toys, too early, freely. I don’t know anything about their dads or their family situations, but based on the demands of their respective jobs, I can only imagine that they were probably not present enough while their boys were growing up.

Fathers are so quick to think that stuff can replace time with their children, so they lavish them with gifts that are cheap substitutes for a chat over an ice cream cone.

But many fathers are also quick to make reparations when they realize the damage they have done. They modify their schedule. They change jobs. They seek help, they reach out to their boys who by now think they don’t need a dad. Their dad’s efforts are often met with derision by sons who by now believe their suffering has given them the right to a sullen existence, free from the constraints of a father, even a re-constituted one.

Garret seemed to have reached his lowest in 2007 when he was sentenced to about two years in jail for a high speed car crash that he caused while high on heroin. During his sentence, he told the judge, “I don’t want to die doing drugs. I don’t want to be that kid who was the son of the head coach of the Eagles, who was spoiled and on drugs and OD’d and just faded into oblivion.” On the same day his younger brother Britt was sentenced to jail for a separate incident.

That was apparently enough for coach Reid to get the message. The father of five took a leave of absence during the off season in 2007 to spend more time with his family. But it seems that it was already too late. How sad.

Far it be from me to blame the fathers for the woes of their sons, but I do have questions: Were there early signs of trouble that were ignored? Were there other addiction problems in the household? Were mom and dad in agreement about how to run the household? Did one undermine the authority of the other? (I am asking this last question because I know of families where mom, in attempting to compensate for dad’s absence, pretty much gives the children whatever they want and never questions their behavior. I call this a sure proof way to raise a criminal).

I am writing this post as a warning to fathers who have sons who may be straying right now. I hope you will do whatever you can to change your ways and open the door of your heart to let your son in. I know men who have done it. I am not going to say it is easy, but it is worth every effort for the sake of the many boys out there who can still be saved.

Ivanildo C. Trindade