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OPINION | MIKE MASTERSON: 'Baptism' scandal

by Mike Masterson | August 24, 2021 at 3:00 a.m.

The revolting practice where some Huntsville Junior High basketball players performed sexually abusive locker-room "baptisms" that prompted a Title IX investigation has claimed a different victim.

Basketball coach Kaleb Houston has resigned, which I suspect surprises few familiar with the circumstances of this sad saga.

I've wondered since initially writing about the scandal two months back where the coach was when these "baptisms" were happening, consisting of holding down younger ones while others placed their naked genitals on the youth's faces in the shower, usually after games with the lights out and doors guarded.

From first hearing about this bizarre practice, I wondered how the team's coach, of all people, couldn't have known what was transpiring. I'm sure others felt likewise.

And now Houston is gone from his position, as a separate Title IX investigation that spread into Huntsville's High School continues.

This year has proven to be especially trying for coaches and parents in the good town of Huntsville. It's only been a couple of months since Edward Beck, the former assistant basketball coach for the Lady Eagles junior high team, also resigned.

Beck, who also taught seventh- and eighth-grade science, confessed to offering to buy alcohol for a female student. One news account of his departure quoted from one of his texts that reportedly said, "Booze together, my treat."

One story said he was surrendering his position at the school in order to be closer to his home.

Safety suffering

When it comes to safety and covid-19, it pains me to pass along the findings by vigilant folks at the WalletHub website who say Arkansas ranks 48th out of the 50 states and District of Columbia in terms of covid safety.

The smidgen of good news (if you pretend to call it that) is that we beat out Mississippi and poor dead-last Louisiana. With infection rates soaring statewide of late, our place in the pecking order isn't difficult to believe.

The personal finance website compared the states and D.C. across five key metrics, including the rates of covid-19 transmission, the number of positive tests, hospitalizations and deaths, and how much of the eligible population was vaccinated.

Vermont ranked as the safest state. followed by Connecticut and Massachusetts. The top 10 were all along the Eastern Seaboard, while the bottom 10 were primarily Southern states.

On a separate and brighter note for Arkansas, WalletHub ranked Arkansas State University-Mountain Home as the sixth best nationally out of the more than 650 community colleges it analyzed.

Their findings were based upon getting the best education at the most inexpensive rates and a total of what it termed 19 key indicators of cost and quality, ranging from the cost of in-state tuition and fees to student-faculty ratio to the graduation rate.

Walmart feedback

Reader comments continue about my column on Walmart's decision to convert checkout lanes to self-checkout stations rather than maintaining its cashier associates to scan and bag their purchases.

Sharon Kornas of Morrilton is among the latest to offer her two cents, which sounds a lot like other responses I've received: "The Walmart here in Morrilton went through a recent $3.7 million remodel, which included check-it-yourself stations. I don't like it. There is one 'assisted checkout.' There are many others who don't like it, and not all of them are my age (never mind).

"I thought big companies did those 'cost/benefit analyses' to see if a change would be the smart way to go. If that was done, someone goofed. Maybe the company Walmart is purchasing all that new equipment from? To me, it would have made more sense to track the number of people who used the express lanes both before and after they were converted to 'self-check' to gauge whether changing all the checkout stands would be a good idea. (This Walmart changed their express lanes some time ago.)

"It's my personal opinion that half of the lanes could be self-check and the other half with associates checking as usual. I think it's going to be a real mess come the holidays. Better do Christmas shopping now."

I'm starting tomorrow, Sharon. Incidentally, please pass the word that there's absolutely no truth to the rumor that I am surrendering this space to launch a new career as a Walmart associate specializing in self-checkout.

Bring on booster

With the covid Delta variant having descended upon our state and nation like darkness on a midnight in February, I'm not only ready but eager to receive my Pfizer booster shot as soon as possible.

I find a momentary needle prick infinitely preferable to a hospital stay without loved ones around, an incredibly invasive ventilator tube shoved down my goozle, or perhaps even worse.

Besides, I'm long past being ready to return to a normal lifestyle, which can only be achieved across society by enough of us being vaccinated.


Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

Print Headline: 'Baptism' scandal

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