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Bad sport

Introduction

John Stuart Mill once wrote that the most important battle, as far as the English world was concerned, took place not at Hastings in 1066 but at Marathon in 490 B.C. Although I may be prejudiced, I agree with JSM that the battle of Marathon was all-important because that is where the forces of light, logic, and civilization turned back the forces of darkness and barbarism. The forces of light were, naturally, the ten thousand Athenians under Miltiades. The black hats were the thirty thousand Persians. Once the Athenians had made mincemeat of their opponents, Miltiades ordered his best runner, Pheidippides, to Athens. An anxious populace was waiting for news. In case of a Persian victory, the city would be burned and the populace would head for the hills. Pheidippides did not jog that day. He ran full tilt, and dropped dead as he entered the city gates and pronounced victory.

I’m not sure the marathon ever became part of the ancient Olympic games. Nor am I certain it was Pheidippides who did the running. After all, he was a general, and generals usually send soldiers to perform such tasks. What I am sure of is that Pheidippides’ devotion to duty was commemorated by the modern Olympic fathers, as well it should be. Sport at the turn of this century was not exactly conducted in the spirit of today. Cheating nowadays is viewed as out-smarting one’s opponent. In the good old days, when manners meant more than money, sportsmen were taught the glorification of the ancient Greek ideal, which is a general, harmonious expansion of all the powers that make the beauty and worth of human nature.

Sports are more pervasive today than at any other time in our history. One cannot turn on the idiot tube without viewing saturation coverage of every conceivable sport, maddening an already sports-demented public even more. Increasingly, sports are used as a political vehicle, and the time will come when the goons of the football field, the freaks of the basketball courts, and the thugs of ice hockey will be in Washington deciding our future. What bothers me about this – after all, I’ve been an athlete all my life – is that our present-day sports idols are giving the wrong message to the young. The breakdown of sportsmanship and fair play reflects society, or is it the other way around?

Take for example tennis. It was once known as a game for gentlemen. The tennis rule book was the thinnest since the Puerto Rican social register. This was so because a gent was expected not to cheat or use gamesmanship; thus only the elementary rules were included. No longer. Ever since megabucks entered the game, people such as Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, and others I won’t deign to mention in the elegant pages of NR have turned the once graceful sport into the equivalent of outdoor mud-wrestling. Players now grunt loudly when they hit the ball, more in order to bother their opponent than to enhance their breathing; almost everyone uses foul language. The dress code has suffered the most.

The only tradition that has survived is the game itself, but its elegance and subtlety have definitely gone. The new high-tech racquets have changed the game for the worse. Everything is boom-boom, with lots of topspin but without finesse or touch. This makes for a far less interesting game. Once upon a time, a courageous player of inferior ability could beat his superior opponent through wile and sheer hard work. Now, with the ball being hit as hard as it is today, there’s no chance for anyone lacking brute power. Technology has changed the game completely. A good comparison is baseball, where the major leagues use only wooden bats; thus the continuity in the level of play has been preserved, and the game has not been overpowered by technology.

But far worse has been the general attitude of the players. Money, of course, is partly to blame. The stars seem to forget that the end does not always justify the means. As I write this, I have just seen McEnroe playing A.ndre Agassi and, although losing badly, abusing the umpire with four-letter words I would not use against a Serbian rapist. And every word is being heard because of the mikes situated next to the chair. McEnroe has a lot to answer for.

I first got on the tennis circuit back in 1956, and stayed on it until 1967. I played in Wimbledon and in the Davis Cup for Greece. Back then tennis was fun, and the great players acted like champions on and off the court. So you can imagine my pleasure when suddenly, five years ago, I discovered the joys of veteran tennis. There is a whole, year-round circuit for golden oldies, starting with 45, 50, 55 – my group – 60, 65, and so on up until 80. The bad thing about veteran tennis is that none of us are what we used to be; the good is that McEnroe-like behavior is as rare there as gentlemen are on the pro circuit today.

I choose to play only in tournaments that take place in resorts such as Beaulieu, Deauville, and Le Touquet, all in France. Italy and Hungary have some fine tournaments, but the best by far are in German resorts and in Switzerland. My doubles partner, Nicky Kalogeropoulos, an ex-Wimbledon champion, travels with me, and I cannot describe the fun we have competing without any pressure. Some tournaments offer hospitality, but all the players are there purely for the love of tennis. Almost nobody cheats, and there are referees only for the finals. No linesmen, yet very few bad calls. Which goes to prove that the pros argue for gamesmanship’s sake, nothing more, nothing less.

Nicky and I have won the Greek veterans a couple of times, and this year are going to make an all-out effort for international honors. If we win we’ll be happy. If we don’t, ditto. The ultimate truth is that the amateur glories in his natural talent. The pro glories in his monetary reward. The amateur will try the hardest shot even though he has had less practice. The pro will go for the percentage. It makes more sense, but it makes for a duller world. And a more dishonest one. Pheidippides, wherever you are, come back. I can’t stand watching McEnroe try only when chasing his paycheck.

Abstract:

The only thing that is worse about the pervasiveness of sports in American society, especially its relentless TV broadcasts, is the killer instinct values that pervade the pervasiveness. This is particularly true in tennis where high-tech rackets and money usurp skill and ‘finesse.’

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My 3 keys to better golf

In this article I’ll give you three keys I use for each of several important shots from tee to cup. I will change and vary my keys, but these have worked for me over the years. Although the emphasis here is on keys that I use, I’ll point out common faults I see playing with weekend golfers in pro-ams and outings, and offer antidotes. Where it’s appropriate, I’ll suggest a favorite drill to ingrain a move or feeling. One general key applies to all segments of this article: a good spine angle, which must be consistent from the setup to past impact. I constantly remind myself to maintain a consistent spine angle, as I’m demonstrating with the stretching bar in the small photos on this page. I hope you benefit from these keys!

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I’m a traditionalist, but I’ve converted to a new large-headed driver after considerable experimenting. It gives me the best combination of distance and direction. If you hit your driver too low and slice it, you might be better off driving with a fairway wood or even a middle iron to get the ball in play. My keys:

  • Make a full shoulder turn on the backswing
  • Clear my left side on the downswing
  • Get 90 percent of my weight on my left foot at impact

Iron Play

On iron shots the clubhead should meet the ball during the last moment of its downward arc. My rule of thumb is the ball should be positioned an inch back of where the divot starts. You hit the ball first, then the ground. The biggest problem I see with the average golfer is not getting enough weight onto the left foot when the ball is struck.

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  • Proper alignment of feet to target line
  • Downward arc at impact
  • Weight on left foot at impact

Pitching

People have more trouble with this shot than any other, it seems to me. They practice full swings most of the time, but a pitch shot of 40 to 50 yards requires an abbreviated swing–abbreviated but firm. Along with this, when you practice with this range level (40-50 yard shot), you MUST use vision-supported devices: like GPS mini-devices, golf apps (mobilephone apps) or a rangefinder. It’s my recommendation to use a rangefinder (that really has worked well for me so far), check this website to choose the best rangefinder in the market today. Furthermore, two common mistakes I see are taking the club back too far and then decelerating through the ball, and keeping too much weight on the right foot at impact. Thin and fat shots result.

1 More weight on left side at address

2 Grip down for firmer swing

3 Keep my rhythm smooth

Sand Shots

I’d often rather be in a bunker than in thick rough around the green. It can be an easier recovery shot than you think, especially given the consistency of modern sand. Skip the club through the sand and keep the left arm moving through to a good finish. Don’t forget to dig your feet into the sand for traction.

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Using RangeFinder help improve your Golfing skill – try it!

1 Weight starts left, stays on my left side

2 Align and swing left of target

3 Aim my clubface right of target

Putting

When I’ve putted my best I’ve relied more on feel and touch than mechanics, but good mechanics are essential. I want to practice those mechanics enough that I can get over the ball with a clear mind when it means something. Just focus on the target and make a decisive stroke.

1 Keep my head still until ball is gone

2 Hit ball with sweet spot of putter

3 Accelerate through the ball

RELATED ARTICLE: `I tried it’ – Andy Loesberg Handicap: 16 Warren, N.J.

I’ve been an inconsistent putter, but now that I’m using this drill I’m bringing my putter back on a straighter line and following through the ball more toward the target. I use a heel-shafted putter; perhaps that’s why I tend to bring the putter too far inside the line on the way back. I’ve found that this drill is best for short putts, because on longer putts my putter will naturally track a little bit to the inside on the way back.

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Surfing indoors

OVER a third of the Japanese believe that leisure activities are more important than anything else in life, according to an opinion poll conducted by the prime minister’s office a couple of years ago. And with much more time on their hands, they feel an increased urge to swim, surf, play golf, sail and ski.

This creates a problem. The hatred the Japanese have for the unpredictable means that many of them prefer to avoid outdoor sports rather than run the risk of bad weather, sickness from polluted seas or cancer from the ultra-violet radiation of the sun. To calm their fears, Japan’s developers have come up with a great idea: why not move outdoor sports indoors? Three giant indoor resort complexes have opened during the past year with man-made beaches and snow-capped peaks.

Ocean Dome, which opened its doors last July, forms part of the YEN 200 billion ($1.8 billion) Seagaia complex in Miyazaki on Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s large islands. Its vital statistics give some idea of the engineering feats involved: it has the world’s biggest retractable roof, which is opened and closed according to the weather conditions; 12,000 square metres of sandy beach, crushed from 600 tonnes of stones; an “ocean” six times larger than an Olympic pool, filled with 13,500 tonnes of unsalted, chlorinated water kept at a piping hot 28 degrees C.

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A wave machine produces surf in all shapes and up to 3.5 metres high–big enough to satisfy the professional surfer. To add to the excitement, a sheet of water can be erected, perpendicular to the “ocean”, so that it is possible to surf not only on top of water but through it as well.

Ocean Dome is patronized mostly by 18 to 30 year-olds whose outlook has been heavily influenced by the consumer boom of the 1980s. They are much more demanding customers than their parents, and for YEN 10,000 a day they get not only a completely sanitized environment but changing rooms and 17 restaurants as well. A train service runs to the door.

Ocean Dome is the second man-made beach to open in Japan. The first, Wild Blue in Yokohama, just outside Tokyo, came into operation in June 1992. It is smaller but equally mind-boggling. Its beach is plastic. Because of local building regulations, its roof is too low to let in much natural light, so the place has to be artificially lit.

None of this seems to bother Japanese surfers, who crowd into these resorts in such numbers that they often have to queue to enter the surf. They prefer this controlled environment to the Pacific Ocean, which in both Miyazaki and Yokohama is only a few hundred metres away. NKK, a big Japanese steel maker which is heavily involved in indoor sports development, expects the summer months to be these centres’ busiest period and to account for 40% of their yearly revenue. One reason surfers prefer indoor resorts, it says, is that they discipline crowds well, whereas outdoor beaches are chaotically packed in July and August.

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Ocean sports are not the only ones to have moved indoors. The Japanese became the world’s greatest ski enthusiasts after it was announced that the winter Olympic Games would be held in Nagano in 1998. The country now counts 12.5m active skiers and Skidome is trying to profit from the craze.

Also known as SSAWS (pronounced zausu and standing for spring, summer, autumn, winter and snow), Skidome is marketed as a “full-fledged urban ski area” by Mitsui Fudosan, the property firm which developed it at a cost of YEN 35 billion. It opened last summer and has become a landmark for people travelling from Narita airport to Tokyo. It brags that it is bigger and better than any other inside ski centre–and with good reason. Its slope is 490 metres long and 100 metres wide. A thrilling drop of 80 metres satisfies the standards of the International Ski Federation for parallel slalom competitions. But Skidome aims to cater for beginners as well as professional skiers. The absence of wind, rain and a “too-hot” sun are big selling points.

The biggest selling point of all is that its slope is covered in man-made snow (most man-made slopes have plastic matting). This is topped up every night when the temperature in the dome is lowered to well below freezing, making it the world’s biggest refrigerator. Because the particles of snow are small, the slope provides better skiing than Nagano or Hokkaido, Japan’s favourite ski spots, where the snow is less powdery and blander.

NKK, Mitsui Fudosan, and Phoenix Resort, the property developer behind Seagaia, have other reasons for expanding into indoor sports. A profit squeeze is obliging them to diversify in ways that capitalise on their know-how. NKK says that the idea for the artificial beach and ocean was born out of techno-logy developed for the shipping industry, where wave machines are used to test the stability of ships.

The company is thrashing around for ideas for new indoor sports to develop: mountaineering, scuba diving and even indoor flying are under consideration. In seeking a competitive edge, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has developed “Jet Fly”, the new sport of “body flying”, in which bursts of air shooting up from the floor create an air cushion which keeps people airborne. So perhaps a Peter Pan Indoor Sports Centre is on the cards.

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The state of the leave in world’s quickest street car racing

Introduction

Drag racing is about getting to the finish line before your opponent. Obviously, a top-rated car with powerful engine (sth like: twin-turbochared flat-12 5.4 litre engine) always bring many advantages. That’s the reason why most of racers always have to well prepare for their cars before the races. Such tasks like: fill in fuel, test the car tyres, check out carburetors, completely replace or do cleaning the fuel injector is undoubtedly the most important for every racers. However, a slower car can still possibly beat a quicker car if the driver is quick on the lights. With two races down and six to go, we looked at the reaction times for all the classes to see who drills the Tree and who cuts the zzzzz’s.

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We list out some examples below

  • We began with the average reaction time of each first-round eliminator. Even though all classes run against a .400 Pro Tree, the average is well into the .500-second range. The accompanying chart lists the hard facts for the Moroso and Rockingham races, including the averages for the top three points leaders in each class.

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  • Would you believe a four-class, .575-second average reaction time (as compared to a .492-second average) for two races in NHRA Pro Stock? Granted, comparing “street” racers to professionals isn’t fair, but it’s better than comparing them to NHRA Super Gas racers. At the NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida, the slowest reaction in the last five rounds was .461 seconds!

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To be fair to the WQSCDRS racers, there are mitigating circumstances. With the exception of Pro Street, the cars in the other classes generate lots of suspension travel, and use tall front tires that add to the reaction time (of the car, not the driver). Driving-school master Frank Hawley has illustrated the difference between driver reaction time and vehicle reaction time, so slow-vehicle rollout may be the reason for this.

  • At Moroso, Pro Street’s Mike Moran had a .459-second average for two runs. In Real Street, Dave Henninger averaged a .480-second reaction time for six passes in two races – including a .436 light at Moroso! Kurt Urban is an excellent Hot Street leaver with a .431-second average for three runs at Moroso. In fact, one of the best starting-line races of the year was in the third round of Hot Street at Moroso, where Bob Hanlon cut a .412 to Urban’s .421 reaction time.

On occasion, a racer will leave slow when he knows he has the competition covered. These slower reaction times obviously pull the average down, and tend to occur during the first round. If the reaction time was exceptionally slow, these runs were not counted in our average of the class.

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So where is the “state of the leave” in WQSCDRS racing? Frankly, some of the quickest racers are giving away as much as .200 second on the starting line. Chuck Samuel’s average reaction time for runs over two races was .629! If an enterprising Super Streeter can pull off a .450 light against Samuel, that’s a .179-second advantage off the starting line.

We did not consider bye runs, redlights, or pairings in which the reaction times were exceedingly slow. The Best Reaction Time column lists the best time thus far in each class. You’ll also find the top three points leaders’ average reaction times over several pairings. All reaction times are expressed as a fraction of a second.

For boating elite: Cannes is a yacht time in the city

Introduction

CANNES Stars and studio execs are used to flaunting their boatloads of money. But at Cannes, it’s the boatloads of money men–new and old–that can humble even the most jaded showbizzer.

There’s a parallel business universe floating from Cannes to Cap d’Antibes, largely unaware and uninterested in the slates, sales and even stars that in dustryites in the Cannes Fest and Market are making such a fuss about.

 

They’re the private owners of the biggest, most expensive yachts in the world–and for them, “top 10″ refers not to movie grosses but to their own ranking in the most exclusive club on or off the water.

They’re drawn to the French Riviera in May not simply by the Cannes Fest glamour but as much by the Grand Prix racing scene in Monaco and, well, just to show off the size of their hulls.

As a crew member of one of the. larger yachts sniffed when the subject of the Cannes Fest came up, “I don’t know of any movie stars who can afford these yachts.”

Dominic Byrne, manager director of yacht firm Sunseeker Sales U.K., describes the Cannes Fest/Grand Prix period as “in yachting terms, the largest gathering of net-worth individuals in one place at one time.”

Byrne, whose firm’s yacht Passion was chartered in Cannes for several business parties, noted, “Charters are the option of choice for many high-profile individuals such as movie stars because they can simply go on and off, and there’s usually better security and it’s much easier to remain anonymous.”

But where’s the fun in that, if one-upping your biz competitors is the real game?

Software mogul Larry Ellison, for instance, who has a mega-yacht ready for delivery, is reportedly neck-and-neck with Microsoft/DreamWorks mogul Paul Allen for the top spot.

Allen weighed in at the top of the 2003 “Power and Motoryacht” top 100 list with his 413-foot craft Octopus, which was expected to troll into Cannes late in the festgoing.

As with showbiz info, much of yacht biz into, such as the pricetags and amenities, is closely guarded. To put the grandeur of Octopus in perspective, a huge boat moored along the Cannes shores, the Lady Moura, is 70 ft shorter than Allen’s yacht, and its pricetag is pegged at $100 million.

Scuttlebutt on Allen’s floating palace is that be doesn’t ever need to dirty his deck shoes stepping into Cannes for a movie. Or to cut a record. Octopus boasts both an onboard cinema and recording studio.

Other top 10 club members paddling around the harbor include German retail heiress Heidi Horten, whose Carinthia VII made the No. 9 spot, and Russian oligarch/Chelsea foot ball club owner Roman Abramovich, whose No. 6 spot yacht, Le Grand Bleu was reportedly purchased from Allen.

Even if there are similarities between Yacht World and Movie World, the differences are even more striking.

As one longtime yachtsman observes, “We have our boat shows, which also run for about a week, and we have show dailies just like Variety in Cannes, and I imagine the ratio of serious players to tire-kickers in our markets is 5%-95%.

“But based on the characters I’ve seen in Cannes this week, the 95% here look more like tire-stealers.”

Start by reviewing these basic tandem canoeing strokes

POWER STROKE

PURPOSE: Move the canoe forward,

BOWMAN: Lean slightly forward and extend the lower arm forward and down (keep the elbow straight). Keeping the blade perpendicular to the canoe, catch the water as far forward as you can without losing your balance. Swing the lower arm (with the elbow still straight) down and back in an arc while pushing out with the upper arm. When the lower arm is fully extended behind the paddler, lift the paddle out of the water, turn the grip hand with the fingers down so the blade aligns with the surface of the water, and move back to the starting point with the blade never more than four inches above the water.

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Solidarity with athletes

Introduction

There was a time in this country when 40 percent of all workers were unionized. There was a time when every major newspaper had a reporter for its labor beat. There was a time when “class consciousness” didn’t mean that the wealthy class was conscious of getting more tax breaks.

As unionization and strike activity have dried up, it’s critical for progressives to join the two high-profile labor battles on the horizon in professional sports. NBA and NFL owners both are poised to lock out their players in 2011.

It’s tempting to write off sports labor battles as “billionaires versus millionaires.” And there is no question it’s obscene that we live in a world where A-Rod pulls in a thousand times more than what a teacher makes, but we need to recognize that the players deserve our support.

Pro sports owners are the filthiest of filthy rich, and no exception to the expression that behind every great fortune is a great crime. Billionaire Paul Allen, who co-founded the rapacious monopoly known as Microsoft, owns the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers. The Ford family owns the Detroit Lions. The Fords stained the history books with involvement in everything from union bashing to Nazi collaboration. And don’t forget the former owner of the Texas Rangers, an amiable fellow with loftier ambitions named George W. Bush.

Without a doubt, the players in the major leagues of sport make serious bank. The average salary in baseball is more than $3 million. In football, it is just over $1 million, far more than a lot of people see in a lifetime. But this was not always so.

In 1967, the average baseball salary was $19,000 a year. That same year, the average NFL salary was just $8,000. A typical athlete in 1967 worked in the off-season. Not cushy jobs but jobs that reflected the hardscrabble background of many of the players. One crew of linebackers worked summers in a quarry. Take a second to imagine Peyton Manning crushing rocks, and one can see how much things have changed.

So how did the athletes manage to get the huge salaries we see today? They organized. Yes, the industry expanded and created a bigger pie, but the boom periods were the ’20s and the ’50s, and didn’t automatically mean higher salaries. Instead, it took union power in the late ’60s and early ’70s to change how the sports pie would be cut.

Pro athletes battled a tradition of company-run unions, and fought to end the reserve clause, which bound a player to the team that drafted him with no rights to go anywhere else. When athletes won the right of free agency, they used their solidarity–and the power of the strike–to extract wealth from the bosses.

This year in particular, athletes deserve our support. The NFL and NBA bosses might unilaterally shut the doors in the name of pay cuts. Such a lockout would have huge consequences.

“It’s not just us that gets locked out,” DeMaurice Smith, the new head of the NFL Players Association, told me. “Every stadium worker. Every waiter or waitress picking up an extra shift at the nearby restaurants. Anyone selling concessions while people tailgate. Each and every one of these hard-working folks gets locked out as well.”

Smith’s right. The fact is, a victory for the players is a victory for all of us.

And the actions by pro athletes have the potential to put the issue of labor back at the center of American life, where it belongs. Then we’ll really have reason to cheer our favorite athletes.

Dave Zirin is the author of the new book “Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love.”

Zirin, Dave

Off target? A new Michigan license puts youth hunting in the crosshairs

A new youth hunting license has triggered debate in Michigan. The new permits being issued by the state’s Department of Natural Resources allow children younger than 10 to hunt for certain animals using a firearm, a bow, or a crossbow if they are accompanied by a licensed hunter age 21 or older and follow certain precautions. The new youth license was made possible by a 2011 law that eliminated the state’s minimum hunting age. Previously, children younger than 10 were restricted from hunting.

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Supporters of the license say kids should be allowed to hunt because their participation will help control animal populations. Many people also argue that promoting safe hunting habits at an early age will help reduce accidents. Those who oppose the initiative say that allowing a child to use a weapon–under any circumstances–is simply too dangerous.

Should children be allowed to hunt? Current Events student reporters Elizabeth Duis and Akash Bagaria took aim at the issue.

STICK TO YOUR GUNS

Hunting is a popular sport across the country, but it is also controversial, especially when it involves kids. I believe kids should be allowed to hunt as long as they are doing so under an adult’s supervision.
  • First, if people were to start practicing shooting game sooner rather than later, there would most likely be fewer accidents involving firearms. When people gain experience with firearms as kids, they are less likely to hurt people or cause damage as a result of such accidents.
  • Second, allowing kids to hunt could help control the populations of certain species. In some areas, too many animals roaming around and consuming resources could cause problems. Encouraging more people to hunt those animals could stop that threat.
  • Finally, hunting is a tradition in many families. It can also be a good learning experience. Nolan Ahlden, a 10-year-old from Crescent City, Ill., has been hunting deer and other animals with his father since he was 3 years old. Nolan believes that kids should be allowed to hunt. “Hunting is fun because it gives you a lot of adrenaline and it’s a challenge,” he says.

By Elizabeth Duis

SHOT DOWN

In 2008, 14-year-old Tyler Kales went hunting with his older brother in Washington state. Tyler spotted a distant figure and, thinking it was a bear, fired his gun. It was a 54-year-old hiker, and she was fatally shot in the head. Kids should be restricted from hunting because it is too dangerous. Hunters need to have maturity, concentration, and awareness of their surroundings. Those characteristics take time to develop.

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Many kids feel that because they use toy guns when playing video games such as Call of Duty, they are able to venture out into the woods and shoot game. However, kids are more easily distracted than adults, and they are more likely to use their weapons carelessly. Larry Lipowski, a police officer in Franklin Township, N.J., agrees. “Kids may lack the emotional maturity to handle a firearm and the knowledge to react to an emergency,” he says.

Finally, it is wrong for kids to be exposed to the killing of animals at such a young age. Would you really want to see kids posing next to the creatures they have killed? There are better pastimes for kids than exterminating life for entertainment, such as reading books or playing sports.