On the basketball floor, all of life's spoils seem possible. All of the bad breaks that Eddie Rogers has been dealt fly away like so many notebook pages blowing in the wind. For a couple of...
On the basketball floor, all of life’s spoils seem possible. All of the bad breaks that Eddie Rogers has been dealt fly away like so many notebook pages blowing in the wind.
For a couple of hours, he can dive after loose balls. He can fight through picks. He can run an offense and forget the long days away from many of his 11 siblings or the peripatetic movement, back and forth, from one parent to another.
“When I’m playing basketball I escape a lot of the problems I have off the court,” Rogers said, sitting in an empty gym at Franklin High School. “Like living from hotel to hotel, from shelter to shelter. I wouldn’t say basketball means everything to me, but it’s like my second love. I put my family first and whatever follows, follows. And the first thing that follows after my family is basketball.”
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Recently, Rogers, a senior guard at Franklin, moved in with his father and three of his siblings. The pain he feels from the separation from the rest of his family is as real as a migraine.
“I think about my brothers and sisters a lot,” he said. “I talked to my mother this week and she told me she was moving to another hotel. But her voice makes me nervous because the way she says it, she doesn’t know where she’s going. That hurts inside to hear something like that.”
On the court, life is less complicated. Solutions to problems can be diagrammed. Screens are set. Traps are sprung. Fast breaks are started.
Basketball feels democratic. Work hard and you’re rewarded with a place on the roster. Come to practice on time, listen to the coaches and you get to make the road trips, to Palm Springs, Calif., and to Spokane.
“When you make a good play, it makes you feel good,” Rogers said. “But even when I don’t play, it still feels good because you’re part of something. You’re a part of a bunch of people who care about you. It isn’t just winning and losing. It’s knowing that people care about you.”
Eddie Rogers is among the best our society has to offer. He is a high-school senior who intuitively has learned about responsibility. The oldest of 12 kids, he has become a surrogate parent. He offers some hope at a terribly unstable time by giving them someone to model.
He doesn’t wallow in his bad luck. He doesn’t use it as a crutch, an excuse. He is making something good out of something most of us barely can comprehend. He honors his parents by getting above-average grades. His a role model for his seven sisters and four brothers by balancing the demands of school and ball.
“He’s always been driven and motivated,” Franklin coach Jason Kerr said. “He’s mature beyond what his real age is, and I think a lot of that is because of the adversity that’s been thrown towards him. He’s done so much good for this school and the program.”
But Rogers has needed help.
Every year Franklin plays games outside of Seattle. This year, the tab for the trips was $700 per player. Several days before the deadline to pay for the trip, Rogers sheepishly confided to Kerr that he didn’t have the money.
Because he knew how important the trips would be for Rogers and how important Rogers who probably is Franklin’s 12th man is to the team, Kerr sent an e-mail to all of his friends in the game. His hope was that 70 people would contribute $10 apiece.
He got much more.
“Financially, I always struggle,” Rogers said, “so hearing that so many people did what they did for me puts a smile on my face. Not just because they did it, but knowing that there are people out there who care about me and understand what I’m going through.”
Kerr’s e-mail grew like a chain letter. Not only did he raise the funds for Rogers’ trips, there was enough money left over so that Kerr and the coaches will be able to bring Christmas to all of Rogers’ siblings.
“He’s been running around this week getting all of their sizes,” Kerr said. “I think he’s been a little overwhelmed by all of it.”
His life could be overwhelming, but Rogers doesn’t dwell on the difficulties. There is too much work to do and so many people depending on him.
Asked about his goals, tears rolled down his cheeks. His voice cracked. He said his dreams used to be all about him. He wanted to be an NBA player. He wanted fame, money and glory. He wanted his 15 minutes on “SportsCenter.” But now?
“I want my family back together,” he said softly. “I want to help my mother and my brothers and sisters. I want to go to college, maybe get a degree in accounting, and help them.
“I have to set the right path so the rest of them can follow. I’ve seen too many people who chose the other way, like a few uncles. My grandmother had 13 kids and not all of them took the right path, so I figured I’d try something different and be my own leader. And being on this team has helped.”
Coming through Franklin’s successful basketball system, he always paid attention to the upperclassmen. In addition to Kerr’s unselfish support, he has had teachers like former players Aaron Brooks, Anthony Grant, Percy Washington and John Rogers.
“Every year, I’ve played here, there’s always been somebody that I’ve modeled,” he said. “See how they’re acting off the court, on the court. And if I like what I see, with the books, on the court, a good attitude on the court, I try to make myself like that, taking pieces from everybody like that.”
All of the pieces have come together into one wonderful teenager. Eddie Rogers is going to make it. And all of us should celebrate his every success.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org.