Sunday, September 18, 2011

How did this one get past me?

Sometime in May of this year Sebastian Telfair's little brother, Ethan, who plays guard for the Lincoln High School Railsplitters, was arrested. The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office said it was charging Telfair with criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree and bribery in the third degree, both felony charges. He was arrested not while running around with gang bangers, but with a couple of members of his own basketball team. Police found three loaded hand guns in an open backpack in a courtyard behind the O'Dwyer Gardens Houses on West 33rd St. near Surf Ave. in Brooklyn with the culprits somewhere in the vicinity and acting suspiciously.

When taken in to the 60th Precinct, Telfair made a bad situation worse by allegedly offering one of the officers a bribe in exchange for letting him go, which if true, makes it seem that he was indeed involved in this sordid mess. These are the details we have so far. I scoured the internet and various newspapers and the incident has been kept very low-key considering the players involved and the history of the Telfair family and their apparent love of guns.

Let's get to the facts-Ethan Telfair plays for the same coach, Dwayne "Tiny" Morton, who cascaded onto the scene during his tenure as Sebastian Telfair's high school coach during what was a whirlwind tour of egomania and unfettered greed by all involved. Sebastian's senior year was eloquently captured in the documentary "Through the Fire", where little brother Ethan was seen as a nine-year old prospect who would assume the mantle of "Coney Island's Next Basketball King". Except that it didn't happen. Ethan is a 5'10" junior who averaged a whopping 1.8 points and 1.6 assists in very limited playing time last season for the PSAL Brooklyn AA regular-season champions. The Railsplitters won the borough crown and reached the PSAL Class AA title game, where they lost to rival Boys & Girls High School.

At this stage of the game both Sebastian and cousin Stephon Marbury were already players who garnered national attention through their participation in various cutthroat AAU summer leagues. Ethan has not. There hasn't been any breakout performances on any stage for him, no cover stories in magazines like SLAM! or Sports Illustrated, just mediocrity as a role player on a very good NYC public high school team. But this isn't what irks me about the situation. What should concern everyone involved is how Ethan Telfair found himself anywhere near a bag full of guns in a Coney Island housing project in the first place.

This raises some very basic questions about wealth, fame, and the self-destructive hold street culture has over inner-city families. First of all, Ethan should be living in some leafy suburb surrounded by trees and cul-de-sacs. Instead, he is still in the same ghetto-ass apartment his family swore they would leave the second Sebastian was drafted into the NBA in the summer of 2004. Armed with a shiny new multi-million dollar sneaker deal and on the verge of becoming the 13th overall pick by Portland, Sebastian finally hit the big-time. So why did his family stay in Brooklyn?

There are better places to live in the borough. Why stay in the very place where during Sebastian's senior year a couple of cats were gunned down practically on the Telfair's doorstep? Is the intoxicating smell of urine, fecal matter and weed whenever they open their front door so transfixing that they just can't live without it? Can they not live without being within sight of ghetto losers with nothing to do with their lives but cause trouble until they either get shot or arrested?

Ethan spent his freshman year at a boarding school in Albany, New York but decided it wasn't for him. I have no idea what he missed about being in Brooklyn, but one can assume it wasn't the broken crack vials and used condoms that one encounters upon entering the staircase of his building. Or the graffiti that greets you when you enter the lobby imploring all and sundry to "suck my fucking dick".

If it was to play for Morton at Lincoln High due to the strong bond between the coach and the family, fair enough. But the family has enough money to move elsewhere, given the fact that a stray bullet shot in "da 'hood" rarely finds its' intended mark. It's always an innocent bystander or a person misidentified as the actual target who gets it. So why take the risk?

It also needs to be said that during Telfair's senior year at Lincoln, he had an older brother who was jailed on homicide charges. He was released when no one came forward to identify the actual shooter. His father also did time years ago for manslaughter, again for using s gun to settle a dispute. And Sebastian himself has been plagued by misfortunes due to carrying weapons, once while attempting to board a team plane and another time when he was caught speeding in the Bronx where officers found a pistol in the car.

Unless Ethan gets taller, finds a jump shot (something that has eluded older brother Sebastian for all of his seven years in the NBA) and miraculously steals playing time from the much more heralded Isaiah Whitehead (a 6'4" sophomore who is looking to be the next Coney Island prospect to garner big-time publicity) this kid is shooting towards basketball irrelevance faster than you can say "you have the right to remain silent".

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