December 15, 2010

The boy who died of football

Last night, I was able to sit down quietly and read SI's multi-page feature on the death of high school football player Max Gilpin written by Thomas Lake. Naturally the entire story would impossible to post here and is also probably illegal. So instead of that, I would highly recommend that everyone go out and buy the Dec. 6 edition of Sports Illustrated.

Let me give you some background info on Gilpin. In August 2008, Gilpin collapsed during football practice at Pleasure Ridge Park High School in August 2008 when temperatures were around 94 degrees. He had a temperature of 107 when they took him to the hospital and he died three days afterwards. In January 2009, Gilpin's head football coach, David Jason Stinson, was charge with reckless homicide for his death.

He was acquitted in the criminal case and settled out of court in the civil case, Lake paints a very interesting picture of Stinson.

Going through court documents, eye-witness accounts and several interviews, Lake was able to recreated Gilpin's final day on earth. For the most part it appeared to be a very candid, non-slanted, heavily detailed account of what happened. I'd say that Lake's account really points out that this football death was more of a freak occasion than Stinson's fault.

Lake went so far as to estimate how many "gassers" the football team was running that day and said that Gilpin probably ran a mile and a half before collapsing. That's a tough practice, but in the back of my head, that's not a cruel punishment.

With that said, Stinson's own actions make him come across rather badly.

Lake does a fine, fine job presenting his case, presenting where Stinson came from and really exonerating him of blame.

But Stinson is an ass.

In that entire article, there was no remorse for the kid passing. I'm unsure Stinson even knew the name of the kid before this incident. When Gilpin passed out, Stinson was apparently unaware of it, and it was parents and assistant coaches that tended to him.

When charges were brought up against him, the area was hit with a series of natural disasters that Stinson thought was god keeping him off the front page.

By the way, Stinson is a devout Christian, but apparently he had no tears to spill for Gilpin.

I'm fine with head coaches being hard asses. I'm fine with them running a tough practice. I fine with them teaching character. By most accounts, Stinson did nothing wrong but I'd say he's handled the entire situation wrong.

A kid died, and while Stinson shouldn't be responsible, he should understand that his practice killed the kid.

Gilpin was on medication and took creatine, which were contributing factors, and some witnesses say he was sick before practice. He pushed on though because he wanted to please his father and his coach, what teenager wouldn't want to do that?

In his interview with Stinson, he comes off like John Wayne but without the good guy attributes. You can practically feel the cocky coach attitude rolling off of him.

I'm not asking for a conviction, but come on dude, these kids look up to you, you're entrusted to them and if one of them dies, you might want to show a little sadness. Just saying.


  1. I thought that was a good article as well, Brandon. Is it just me or is SI running a lot of dead people features lately? Jill Costello's story (if you're looking for a tear-jerker this is it) ran the week before this issue (or within two issues) then there was this story and last week's issue had Erica Blasberg's story.

  2. The last like 10 pages of the magazine have been the best. I love when they either go historical or focus on a story that isn't professional or college at all.

  3. Brandon,
    Just curious how you know that Coach hasn't shown any saddness or remorse? The feature was 9-10 pages and covered a span of 27 months. Do you think that something may have gotten left out because of overlooked details? You don't know Coach and you have never spoken with him. Maybe he is sad for Max's death but not at the practice. Take some time and do some research. Many things went into this terrible tragedy and most of it falls directly on the shoulders of someone else other than Coach. How do you know Coach has said how sad he was or how sorry he was to lose Max? You don't. You speculate like everyone else and have no real facts. Just another superficial report and also wanted to mention to you that the photo of Max you are using is copyrighted and you don't have any credits or premission from the photographer. I know this because my brother is the photographer.

  4. Support Our Stinson, I do believe he was simply discussing the article that was ran in SI. Not doing his own research to say, write a book. Or perhaps is going to write a book. And I've followed this blog for a long time now and I'd much rather read a book by these guys than by you.

  5. Still a little fuzzy how Coach's practice killed Max? You state that it didn't seem that harsh or that long and by SI's account the running was very minimial compared to what it could have been. The kids could have practice for 9 hours that day but were out there less than 2. Are you just saying that a kid died because of a practice or that the practice was the cause of death? Either way, the medical evidence provided at trial does not support this nor does the eyewitness testimony. I do appreicate your professionalism in removing the photo and for that it tells me something about you and that is you are different from the "reporters" in Louisville.

  6. This story is very nice such that it really happen in real world in other place also. I was totally shocked with this story. It was very interesting as you have shared this.

  7. Such a sad article. Yet I do believe some coaches do push kids a little too hard. Just saying because of experience.