published Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

The State Champs

about Clay Bennett...

The son of a career army officer, Bennett led a nomadic life, attending ten different schools before graduating in 1980 from the University of North Alabama with degrees in Art and History. After brief stints as a staff artist at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Fayetteville (NC) Times, he went on to serve as the editorial cartoonist for the St. Petersburg Times (1981-1994) and The Christian Science Monitor (1997-2007), before joining the staff of the ...

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carlB said...

You picked up on this in a hurry.

Every school in the US probably has been going through this every year for many years. Very good!

December 8, 2010 at 12:42 a.m.
acerigger said...

Teens drink beer? why is this a problem?

December 8, 2010 at 1:12 a.m.
librul said...

Teens kill and get killed as a result.

December 8, 2010 at 3:04 a.m.
woody said...

Acerigger, if anyone has to spell it out for you...well.

Continuing..teens and stupidity are synonymous. They always have been and always will be. It is a fact of life.

The difference between those who make it to adulthood and those who don't are the ones closest to them, charged with seeing to it one stupid mistake doesn't lead to a fatal mistake.

And, for Heaven's sake, please, no one try to convince me or anyone else here it is different today than it ever has been before. Teens are teens..are teens..are teens.

Teens and stupidity are synonymous..remember that..and help save a life.

Thank you, Woody (a former teen)

December 8, 2010 at 6:12 a.m.
bandmom said...

This editorial cartoon is inappropriate. High school students make mistakes and it is our place as parents and educators to correct them and help them learn. In this case, that has been done. Surely you are not foolish enough to suggest that Signal Mountain High School is the only school that has ever had such an occurence. The incident involved a handfull of players out of 60. It is unfair to characterize the team this way. Has anyone on the TFP staff ever made a mistake and had a cartoon published singling them out?

December 8, 2010 at 7:15 a.m.

The only difference today, Woody, is the consequences. Society has become much less forgiving. The degree of punishment meted out to teens today, as opposed to 20+ years ago, is enormous. Throwing an egg at a car or toilet-papering a house will land teens with felony vandalism charges now. A minor drug possession arrest will preclude students from federal and state aid for college.

December 8, 2010 at 7:19 a.m.
moonpie said...

The scandal that isn't... yet.

This certainly would be toon worthy if adults were promoting or covering up this activity. However, if the recent reports are accurate, there was more smoke than fire on this topic.

December 8, 2010 at 7:26 a.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

Everything going on in the world today and this is what interests clay?

I guess if you strictly forbid yourself from poking fun at our current POTUS you have lost 90% of your material and are reduced to attacking teenagers.

Way to go little man.

December 8, 2010 at 7:32 a.m.
OllieH said...

This isn't just about a few kids drinking beer at a party, this is about an effort to suppress this story until after the Signal Mountain football team had played the championship game.

Although the Signal Mountain Principal now seems to distancing himself from his initial suspicions of a cover-up of this incident, you have to wonder why an event that happened a week before the title game, wasn't reported until a few days after the championship was won.

December 8, 2010 at 7:57 a.m.
Allison12 said...

Clay, you are an absolute jerk for diminishing the accomplishments and dedication of so many over one or two student having a beer incident. This is so unfair to portray these winners and state champions in this light. Of course, anything for a buck.

December 8, 2010 at 8:56 a.m.
ibshame said...

Come on now. If this had been a championship team at Howard or Brainerd there is no way it wouldn't have gotten coverage almost on a daily basis. Everyone in this town knows it. I'm sorry those few on the team were reckless but let this be a lesson to all: Think before you do something stupid.

December 8, 2010 at 9:13 a.m.
freepressreader said...

I'm normally not offended by your cartoons, but I found this one to be a bit sophomoric, and beneath the attention of an "editorial" cartoonist. Did your teenage son give you the idea for this one?

December 8, 2010 at 9:14 a.m.
emersonbigns said...

Would it be ok for the basketball team to have their keg party now and then wait til after the season to get suspended???? The timing of the incident and the athletes involved is the only reason this makes it a story.

December 8, 2010 at 9:17 a.m.
uprazor said...

Good job Clay! I thought it was funny. Some folks should lighten up a bit.

December 8, 2010 at 9:34 a.m.
mmlj said...

Count the number of beer commercials in the next NFL football game you watch. And we're surprised?

Perhaps these young men should take the exemplary leads Vince Young and Cortland Finnegan have set for how to conduct themselves properly.

December 8, 2010 at 9:50 a.m.
blackwater48 said...

The cartoon doesn't diminish the team's accomplishment. It ridicules a few for being stupid.

Nobody likes to be laughed at, and I think the 'incident' may make teenagers realize that drinking has consequences, even when it doesn't involve a fatal car crash.

Is there a difference between sneaking a beer behind the garage and public intoxication? Sure. Maybe that's the point.

December 8, 2010 at 9:55 a.m.
WEBMAN said...


December 8, 2010 at 10:16 a.m.
orangenblack said...

If I had a son on the team and his jersey number was shown here and he was not involved in this incident. I would be MAD very MAD!!!

Boys if your on that team and have done nothing wrong hold your heads HIGH! Others that were involved ask forgiveness and still hold your heads high. This WILL NOT be last mistake you make in your life, I promise. I saw you play this year twice and you played wonderful. Learn from your mistakes and let the ones that have never made a mistake cast the 1st stone! If that happens you will not have a stone thrown in you direction. Congrats and good luck in the future!

December 8, 2010 at 10:44 a.m.
Clara said...

Acerigger, You wrote the following "Teens drink beer? why is this a problem?"

I'm amazed that some of our bloggers took you seriously.

December 8, 2010 at 11:47 a.m.
hambone said...

Back at the old Central high School on Dodds Ave the football players chewed tobacco in class and spit on the radiators. I once heard a player say "I'm the only one in my english class that's old enough to vote"

Ah, the good old days!

December 8, 2010 at 12:48 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

I know it’s not “politically correct” to say this, but I feel that if communities truly really cared about the well being of some of these kids, they would look for another sport to rally behind other than high school football. The potential for serious injuries make it a risky sport for teenagers.

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association published a study last year that showed the differences in height, weight and technique may make high school football tackles more risky to the head and spine than those that occur in college football:

“. . . the study showed that the average linear accelerations resulting from the impact of a high school football tackle exceeded those that occur at the college level. Impacts to the top of the head had the greatest speed and force. Among high school players, blows to the front of the helmet were about 10 percent more common and carried three more “Gs” of force compared to college players.

The study authors said differences in physical maturity, neck strength and endurance among high school athletes may be a factor in the increased injury. They noted that the comparison group of college athletes weighed about 30 pounds more, on average, than the high school students but were only about 1.2 inches taller. That may result in a “more developed musculature system that is better able to control head motion after impact,” . . .

. . . While the researchers said it is not clear whether the small differences in linear acceleration between high school and college athletes make a difference in risk for concussion or other injury, there are other reasons high school football may be less safe. More than half of high schools don’t have medical staff on the football field . . .

. . . Among the 1.2 million teens who play high school football - the group that accounts for most sports-related concussions - between 4 and 6 percent sustain concussions, or about 43,200 to 67,200 injuries a year. However, the real incidence is probably higher, as more than half of high school athletes who suffer concussions are suspected of failing to report the injury, researchers say.”

December 8, 2010 at 12:51 p.m.
AndrewLohr said...

Ha. And local. To be sure, most of the team was innocent; to be sure, maybe there was some coverup--a line of grownups should be leading the warmups?; to be sure, our President is a fair target (show him sipping tea?); but ha.

December 8, 2010 at 12:52 p.m.
soccerguru said...

All of this is ridiculous. The ONLY reason this has become such a big deal is that it's about Signal Mountain. If this had happened at Hixson, Soddy or Ooltewah it would not have made the front page of the paper, much less a Clay Bennett cartoon. On any given weekend how many teens are cited for underage drinking? I am going to guess quite a few, and how many of those cited make the front page. You have to ask yourself how the TFP picked up on this story anyway. This is not a school issue since the boys weren't drinking on school property. Being football players and pledging not to drink or abuse drugs has put them in the crosshairs of their ooach and I am sure Bill Price will adequately punish those involved. Besides the coach the only people who have any business with this issue are the parents of the players.

December 8, 2010 at 12:56 p.m.
acerigger said...

Soccerguru, you are absolutely,100% correct in your 12:56pm post. Seems to be too many busybodies in the world.

December 8, 2010 at 1:05 p.m.
whatsnottaken said...

Where's the cartoon about the doper liberal cartoonist who probably gets his ideas in a puff of smoke. Rock on Cheech

December 8, 2010 at 1:33 p.m.
Simple said...

Thank you, Thank you for advertising what some young men did that was not the proper thing to do, in the worst possible way. But, more importantly, Thank You for showing that as an adult,your mistake is much worse than anything they have done because you have kicked them when they are down. That is much worse than what they did. Each of them will pay in some way for their mistake and it will be addressed in the local media but unfortunately your mistake and consequences will come much later in life and will not be known in the local media....and we will not be able to Thank anyone.

December 8, 2010 at 2:25 p.m.
CP7768 said...

AndrewLohr, I really enjoy how you turn a local story into a national issue that has absolutely no connection to the issue at hand. God forbid that Clay Bennett, a cartoonist employed by the CHATTANOOGA Times Free Press, draw a cartoon dealing with a story happening in Chattanooga. Beyond sarcasm, it should be noted that once you develop the requisite amount of artistic talent and reputation needed to become a political cartoonist on the level that Clay Bennett is on (nominated six times for the Pulitzer Prize, won it in 2002, while working for the well-respected Christian Science Monitor), you are more than welcome to criticize others.

December 8, 2010 at 2:27 p.m.
hamjam40 said...

Sounds like sour grapes to me Clay.... This has got to be the most inaccurate portrayal of that program a jealous twit like yourself could conjure up. Coach Price is not just a great football Coach, he a even better man. Of course some soccer-f*? like yourself doesn't really know or understand anything about real sports. You've taken an isolated event and sensationalized it and tried to discredit the hardest working youth in this county.....Guess what? We will still own every team in this city next'll still be a pouting....loser.

December 8, 2010 at 5:32 p.m.
CP7768 said...

Hamjam40, You are a real credit to football fans everywhere. You should really be patting yourself on the back right now with comments like the one above.

December 8, 2010 at 8:08 p.m.
Francis said...

i can see humor in this.....but...

i don't think this cartoon serves any purpose other than to inflame.......

it smacks of class envy.....would he do a cartoon like this for howard, tyner, brainard?...probably not...

it is nice to see a cartoon on here that isn't about republican/conservative/ pro tax cut/private sector/business bad and democrat/government/liberals/ good.....once and a while

December 8, 2010 at 8:30 p.m.
mountainrich said...

I support the football team.I also support the soccer program. Hamjam40 is wrong. Any soccer player can outrun and outperform any football player (with out using their hands).Lets see the football players run non-stop for 30 min halfs. The sad part is that Clay Bennett lives on the mountain and his kids also go to schools on the mountain. He should already know how much flack we catch when anything happens at our schools. Maybe he can save the cartoon for when his kids get to high school.

December 8, 2010 at 8:38 p.m.
TeaParty330 said...

Signal Mountain's football team literally had dozens of mostly laudable news stories throughout this fall iin the TFP. When the Eagles won the state championship, that honor brings more attention and responsibility. The level of interest and response to this story clearly indicates the pubic interest in a tale of individuals on a championship team, including the star quarterback, messing up and getting in trouble with the law. This wasn't some innocent beer drinking incident in someone's basement. This was a loud, outdoor illegal party with widespread drinking by young people violating the law and having to get in their vehicles after the party in a way that risked the lives of many young people and other motorists. The police responded to complaints and regarded the violations as serious enough to make criminal citations against many involved who also were on the football team. We'll never know who because the coach didn't have the decency to tell even his school principal until after the state championship game. It appears that winning was more important than doing the right thing. That is what makes this a national story.

December 8, 2010 at 10:59 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

I think Bennett's cartoon is rather clever. Coaches are suppose to help their players live up a higher standard, which what I see the coaches in Bennett's cartoon doing – just checking to see if their players can “walk the line" as Johnny Cash would say.

December 8, 2010 at 11 p.m.
rosebud said...

This cartoon is a low-blow, cheap-shot, which is typical of the TFP in 2010. Clay Bennett fits right in. And I'm sure he'll take that as a compliment.

December 9, 2010 at 12:04 a.m.
momofthree said...

First of all, I have looked back through your cartoons Mr. Bennett, and I have not seen any that take shots at children. I am surprised that you and your bosses think it is ethical to do so. I am a resident of Signal Mountain. I have a child at the middle school and I think what happened with the football players is a shame. I have already raised two children to adulthood and what I would like to know is where were the responsible adults in this situation? Out of all of the teenagers involved, was there not one parent who knew that their children were at a party with drinking and no adults? A teenager, by nature, is pretty stupid about some of the choices they make. A parent's job is to help said teenager by any means they have to, to make better choices. That means being hated sometimes by that child and saying NO to them when they want to go to a party with no adults. I am so glad no one was hurt from driving a car after this incident. Parents, WAKE UP!!! Your precious children deserve better from you. I certainly hope that positive consequences from this are far reaching and maybe all parents can use as a teachable moment.

December 9, 2010 at 7:37 a.m.
rosebud said...

So, since this "scandalous" incident, some Brainerd/Tyner student gang-bangers try to shoot up a school bus. Tell us Clay, when may we expect your hilarious cartoon about that?

December 9, 2010 at 10:36 a.m.
HiDef said...

It's amazing how so many people here have gotten so worked up over a cartoon! Not to mention, these, "children" to quote momofthree, decided that they wanted to be like legal drinking age adults and indulge in alcohol, so they're being treated like one.

December 9, 2010 at 12:22 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

Underage drinking is a critical social issue that communities need to openly address. Like other social issues involving teenagers, this particular incident became public because it involved law enforcement. To suggest, that either TFP or Bennett is “picking on” children is ludicrous.

For those of us, who have lost friends or relatives due to the negligence of a drunken teenage driver, I can tell you first hand that the age of the driver does not lessen either the pain or the anger. I feel it’s a good thing this incident is being discussed – it might lead some teens to think.

December 9, 2010 at 1:47 p.m.
Lotsokids said...

Mr. Bennett, while your cartoon is quite clever, it is also extremely inappropriate. I recognize "freedom of speech" as your editor has used in your defense, however as a personal friend of one of the players "featured" (and very wrongly accused) in your depiction, I believe you have crossed the line of freedom of speech and into the realm of slander. I am very disgusted that you not only poked fun at minors, but more dispicably, you also poked fun at innocent minors ... While I can not speak to the innocence of all of the players in your cartoon, I can speak to one very close to my heart. My friend was not at this party as your cartoon implies. In fact, he was with his family at the time of the incident, mourning the loss of his grandfather. How much further from illegal behavior can one get? I am extremely proud of my friend, both as a player and as the young man that he is. I can only hope and pray that my friend, as well as the other innocent players portrayed, will hold their heads high and focus on their hard work.

And to the editor that will not issue a retraction or apology, I am beyond disgusted. In any article where your writers publish inaccurate information, you are quick to issue a retraction. Why is this any different? The numbers on the jerseys (at least one of them) are INACCURATE. I feel you should really reconsider your decision on that matter.

December 9, 2010 at 4:43 p.m.
bonbon423 said...

A few of these "children" were 18 or over, So I would like to know how they are innocent? They broke the law they should be punished. They were acting like adults, they should be treated like adults. Underage drinking is a serious matter.

December 9, 2010 at 7:30 p.m.
waytogo61 said...

OllieH and TeaParty330, good observations. This is an editorial cartoon and does not have to express the views of everyone. So all of you telling your friends to demand a retraction, cancel your subscription to the TFP, and other such actions..... PLEASE! Do what YOU feel you have to do, but freedom of speech and expression is allowed. No one "on the mountain" is made to apologize to me or any other 'outsider' when a select group of natives treat us rudely just for not being FROM "Signal." We will press on despite such people!

December 9, 2010 at 11:18 p.m.
bonbon423 said...

waytogo61, you are very correct. People have the right to say whatever they would like to say. If you dont like it then dont comment. You are just making yourselves look AND sound worse. Accept what your players have done, and pray that they dont make the same mistake again. It's just a joke. Have a laugh. If your boys dont like it then they shouldve thought twice before going to a party with underage drinking and getting caught.

December 9, 2010 at 11:54 p.m.
HiDef said...


I'd put a lot of money on the fact that Mr. Bennett penciled in whatever numbers came to mind when he drew this cartoon. I really don't think he sat down and consulted a roster and tied the law breakers to their actual jersey numbers, do you? Seriously?

December 10, 2010 at 12:06 a.m.

Wrong, the jersy numbers match, not arbitary. This cartoon has the appearance of vengence.

December 10, 2010 at 12:23 a.m.
ibshame said...

Rosebud wrote:

"So, since this "scandalous" incident, some Brainerd/Tyner student gang-bangers try to shoot up a school bus. Tell us Clay, when may we expect your hilarious cartoon about that?"

You really want to compare the drinking to attempted murder? I don't expect Mr. Bennett to make fun of the bus incident. There is a HUGE difference between what happened at the drink fest and the incident at the bus stop. Too bad in your haste to pretend he only makes fun of the crowd at Signal Mtn, you didn't stop to think about what you were comparing. But if you want to play that card here goes: It's true some of our Urban high schools have a "gang problem." From time to time the "gang problem" manifests itself in such a manner that it cannot be denied although attempts have been made by some schools to deny the existence of "gang" problems. Just as an attempt has been made to say the drinking by some of the members of the SMHS football team was no "big deal." In both instances the more a problem is brushed off as an isolated incident, the more publicity it gets when the public is made aware of the issue. It's like trying to deny the existence of the proverbial 3 ton elephant in the room. The difference is while the drinking is dangerous and can lead to accidental death(caused by drinking while driving or other hazardous activities)it is not done with the intent to actually kill or maim another individual.
In other words the drinking by these students was a self-inflicted problem. The shooting that took place was not a self-inflicted prank, but instead a cold-blooded calculated attempt to harm or take the life of another and in the process several innocent children could have been hurt or worse, killed.
I don't expect Mr. Bennett or anyone else to make light of the school bus incident. How dare you compare illegal drinking by some members of a football team (who should have known better) to attempted murder. By the way, the bus stop was one of Brainerd's bus stops but I haven't read anywhere the students doing the actual shooting were students at Brainerd or Tyner. Maybe you are privy to info the rest of us don't have or did you just pick Brainerd and Tyner out of the air for some reason?

December 10, 2010 at 9:44 a.m.
HiDef said...


What do you have to support that I am wrong? Although some of the numbers in the cartoon match actual players numbers on the football team, they do not completely and accurately reflect those that were cited. This was discussed on Clay's facebook page recently by folks who know some of the players. Not to mention if three of those cited were minors, I doubt their names can be published. Hell, I couldn't even find the names of the two that were over 18 and cited...

For those that are offended because they know the person with one of the jersey number's depicted above, get over yourselves. 99% of us looked at the cartoon and never thought twice about the numbers on the jerseys...

December 10, 2010 at 9:52 a.m.

HiDef, you get over yourself. All the numbers reflected in the cartoon are actual players, and not all of the students were involved in the beer drinkin incident. Yep, I am mad as hell about portraying the entire team in this light for the actions of a few. Guess what, we are justified in this complaint, so you get over it.

December 10, 2010 at 4:31 p.m.
rosebud said...

Hey much? There's this thing called Google. Maybe you've heard about it. Do just a wee bit of research and you can find the Brainerd/Tyner student info that you haven't been privy to. Even in the National Enquirer/Times Free Press!

Oh well, you're right about one thing. "Mr. Bennett" won't make fun of Brainerd or Tyner. Obviously.

December 10, 2010 at 8:06 p.m.
bonbon423 said...

IT'S JUST A CARTOON! A joke, nothing more. Mr. Bennett probably just put numbers on the shirts. And the two who were 18 and over, its perfectly legal for him to put their numbers on the cartoon. However, it is illegal to put the numbers of the minors on them. He probably wasnt doing it on purpose. This whole "scandal" wouldnt be such a big deal if people would see it as a joke. I feel sorry for every single person who is involved with this. But they broke the law. I sure do hope their parents plan to punish them if they havent done so already. I know if that was my child he would greatly regret his actions. I would make him apologize to the team, Coach Price, the school, and the whole community of Signal Mountain.

December 10, 2010 at 9:05 p.m.
ibshame said...

Rosebud wrote:

"Hey much? There's this thing called Google. Maybe you've heard about it. Do just a wee bit of research and you can find the Brainerd/Tyner student info that you haven't been privy to. Even in the National Enquirer/Times Free Press!

Oh well, you're right about one thing. "Mr. Bennett" won't make fun of Brainerd or Tyner. Obviously."

Yes, I read quite well and often. And I have read between the lines in your comments.

December 15, 2010 at 8:27 a.m.
person said...

Some people can't take a joke, which was all this cartoon was. This incident was also only a story because this incident happened a week before the championship game and it wasn't heard about until after the game.

There are NO hidden motives to writing this cartoon. You don't need to "read between the lines"...unless you like conspiracy theories.

December 19, 2010 at 6:19 p.m.
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