Broadening a program that once was relegated to prisons and DMVs, a local “Scared Straight” organization that works with juvenile delinquents partnered with the LSU Athletic Department to force at-risk youths to watch LSU men’s basketball games.
“We know these early years are crucial in their development,” LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva said, “and we want to show them what their lives could be if they decide to stay on their current path.”
In order to fulfill the program’s requirements, each youth had to complete a three-game home package, in which they sat in the lower middle section of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center to enable them to get a close-up look at what might be their future.
“Getting these seats was easy,” Baton Rouge Scared Straight spokesman David Frent said. “So many people were willing to help out by just giving up their home tickets for this year, and probably for many years to come.”
“We had kids crying, begging us to stop, even trying to run out on us at halftime.”
So far, the results have been positive.
“We had kids crying, begging us to stop, even trying to run out on us at halftime,” Frent explained. “What really hit home was when the camera put them up on the Jumbotron. They realized that it could be them losing to a subpar SEC team by more than 20 points.”
Frent said participants also were given lukewarm water and a boiled hamburger to give them the ultimate fan experience.
“The faces on those kids when they bit into the burger, then tried to wash it down with overpriced tap water, is all I need to sleep better at night, because I know at that moment, they truly hit rock bottom,” Alleva said.
“I’ll stop doing drugs, I’ll be a good boy,” a 15-year-old participant named James insisted during the first half of a recent LSU home game. “Just don’t make me watch any more basketball. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
James gave his parents a big hug at halftime.
After each game, the youths were given all the leftover promotional gear that attending season ticket holders refused and were required to wear it the next day at school.
“We got permission from all the schools, even the ones with strict dress codes,” Frent said. “They know how important it is for these kids to wear this badge of shame.”