Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Football and Culture

You all know that I love the Cubs, a team that tends to lose, and that I overcame a certain trauma by merely going to a Sox game.  Sports builds confidence when we play it-- when we play with good sportsmanship and camaraderie.  Or it should.

Someone told me the story of a new boy in my neighborhood.  He was outside playing catch with his brother.  A younger child watched from afar as the two played a fairly simple game.  The younger one seemed entranced, but shy.  He was different, special, and most of the neighbors knew this.  Affable, lovable, he was still excluded usually from play.

The new kids had a sense of this and didn't especially want to invite him to play.  But they did, and they took the time to teach him the rules, too, even though it slowed down the game, made the game somewhat less enjoyable, as sport.

As a human experience, we could say, the stature of play, the purpose of the game, because they include a peer rejected child, exploded.  The experience overall, for everyone's self-esteem, improved exponentially.

Historically, sports are exclusive.  It is all about the best players, the best teams, the best, the best, the best, and it is difficult, surely, to somehow not feel deserving and privileged, just being on a team, being a part of a winning team, especially, whether it is high school varsity sports, college ball, or professional athletics.

Culturally, too, sports have been tainted with racism and sexism, as ecosystems can be, it seems, until shaken down, forced to change.  In football it took a Jerry Sandusky to shake it down, to rattle the culture, scream out, change.

Sandusky, a man who systematically sexually assaulted, oh let's use the word, raped little boys under the watch of a most powerful institution, Penn State, funded by an even more powerful institution, the NCAA, and an icon, a virtual demi-god, Joe Paterno, a winning coach.

President of the NCAA, Mark Emmert, says it best:

The NCAA took away every win.  Mr. Paterno, who passed away weeks after exposure of the incidences, probably knew his ship had sailed. A transcript of the statement above, for the hearing impaired, reads as follows:

"No price the NCAA can levy will repair the grievous damage inflicted by Gerry Sandusky on his victims.  However we can make clear, that the culture, actions, and inactions that allowed them to be victimized will not be tolerated in collegiate athletics.

One of the greatest dangers stemming from sports is that the sports themselves have become too big to fail, indeed, too big to even try.  (This seems like a nod to the thinking that Penn State at the very least, Joe Paterno, knew what was going on).

In the Penn State case, the results were perverse and unconscionable.
Chairman of the NCAA Executive Committee, Ed Ray further comments that the authority to do this is there, and that it is morally incumbent.
 "...we also have the responsibility to say that such egregious behavior is not only against . . bylaws and the constitution, but also against our value system and basic human decency.  
Jerry Sandusky was convicted for more than 40 counts of sexual assault on children.

A $60 million dollar fine, one year's revenue of a football team (there's a cover-up incentive if ever there was one).

A four year ban on bowl games, meaning if the team made it to the game, they wouldn't be able to profit from them.

Forty NCAA scholarships, gone.

Probation for five years, and an "academic integrity monitor"

This wipes away all Penn State wins under the coaching of Joe Paterno from 1998 to 2011.

Paterno will no longer be the top coach in football with the most wins. (13 years of football, gone with the swipe of a pen). Instead he will go down in infamy, the man who couldn't turn in his friend.

The story becomes even more amazing, if you think of it from an addict perspective, from the part of the enabler. We could call Paterno, and Sandusky's family, people who knew and said nothing, enablers. They enabled perverse, horrible crimes to continue. They couldn't stand up and say, "What in the world is happening?!! This has to stop, even if someone goes to jail, even if he is a provider, a spouse, a father."

The Sandusky family is taking umbrage at the NCAA sanctions, are offended that they weren't consulted first.  Rather than hide from publicity (you would think), they are open about being hurt at the lack of interest on the part of Penn State.

They issued a statement, a long document, saying that the sanctions weren't thought out, that they were issued without consulting the family. Just to be clear, most of the time, from my reading of hundreds of Law and Order cases, when crimes have been discovered, those who are associated with the crimes are under investigation, too, for complicity. They aren't consulted about the sentence.

This may seem bizarre, but is testimony to the depths of corruption, how little is understood by the average sports lover, perhaps the average American, about the egregiousness of child abuse, how damaging it is. Nine out of ten violent criminals in penitentiaries are the victims of childhood abuse, violent abuse. Sexual abusers, too, learn their methods, from sexual abusers (not that pedophilia hasn't some genetic components, that's not what this is about).

Ed Ray, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the NCAA says that not only does the NCAA have the right, but it has the responsibility.

Oh, what a movie this will make. Talk about culture.



cordeliadarwin said...

Did NCAA make a commitment to using the sanction money to help child victims...or is it unrestricted? In your post you begin by addressing how sports build confidence. Perhaps the NCAA can utilize the fund to help assaulted children thtough sport to restore that which is stolen from them -- confidence, esteem and a sense of worth. Here is an opportunity to employ sport as a healing tool. Yes?

therapydoc said...

You said it better than me. Yes, yes, yes.

The Blue Morpho said...

It remains impossibly sad and infinitely enraging. The victims are forgotten over and over. What is wrong with the human species that people do this - first the crime, and then the ignoring? The hype about the university, its football, and its misplaced hero-worship are not meaningless, but they cannot hold a candle to the issues around the victims. How are they being helped? What is really being done to see that this does not happen again? Sad. Angry. Still.
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