Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pom Pom Frenzy

I appreciate football. The pomp and circumstance, the grandstands, the excitement, but appreciation is not understanding. Imagine attending a Broadway drama in 1922. The audience is rapt, weeping uncontrollably at a performance you consider not only utterly un-moving, but unbelievable. This is the way I feel when I enter a football stadium.

I don’t understand the lathered effect football produces upon its fans, the irrational highs and lows –always seemingly one beer short of murder or suicide. From the perspective of an outsider, fans - a cute abbreviation for fanaticals – don’t seem to remember it’s just a game.  

But game can be a scary four letter word, especially if you’re in ancient Rome and the fans are screaming for the lion to tear your Christian ass to shreds. Or if you’re a lion today, you’re game. Game like the Grizzly killed only because he’s got a head and you've got a rifle, space on the wall, and a taxidermist father-in-law. Humans have dominion over the other animals – large and in charge, but instead of looking after lesser species, we're wont to hunt and kill. Worse, we look the other way as others hunt and kill for us.

They’re not living creatures that feel pain and fear – they’re only game. Game as in the hunted. In that same genre of game, unspools the sordid pedophilia coverup by Penn State football. The lesser creatures, in this case, being human boys. Sucked, sodomized, fondled rampantly for years as easily poachable prey. How this Sandusky racket endured for so many years is a disgrace to our race.

Assistant Mike McQueary saw him raping a ten year old boy in the Penn State showers. McQueary did not stop the rape. As key witness for the prosecution, McQueary must have immunity as “whistleblower” even though his whistle was a whisper. Here was a 28 year old man who put his career and school sports program ahead of protecting a child from rape. He skittered off, told his father and, the following day, the coach. Who are the Penn State apologists for “JoePa”? Imagine being told your assistant was anally raping a ten year old boy! Coach did not want to know details, coach did not call the police; coach did not, in his capacity as head coach, help the kids. He told two higher-ups, they told the President. For the love of the game, not one of them called the police.

Reputations took top priority, as fanaticals prefer pom poms to perspective in this blurry thing we call reality. Reality TV is not even reality. We allow, even encourage our news cycle to cough up yet another “story” about the rumors surrounding Obama’s birth certificate or how gay marriage is tantamount to terrorism, but (even with an eyewitness) the media (and law) can’t sniff out assistant coach Sandusky sodomizing youth for years.

Until the actual game is measured less between stadium goalposts and more in sensitivity to the suffering of others; until victory is not pummeling an opponent but prioritizing empathy, our hometown scoreboard (have I exhausted this metaphor yet?) will continue to flash a big bright LOSE.

As the scandal unravels, how it blackens: Another married Republican in a sex scandal– who has adopted several boys. A timely early-retirement. A missing DA, presumed dead. Sandusky having founded a victim mill he fronted as a charity for “at-risk” (ahem) youth. His autobiography titled “Touched” (you can’t make this up). Now we see clearly – now, after how long? How many years with how many people simply looking the other way?

Maureen Dowd nails the truth: “Like the Roman Catholic church hierarchy, the Penn State hierarchy appears to have covered up pedophile crimes to protect its brand.”

Madonna sings the truth (about the AIDS crisis, and apt here): Some say life isn’t fair/I say people just don’t care/They’d rather turn the other way/And wait for this thing to go away.

And, for the triple shot, Martin Luther King, jr: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  

Wonder what breed of human beings are embroiled in the scandal? Many only became complicit because they willingly refused to know, report or look into it. How do we know that under the same circumstances, would want to know the details - to protect and serve the prey?

The only hope for humanity in the Grand Jury Report lies in the reaction of one single janitor, and even he didn’t alert authorities. Read it. Read the report and ask yourself if Sandusky is guilty, if the witnesses testimony is credible. Ask what you would have done. If you don’t want to read the details in this report and you are a coach, teacher or parent of young children you need to ask yourself why not. Why exactly aren’t you game?

1 comment:

Tony said...

Hey Jesse -

Years ago when working for our state legislature, I was asked to help staff a series of hearings the then-Lieutenant Governor was holding on sexual abuse. The physical details were bad enough, but the long-term psychological damage to the victims was particularly devastating to observe. Best analogy may be PTSD, with all its attendant side effects: depression, substance abuse, abusive relationships, suicide.
One story made such an impression I still remember it.
A young man, then around 30, had been abused for several years beginning as a young adolescent by his football coach. The man was also a neighbor and a trusted friend of the boy's parents. The coach said, "if you tell, no one will believe you." So the kid felt helpless. As he got older and became less attractive to the man, the abuse stopped. But the young man would come home from college and spot the coach living a few houses away. "I can't tell you how many times I drew a bead on the s.o.b from my bedroom window with my Dad's rifle. But I never pulled the trigger."
As you said, makes you wonder what it is with football.