Next to our gun culture, we’re a sports culture.
Think about how the students reacted at Penn State when their beloved coach Joe Paterno left. Think about the alleged decade-long cover-up of Jerry Sandusky’s heinous activities about sex with children under the blessings of a charity for children.
And it was all in the name of good sportsmanship, wasn’t it? There was lots of guilt going around from those who protected the perpetrator to the media people slow to catch on and wary to report that things were unhappy in Happy Valley.
Now we have the two young men from Steubenville, Ohio, a place like so many in America, where sports – and particularly football – is the center of life. In reporting this sexual assault story, the media once again fall on the altar of sports with coverage about the two boys and how their lives are ruined.
Do I sound bitter? I am. I will go so far to bastardize what comedian George Carlin once said about religion, “More people have been killed in the name of God than for any other reason.”
More people have been excused in the name of sports than for any other reason.
The boys did wrong. And I don’t care if it was ten minutes before their 18th birthdays. A judge found that they gang raped an underage girl while video-taping the crime. Yes, I said crime. Rape is a crime of violence and power, and has little to do with sex. They took advantage of her intoxication and committed a crime for which they should be punished to the full extent of the law.
Plain and simple, what they did was wrong. As I understand it, they will serve only one year even after being convicted.
The hue and cry from the media is that their sports careers are over, their lives have been tainted, the community was rocked by scandal. What other clichés can you name?
When ever is athletics more important than anything else? When? And what about the actual victim? What about her life? She will serve a life sentence of mental anguish.
If we as a society didn’t glorify sports so much, would this have had a different outcome? I can’t answer that question. I have to ask it, though, because the story is not about two of the State of Ohio’s prize-winning debaters or the Future Farmers of America. It is about football players. I don’t recall seeing many stories about the rape culture of the local debate society.
Sports, by itself, is a good thing. Our children learn to work on teams, develop self-confidence, and understand how to win and lose with grace. But as a society, we have to stop making it more than it is. Period.
Guest contributor Amy McVay Abbott is an Indiana writer whose column “The Raven Lunatic” runs in a dozen newspapers and magazines. Amy specializes in health writing, with a passion for rehabilitation and disability issues. She also enjoys writing about politics, travel and the arts. Follow her on Twitter at @ravenonhealth, at her web-site www.amyabbottwrites.com or as Bernadine Spitzsnogel on Open Salon. She likes to hear from readers at firstname.lastname@example.org.