On Penn State

By Black, Simon | Canadian Dimension, November-December 2011 | Go to article overview

On Penn State


Black, Simon, Canadian Dimension


I HAVE AN UNEASY relationship with US college sports, having spent two years as an NCAA athlete playing soccer for the State University of New York at Buffalo - The Bulls, as the team is known I revelled in the minor stardom bestowed on college athletes. Sure, soccer players are Blisters compared to the football and basketball. teams, but you take what you can get when you're an otherwise anonymous nineteen-year-old on a campus of thousands. Recognition, travel, the sheer enjoyment of play; this was the upside.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

And then there was the culture of male violence which has its most egregious manifestation in rituals of hazing and initiation: the product of hypermasculine groupthink. I spared myself the "fun" and came home that weekend. I wasn't popular when I got back; everyone likes a team player.

The dark side of US college sports has never been exposed in quite the way it has with the Penn State affair. The lid is truly off. As you will have heard, former assistant Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky is charged with 4o counts of sexual assault of eight children over a period of is years. Much of the abuse is alleged to have taken place in the team's athletics facilities. Apparently there was no short age of witnesses; quite the crew of cowards including a couple of janitors and a graduate assistant. There was also no shortage of men close to Sandusky who harboured well-founded suspicions-suspicions that would have prompted further investigation by a responsible adult. But it seems there is a shortage of responsible adults at Penn State.

It's peculiar how the story's focus quickly changed from perpetrator and victims to the fate of an old football "legend" when the university decided to fire the team's 85-year-old head coach Joe Paterno. Paterno's involvement in the scandal goes back to a 2002 incident when a graduate assistant says he told Paterno he had witnessed Sandusky assaulting a boy in the shower room. Paterno called the school's director. Lawyers said Paterno is legally obligated to report something of this nature to his superiors, but not the police; report up and not out wards, as they put it. …

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