Sports Culture, Ego and Responsibility
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Sports Culture, Ego and Responsibility

By Cindy Davis | Think Pieces | March 21, 2013 | Comments ()


As adults, it can be surprising to realize how some of the smallest moments in our lives affected us. As parents, it's sometimes frightening to think about those same things--to acknowledge that nearly everything we say or do (or don't do) in front of our child can shape him the rest of his days. I've almost always had an indifference to sports, and in my mind, that is directly attributable to their constant presence throughout my youth. My Dad was a little obsessed with sports from the time he was a child, and he carries that with him to this day. I'm not certain "obsessed" is exactly the right term, but that's how it always felt to me. He coached kids in different sports all throughout my childhood, attended just about all the local school team events--regardless of whether any of his kids were involved--and whenever he was at home, our television was tuned to a game or a match. I don't mean just football or baseball or basketball; it was virtually any sport being shown at any given time--boxing, golf, swimming, diving, hockey, fishing--if it was a competitive sport, it was on our television. And if it the television wasn't on, he was discussing sports; teams, players, stats, rules, facts, minutiae; he knows the answer to pretty much any Trivial Pursuit sports question there is. I don't think at the time I begrudged his behaviour much; I just didn't understand it or care. As an adult, I've pretty much stayed away from televised sports; I do enjoy a live game now and then.

Growing up in a reality that for many reasons I longed to escape, my inclination was always to turn to books and films so I could be swept away to another world, and imagine myself a different life. One day I had a conversation with my Dad that I've never forgotten. I asked about what kinds of films he enjoyed (turns out, not too many), and his answer was that he'd much rather watch sports. What was interesting though, was his explanation: "Why would I want to watch something that's made up? I'd much rather watch something real. Sports are real." After my initial bewilderment, I thought about that statement, and it's always kind of stuck with me. At that point in my life (teens), the idea was completely foreign to me; sports were the opposite of real life--they were games. They're finite competitions that ultimately have nothing to do with reality; in my mind they were about as real as Pac-Man or Tetris. You watch a game, it's over, you go back to real life. You might be the "best" at something for a fleeting moment, but then you walked off the field and into real life. For me, sports held little significance, but I hadn't thought much about their impact on other peoples' lives.

In a place like Steubenville, Ohio, a sport--football--could mean everything. As with many cities and towns across the country, athletic ability might hand a kid the winning ticket to a different life. In small towns where the economy isn't exactly booming, standouts on local teams carry the hopes and dreams of people who never got out alongside their own. Sporting events can represent a fantasy life for people whose own aspirations never came to fruition. A star athlete might put his hometown on the map; high school champions can bring a national awareness to a place no one outside ever thought about before. A winning season could change peoples' lives. Suddenly, sixteen year old kids, barely aware of themselves as people, are elevated to a celebrity-like status.

By now, most of us have read of the grisly rape story, some horrifying public responses, the apparent ignorance of what constitutes rape (what happened to sex education?), the trial and its conclusion, sentencing, and even worse behavior by both media and the public. It's been a little too much for many people to handle; even trying to articulate our own feelings can be overwhelming. Not long ago we watched a similar--yet different--situation play out with Penn State University and the sexual assaults committed by Jerry Sandusky. In both cases the hometowns were places where, for many people, sports are real life--real enough that wrongdoings are defended (or covered up), rather than victims. As naive as I may have been about what "games" mean to peoples' lives, there is something seriously wrong in our country when people are calling for victims to be physically harmed or killed because they've "ruined" perpetrators' lives, or have somehow cast a pall over an entire town and its sports club. The sane among us know this anger is completely misdirected, but beyond that, these events let us know we all need to take a look at what we're teaching our children. (As I was writing this piece, another case of sexual assault by high school football team members hit the news.) The culture of excellence in sports has spawned a dangerous elitism. Pride has evolved into something dark and ugly, fueled by greed, ego, growth hormones and advertising contracts. Somewhere along the way, honor was dropped from the sportsmanship code of conduct and nothing matters but the win.

Following the Steubenville rape, of the disturbing quotes that made their way to the media, one of those that hit me hardest was: "Some people deserve to be peed on." There is not any situation where I can ever imagine saying those words--no one deserves to be peed on. And no one deserves to be treated the way that girl was treated, nor videotaped, nor ignored and not helped by anyone watching. The person who made that statement was only sixteen years old, but those are not his words alone, the people who raised him also bear responsibility. The father of Trent Mays (one of the convicted rapists) described his son as "a good child, an outstanding student and a credit to Steubenville High School." I'm sorry, Mr. Mays; of the three things you mentioned, only one can be true. Because a good child doesn't do what yours did to that girl, and under no circumstances could your son be a credit to his school. Somewhere along the line, your child--and others--got the idea that there are people beneath them, people who don't matter enough to be treated with any sort of dignity or care. Somehow while your boy was being put up on that pedestal, football in hand, he never got the message that he was still just a person like the rest of us. He's learning that the hard way. Lance Armstrong has been struggling with that lesson too. Though on the outside, his situation bears no resemblance to a rape, underneath it all, ego rages. Not only did Armstrong believe everything he did to win was okay and that doping was "not cheating," he also believed he was so much more important than the other people whose lives he was ruining with slander and lies. He was more important than any rules set forth; more important than the companies and non-profit organizations he represented. His ego overrode everything, including all the kids who looked up to his standard, the impact of his doping on their ideals, and the effect his actions might have on the future of cycling. Indeed, life has shown me that sports are real, unfortunately, in ways I never would have thought or imagined.

Last night I attended my daughter's fourth grade school musical program and as I sat listening to the songs about character, integrity, trustworthiness, citizenship and respect, I wondered when--in the growing up process--it all begins to go so wrong. When and how are we letting our children forget all those ideas they've been practicing since preschool and kindergarten? What happened to the golden rule? As a nation, we need to to ask ourselves, what we are doing or saying that would lead a child to see another human being as less than himself. What we can do to change that? We may have cheered these young egos, to the point where they have no choice but to self-destruct (and to takes others down with them). Parents who attend Little League games and inappropriately scream at the referees when little Johnny is the perceived victim of a bad call are setting the stage. Teachers or administrators that dance around a "star athlete's" poor grades, because he needs to stay on the team are furthering the message. Winning is everything. (Is there an overarching monster we've all helped to create; one where self-worth is determined only in the public eye?) Will the Steubenville crime and its fallout be the catalyst that makes us take a good look at the way we glorify and idolize our sports figures, or will we continue on tomorrow as if it never happened? There is no simple answer or solution, but perhaps we can head down a different path by making sure our children realize their inherent value. Last night, as I listened to a group of children head up to the microphone to list their aspirations..."I want to be a skateboarder; I want to be a fashion designer, I want to be a professional baseball player; I want to be a famous actress..." I found myself more curious about what kind of people they would be. Would they grow up to be kind and caring, or might one of them end up a rapist at sixteen?

Maybe instead of asking children what they want to be when they grow up, we should instead ask "Who do you want to be. What kind of person do you think you'll be?"

Cindy Davis, (Twitter)

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • zeke_the_pig

    Cindy, this was an absolutely fantastic and gloriously insightful piece and if I had my way we would cancel EE this week because this would be all that was needed.

  • Slash

    Actually, what sports are about in this country is money. If an athlete does well enough in high school he (or she, thanks to Title IX) might get a college scholarship. Probably the only way a lot of kids will get to college without impoverishing their parents or going into debt for 25 years. If a male athlete is good enough, he might go pro and make a ton of money and get famous.

    So in that sense, your father is right, sports are reality, but he probably wouldn't have said like I wrote above.

    If sports was really just a game that people play for fun, I don't think we'd be lavishly ass-kissing athletes like we do now. You know who deserves to have their asses kissed way more than any athlete?

    Teachers. Firefighters. Cops. Sanitation workers (seriously, where TF would our country be without the people who pick up the trash?). I could go on.

    To me, athletes are just entertainers. They're not heroes. They are the equivalent of supermodels or those dogs who compete in the big dog show every year. Freaks of nature (well, OK, freaks of genetic engineering in the case of the dogs) who are really good at one not very useful thing that dumb people are willing to pay a ton of money to look at.

    To be fair to the younger athletes, I don't think most of them would come to believe that they're better than and above everyone else if they were not told so by their elders (ie, parents and coaches). They'd just play and be good at it. It's the constant fawning and being told how great they are that fucks them up. Not that any of that is an excuse for sexual assault, of course.

  • $43768042

    when i was a kid i bowled in youth leagues. i didn't particularly want to, but my mother and grandfather were registered youth coaches, avid bowlers and the managers of our local bowling alley (they hate when you call it that, btw),
    there were just as many parents who were as psycho about their kids bowling average as there were who got crazy for their kids little league or football skills (honestly, the bowling foul scene in liebowski was far more true to life than most people imagine.)
    this was in a sport that is mostly considered a leisure activity rather than a compstition. but, to a certain type of parent it was the most important thing their kids were involved with and failure was met with everything from belittlement to severe physical abuse.
    the kids of these parents were taught that the only important thing was their beating their opponents, it is the lesson that the kids in steubenville were taught and it is the lesson that lance armstrong was taught.
    sports can be great and competition can be great, but they can't be the only thing that is great...
    (my family, fortunately, were cool with my overly laid-back and generally non-competitive self.)

  • "Somewhere along the line, your child—and others—got the idea that
    there are people beneath them, people who don’t matter enough to be
    treated with any sort of dignity or care. Somehow while your boy was
    being put up on that pedestal, football in hand, he never got the
    message that he was still just a person like the rest of us."

    I do not have kids. But I work with yours. The best example of this that I can compare it to is in the weeks following the Chris Brown/Rhianna beating after the Grammys my students (both male and female) were pretty convinced that she absolutely deserved to get brutalized in that manner. They were 11-15 years old.

    The ringleader of the group who wanted to talk about it was a football prodigy, and at the school I was teaching at at the time that was a big deal because about 20 years ago a star local player made it to a successful career in the NFL and all the players were sure they would be the next one.

    When I questioned him about his certainty that violence was the right answer (because he was certain) he told me that "people can't be allowed to step up on you like that" meaning that Rhianna had obviously done something (see the rumors flying around at the time) to receive this treatment. "Says who?" I asked, at the end of my rope. "Coach."

  • Sara_Tonin00

    That last example is a little tricky - it's completely understandable if a coach suggests to a football, hockey, basketball player - when you are pushed a little, you push back so they know you won't take cheap shots on you. Unfortunately, it's also understandable if a kid interprets that to apply in real life also. And let's be real - this applies to any gang culture, not just athletic gang culture.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    Actually, the "push back" thing is wrong. You NEVER push back - that's how you get a penalty. The first hitter always gets away with it, the reprisal draws the flag.

    I was taught the best way to "push" back is to score. I always found that they kids who had the "you best not step up on me" crap were the easiest to draw offsides, or get for a late hit. Good coaches learn to do two things - absolutely lose their SHIT at the ref when he doesn't call something - and tell your kids to focus all of their anger and getting the next points on the board.

    The Coach is supposed to be the one who makes sure the kids aren't "stepped to" (oof I hate that term).

  • Oh absolutely. Which was the eventual point I made to this student and his class in general. That what you need to do on a field or even in your neighborhood to protect yourself is different than what's acceptable in other relationships or settings. I also know for every coach not making the distinction there are many who do. I call them friend.

  • BlackRabbit

    There's nothing wrong with sports, per se, as others have said. It's teaching your child how to respond to to that pressure as best you can. It's trite, but with great power comes great responsibility. If you're a good player on your football team, for example, you have power, social and physical power, and that must be used carefully, and that only increases as you reach higher, to the NBA/NFL/professional levels in your career. Don't hurt others, don't use your influence to get what you want from others. These types of individuals have always existed in any organization, not just in America and not just in sports. It starts with how they're raised and the environment where they are raised

  • lilianna28

    It starts with parents. I can't stress this enough, that is where it starts. Mothers who shun another mom because she's annoying or pushy teaching their kids that the shunning is normal, that you get to pick who you are nice to. The way you treat other people, it's reflected in your children. The fact we need articles on facebook to tell us we should teach our sons empathy, kindness instead of bravery and bravado- we need to be told that? And yet, when my two year old carries his baby doll around, kisses its forehead and pretends to change its diaper, I get "my husband would never allow that LOL" from others.

    SO, I coach basketball for my 1st grader so she doesn't get stuck with some pushy dad who screams a lot. And I co-lead the Girl Scout Troop so my daughter can participate in what is one of THE BEST leadership groups for girls out there, bar none. And I read those stupid articles about teaching my boys empathy because I don't want to forget.

    We live in the country divided, though, on so many levels, I don't think it'll make a difference. To my kid, to their lives, sure. But there is always going to be the mom who teaches her daughter she's better than other people. There's always going to be the dad who tells his son it's better to pick on people than be looked upon as weak. I just don't know.

  • rumcove

    There are a lot of Steubenville's or as my daughters call it "Stupidsville". I've had many conversations with them about this sort of thing. The star jock are generally entitled punks who have never had to fit in with their peers. They expect their peers to adjust to them. Parents, teachers and other adults look the other way when they display sociopathic behavior.

    It catches up with them. Eventually, they have to attempt to fit into society because 99% never achieve their objectives. Then, it comes back and they become the victims of society.

  • KV

    "Is there an overarching monster we’ve all helped to create; one where self-worth is determined only in the public eye?"

    I think this applies not only to sports, but in most activities. One is only as good (or bad) as what one produces. And the worth of the productive output is ultimately determined by the users/consumers of the product, not by the producer herself/himself..

  • Kelly Anne Williams

    I've found the Steubenville case familiar to something which occurred at my high school, a year after I graduated. A girl was sexually assaulted (groped, obscenely, in public) and when she reported it, had many of her friends and even some adults turn against her. This was pre-social media, but horrible rumors were spread, and certain witnesses volunteered to give testimony in order to call the victim a liar on record. She was a freshman, but she ended up leaving the school.

    The main difference (aside from the degree of severity of the action) was that the whole thing went down in our theatre department. But so many of the reactions were the same--people not wanting to "ruin" the abuser's life. The school, to its credit, suspended him for all but his senior exams, and refused to let him walk on graduation day. But the theatre kids rallied around him, and the director even invited him to extracurricular events that the victim was also involved in. Nobody wanted to upset the boat, even though the boat contained a person who had made many, many people uncomfortable with inappropriate words and actions for years.

    The thing about the theatre department is that we were rock stars. We were award-winning, the only thing that really won awards at our school. We were gods and she was just the new girl. It still fills me with rage to think of it, nearly 10 years on, especially the role the adults played in it. My point in relating this is that it isn't just sports where you see these things. But anything that involves people placing the value of someone with a certain set of skills higher than the safety of minors is a potential recipe for tragedy.

  • The drama teacher at my high school was extremely competition-driven. No matter what she said, everyone knew all she cared about was trophies lining her cabinet, and if you didn't bring in awards at competition, she'd make your life miserable while you were in her class, then blacklist you from drama.
    As far as I was aware, it never went too far in my school while I was there, but the potential was always seething and waiting for an opportunity.
    She actually retired a few years ago. One of her former students--one of her drama heroes who had spent his high school career (which happened to be concurrent with mine)--was hired to take her place. At her retirement ceremony, she took it back. Decided not to retire, left that guy without a job (from my understanding through mutual aquaintances, actually his dream job).
    As far as I know, she's still there, fostering that ugly culture that hopefully hasn't and won't escalate to tragedy, but very well could.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    Ok something is wrong here - I mean besides the bad behavior. Teachers can't "un-retire". Schools are bureaucracies of the highest order; there are forms to be filled out, pensions to be processed. She would have had to have support from the principal and school superintendent at a level that usually requires compromising photos.

    So this awful woman had major enablers.

  • I'm a state employee myself. I don't work in a school, but I've worked in different forms of bureaucracy, and I remain absolutely stunned that she was allowed to get away with that bullshit.

    But she does get results--in the form of lots and lots of trophies for the school's display cabinet. And the negative version of sports culture is alive and well there, so I guess she fits right in.

  • Patty O'Green

    That truly breaks my heart because, as a theatre kid, I often imagine we are above those "social wars", that we band together and protect our own. I realize how naive that sounds - well, is - and I've been proven wrong too many times, but it hurts every time.

  • Admin - Richard Dama, LPC

    Every athletic team from PeeWee through the Pros should be made to watch this speech made in 2011 by Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins. He talks about the privilege of playing football and the responsibility that comes with that privilege. Very articulate young man and worth it to watch the entire 7 minute video.

  • emilya

    or any and all speeches by coach taylor from fnl

  • $27019454

    I just erased a 2 page essay on this subject because I am sick of myself and hearing myself talk.

    So: Succinctly: I hate organized team sports. My kids will never and have never participated. I have many many loud, outraged, frightened, disgusted ...feelings...on this subject.

    Also: This is only the third Think Piece I have ever read in all my years on Pajiba. I'm exhausted.

  • yogagirl

    Great piece. The last statement is worth its weight in gold.

  • Bert_McGurt

    This is exactly what I was trying to get at the other day. It's not a problem necessarily inherent to sports, it's a problem that arises out of the (in some cases, extreme) reverence shown to athletes. When everyone treats you as if you can do no wrong, how quickly do you forget what wrong is?

    That loss of judgement can only be compounded by the notoriously misogynistic atmosphere of a men's sports locker room. In fact, that's part of the reason I quit playing rugby a few years ago. I was tired of listening to perpetually single 30-year-old Bros and the stories about their "Wolfpack" (I sh*t you not, that's what they called themselves, and this was before The Hangover) and how one dude was pissed at another guy for going home with a girl because he'd "claimed" her earlier in the night, blah, blah, blah. I certainly don't mean to put these guys in the same class as the boys from Steubenville, but it does make me wonder how far they would go if they were certain they'd face no consequences.

    Still, I (maybe naively) continue to hope and pine for a return to integrity in sport. That's not to say it doesn't exist in some ways (certain individual athletes, Bobby Orr for example, retain a sharp perspective on the role and place sports hold), but that those examples are less and less characteristic. Sports are a wonderful part of life, but not the totality of it.

  • Maguita NYC

    Absolutely agree that it is not a problem exclusive to sports. However, misconstrued "sportsmanship" does encourage arrogant entitlement. Entitlement to such extremes, those children when caught are actually surprised to being held to same judiciary process and resulting punishment as the rest of the population.

    Cindy says that we have to ask ourselves "what we are doing or saying that would lead a child to see another human being as less than himself".

    It always starts with misinterpretation of theology, indoctrination of specie superiority, whether it be color of skin, nationality, ethnicity, or even gender.

    Whatever one does, more and more are being taught quite young how to rational behavior as well as all ugly “isms” into daily life; From the oft stated "God is on my side” that absolves you from all empathy and decency towards others, to the ugliest “they're different from us” that redirects blame solely on others, instead of taking responsibility for your actions.

    And this attitude takes on drastic measures in the world of sports. Where "star athletes" are glorified for their performance on the field, to the extent of forsaking their education, often accommodated by coaches and the rest of the educational system.

    They really stand no chance whatsoever of fully integrating society as functioning law-abiding adults. Hope change is on its way, especially in light of the lack of empathy and beyond, as demonstrated in Steubenville towards a suffering human being.

  • DarthCorleone

    Love this piece. Thank you! If I still had the initiative to write the occasional sports column, I think I'd write something in a similar vein.

    Love your closing thoughts especially. I have long thought that if we want to give our public schooling extra value, incorporating a focused, required study of secular ethics starting at a young age would be a worthy endeavor. I know we have rules for our schools and that kids receive conduct grades, but I think classes specifically geared toward how we ideally want to treat our fellow human beings could have a positive effect. And, yeah, I know the whole "secular" aspect of it might irk some folks, but it's not like we put the will of a god behind not interrupting the teacher, not being tardy, not chewing gum, etc.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Playing sports is incredibly beneficial to boys and girls.

  • Kati

    Two things - first, the only comments I can make about sports is how they have helped *both* of my children (boy and girl). Their grades are their highest during season. They are just plain happy when they're practicing or playing. They've learned how to interact with kids from all sorts of backgrounds and academic abilities. I cannot imagine their lives without sport in it.

    Aside - isn't the real issue here parenting? The kids I know with inflated egos get them pumped and stroked at home. Here's how we do it instead - My son, when he was a total shit at school and at home one week, dressed out for his game but rode the bench the entire time per my request. He had to explain to coaches, his teammates, and the other parents over and over why he wasn't starting, nor playing at all. He hasn't had any major behavioral/academic issues since.

    It's important to note that sports are not the only thing that can put a high school student on a pedestal. I'm a high school honors and AP science teacher, meaning that I may give a student the first B or C he/she has ever received. And the grief I get from guidance when it happens to students who are on track to be the first in their families to go to college. Or who are slated to go to Harvard pending final grades. Or who have tragic backstories. The notion that life should balance out - I'm a first-generation high school grad, so I deserve an A with no effort - is pervasive.

  • JJ

    Bravo and well said! There can be a very detrimental undercurrent related to terrible, pressuring parents or dominating coaches, and that's on us as parents and community members.

    Cindy had mentioned "As a nation, we need to to ask ourselves, what we are doing or saying that would lead a child to see another human being as less than himself."

    In this context, it's certainly about sports, but I look at this as not being new in general, as it applies historically well to other things such as race, gender, disability, socioeconomic status, etc.

  • Stephen Nein

    Great first half. Disagree with the second - probably because I worked the other half of the divide. I was the less-than-advantaged kid in classrooms filled with the best of towns' progeny. It was those kids who saw 'reconsidered' grades, not me. Maybe it's become more subtle since then, maybe the recognized names don't have to even bother because no one would dare.

  • Kati

    It has to do with school grades - you get so many points for graduating so many students from certain categories. It's also about attracting better students. If you can post that you've got students winning certain scholarships and going to certain schools, you will attract better student from your zone to your school, which should theoretically make it easier to get a high school grade the next year.

  • Ted Zancha

    Man I love this site. This was a great Think Piece Cindy. Thank you for continuing the discussion on this case and our culture. We had a great discussion here a few days ago. But this is all way to big to be shoved into one post. I love how this site continues to address these huge problems and challenges its readers.

    I truly worry about a lot of my students. Every day this attitude of superiority and disregard for others prevails. I am only in my second year of teaching and I am often at a loss for words when these kids do and say these awful things. I struggle knowing that even when I do say something (and I speak up a lot), it is very hard to reach them.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I object vehemently to the parallels drawn between Lance and the Steubenville rape. Yes ego played a role in both, but there are massive massive distinctions between the two beyond that. Without ego, there is no competition. And while ego can fuel cheating and cheating is disregard for law, extrapolating cheating to the point of rape is something else entirely.

    Lance cheated to A) become the best and B) stay the best. His ego caused this reaction. He never cheated because, as the best, he felt he was entitled to do as he pleased. He knew what he was doing was wrong. Just look at the steps he took to conceal it.

    To rape indicates that you're lacking humanity, something that goes way beyond those things that can be affected by ego. If Lance was like these kids in Ohio he would have been tweeting out pics of his blood transfusions.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    Sorry ryan, Lance is and was a really horrible person. And he didn't just "cheat to become the best". He was cheating on his wife/girlfriend, he destroyed people who told the truth, and he aboslutely felt that he was he was entitled to do as he pleased.

    Remember that he threatened to find "witnesses" to lie about the records of other cyclists, hired lawyers and paid publicists to claim one of his accusers was a "drug using prostitute". He didn't just protect himself, he "peed" on others.

  • While I don't and wouldn't compare his offenses to rape, I do find him lacking in humanity. When he gave that interview and admitted doping, he also admitted he intimidated, bullied and publicly humiliated people, sued newspapers for defamation, assassinated the character of those who accused him, turned against his friends, called them names, threatened them with lawyers and suits. Frankly, he didn't seem remorseful about any of it.

  • foolsage

    Fair point. Both actions are criminal, and both are unethical, but that doesn't make them equivalent.

  • xFILESx

    I don't know why you've been downvoted. Yes the Lance case provides a parallel example of how we have a tendency to look the other way when a sports hero does something wrong, but beyond that the two cases don't have a thing in common. I don't see how he ruined anyone's life. Also, I don't see all of the charity organizations he made money for bending over backwards to give back all of the money they made as a result of his success.

    That is the only complaint about this profoundly thoughtful, well-written Think Piece.

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    Actually, Lance did ruin lives. He sued friends, colleagues, and reporters who reported him for doping and did so quite aggressively, trashing the credibility and impacting the careers of a number of individuals.

    I am not sure why you cite the charities and having any sort of duty to return funds; they do not. And Armstrong's participation in charity work is far from selfless; he used those charities to strengthen his brand, manipulating public opinion to help shield himself from doping allegations.

  • draeton

    Severing rape from the continuum of human behavior is such a facile response.

  • lowercase_ryan

    My point was that to actually rape suggests (to me) something missing or lacking from who the rapist is as a person. It shows a glitch in their humanity. Something is broken.

  • foolsage

    I don't think lowercase_ryan was suggesting that rape is outside the continuum of human behavior, only that it reflects a lack of humanity. Humans can, of course, act in inhuman ways.

  • lowercase_ryan

    This was exactly my point.

  • draeton

    If rape is inhuman, why is it so ubiquitous? Why has it existed throughout all of human history and in all cultures?

  • lowercase_ryan

    I never said it was inhuman. In this day and age, knowing what we know, to rape shows a lack of something. What would you call it? At the very least it's uncivilized. So is murder, yet that is ubiquitous as well. So rape is human? I guess I don't get your point.

  • draeton

    Rape is a thoroughly human behavior, and it is at base an abuse of power. There is a direct thread linking abuses borne out of ego (i.e. Lance Armstrong) and rape. This is the point you contested in the original article.

    Just to add, civilization itself--the social contract, if you will--is dependent upon each individual curbing the excesses of his/her ego for the greater good.

  • 724wd

    "Rape is a thoroughly human behavior" then you haven't seen a duck gang rape! 10 or more drakes running a train on a hen as she's held down by the back of her neck...

  • Jezzer

    Go away.

  • Slim

    This seems to me to be the crux of the problem. The social contract, in America (and probably beyond, although I can't speak intelligently about that) seems to be broken. The freedom the country was founded upon has been twisted into an individualism that is startling, with moral relativism becoming king. "If it is not wrong for me, it is not wrong." That is why we such a lack of remorse in this case. The ego dictates acts that serve the self and there seems to be few surrounding our young people who point to understanding how the greater good is either relevant or important.

  • kucheza

    A thousand times yes.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I get that it's an abuse of power and that abusing power is decidedly human. But in the context of being in the United States in 2013, do you think the reason those kids raped that girl is the same reason Lance Armstrong did all the shitty things he did? At their base yes, both are abuses of power (I conceded that I thought), but I think rape is much more than simply an abuse of power.

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    One of the primary theories about why rape occurs is precisely that though - that rape is an abuse of power. There's a lot of credible evidence to support this theory, so I don't think that the analogy between these boys and Lance Armstrong is specious.

    However, I think the stronger analogy is between these boys and Larry Sandusky or the rapes at Notre Dame. I see in several comments you point out that sports are beneficial and others have mentioned an emphasis on parenting - both solid points. But as numerousinvestigations have pointed out, there is also a hero culture around these sports that has made the crimes easier to commit and an incentive for institutions to cover up.

  • I think the title of the post makes it perfectly clear--it's about sports culture, not sports. There is a very important difference.
    And I think mentioning Lance Armstrong in this context is important, because the culture spawns a wide range of devient behaviors, and just because some are worse than others doesn't mean that the lesser crimes should be ignored.

  • lowercase_ryan

    good point

  • Mrs. Julien

    Thank you for the link to the NYT article.

  • Return of Santitas

    We could also ask children, "who are you NOW"; ideas of justice, what's fair, what's right and wrong and what it means to be a good person are, in my experience, major concerns for even very young children--although perhaps as those issues relate directly to themselves. But I think the futurity of these conversations--what do you want to be when you grow up--limits the potential for deep discussion in the present. It's not like there is a certain point where people's personality emerges, fully formed, from the experiences of childhood. It is happening from birth. And while there are clear ways to fuck it all up for a child, the subtleties that help form us are uncontrollable. But the discussion has to happen, and it has to be a back and forth. We can't dictate morality. But parents, teachers, siblings, family, friends, whoever, can listen to children and take part in a dialogue from an early age.

  • PuraPuma

    I love sports. I played them from the time I was 7 through college. I was never a "hero". I was just an average player. But now, in my 40s, I've come to see sports as a detriment in many ways. Even as my kids are excelling in their sports the way coaches, parents, & team managers act makes me want to walk away from sports. This article sums up a lot of other reasons sports no longer excite me like they did. When 16 yos are treated like they are a city's "hero" that's a problem. I hope these guys never play on a team again. Kids like them and coaches that protect them ruin the fun of sports and cheering.

  • Anna von Beav

    THIS RIGHT HERE. Performing well in a game, or a sporting event, or anything of the like is not heroic behavior. Heroic behavior involves selflessness, and there is nothing selfless about competition.

  • What we can do to change that? We may have cheered these young egos, to the point where they have no choice but to self-destruct (and to takes others down with them).

  • Wōđanaz Óðinn

    I find your ideas intriguing and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Of course they had a choice. I don't get what you're saying. Are you a bot? wtf?

  • NotBot

    It's a quote directly from the piece because it's a spambot. How is that confusing?

  • lowercase_ryan

    Don't give me shit, someone actually upvoted the bot.

  • NotBot

    So? Upvotes don't make it less of a scam.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I get that it's a scam and I admit it threw me a little bit at first, using the quote and all. That's a clever bot maker person. But you can't upvote yourself (I've tried) so someone did it.

  • NotBot

    If you say so. Because I just did.

  • NotBot

    (or less obvious)

  • BobbFrapples

    In my high school, the "random" drug tests would never happen in the week before or after one of the major sports games; they usually called for students to pee into cups the day after prom.
    A lot of the egos are built by the adults surrounding these children. Good Think Piece.

  • Pinky McLadybits

    "Somewhere along the line, your child—and others—got the idea that there are people beneath them, people who don’t matter enough to be treated with any sort of dignity or care. Somehow while your boy was being put up on that pedestal, football in hand, he never got the message that he was still just a person like the rest of us."

    This. This, all day long. (And sometimes, this happens without sports even being involved.)

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