Sunday, January 6, 2013

Penn Sate and Steubenville, OH - Not So Different

Cross-posted at

The fallout from the Sandusky scandal and the ensuing Penn State coverup continues.  Pennsylvania's Governor, Tom Corbett, has filed suit against the NCAA claiming that the sanctions it levied against Penn State were "arbitrary and capricious" and that the "punishments threaten to have a devastating, long-lasting, and irreparable effect on the commonwealth, its citizens, and the economy."

This is a very curious lawsuit in my unprofessional opinion since as far as I can tell, the economic impact resulting from the sanctions is the primary complaint and basis for the lawsuit.  This is curious because that is precisely what the intended impact was.  Sanctions without any detrimental effects would fail to adequately punish the institution that so blatantly covered up child rape in service of its football team, not to mention that it would fail to serve as a meaningful deterrence to other would-be obfuscatory institutions.

Additionally, it seem that detrimental effects to the economy shouldn't be a sufficient standard for a state to claim a liability.  For starters, there should be consideration to the ethical underpinnings of what is causing the detrimental economic effects.  For example, if an economy was highly dependent on slave labor, would the eradication of slave labor be cause to award damages to the state that had previously benefited from such a practice?  I think most people would agree that that would not be sufficient.  Detrimental economic impacts directly resulting from the actions of an organization should not be the sole basis for awarding damages.

I haven't read the lawsuit, but I'm skeptical that the claim that the sanctions "threaten to have a devastating, long-lasting, and irreparable effect on the commonwealth, its citizens, and the economy" is actually true.  In fact, I suspect that given the vast alumni network (>500k) and the near cult-like following Penn State football has cultivated, donations have probably seen a spike.  Penn State played all twelve of its scheduled games, seven of them at home.  While average attendance was down about 5% from 2011, some of the decline was probably inevitable as attendance has been declining since 2007.  Nevertheless, I have a hard time buying that a 5% decline in attendance and all the business it brings to the community constitutes an irreparable effect on the commonwealth, its citizens and the economy.

Finally, before I move on, let's just acknowledge this for what it is: politics.  Corbett was/is on the Penn State Board of Trustees that agreed to the sanctions, he was the guy that dragged his feet as PA Attorney General in investigating the case several years ago, and he's up for re-election in 2014.  I'm sure he's been feeling the heat from his constituents (many of them Penn Staters or PSU fans), so it strikes me as a thinly veiled attempt to curry favor with the voters.  This isn't, as the deadspin article linked above alludes, about what the NCAA did or didn't do.  The NCAA may be full of shit in how it determines who gets punished and how, but economic impacts notwithstanding, I don't see how that affects the state of PA. 

In other football news, 16 year old girl was reportedly drugged and gang-raped by football players in Steubenville, Ohio, and two people, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, have been arrested for it. 

Well at least they've been arrested for it, the police are investigating, and justice will be served.

But as one might cynically expect, in a small town, a successful football team dominates local culture.  The NYT quotes a life-long resident attesting to this unfortunate fact:
“The players are considered heroes, and that’s pretty pathetic, because they’ve been able to get away with things for years because of it,” Flanagan said. “Everyone just looks the other way.”
And now supporters of the football team, indeed even its coaches, are making victim-blaming rationalizations.
“The rape was just an excuse, I think,” said the 27-year-old Hubbard, who is No. 2 on the Big Red’s career rushing list.
“What else are you going to tell your parents when you come home drunk like that and after a night like that?” said Hubbard, who is one of the team’s 19 coaches. “She had to make up something. Now people are trying to blow up our football program because of it.”
And just to top it all off, a video was leaked with a former Steubenville baseball team member making jokes about the rape:
“She is so raped,” he laughs, continuing an offensive tirade including the lines, “They raped her quicker than Mike Tyson!” and “they raped her more than the Duke lacrosse team!” grossly quipping that the unconscious girl was “deader than Trayvon Martin,”  even as other voices captured in the video interject, saying, “That’s not cool, bro … That’s like rape. It is rape. They raped her.” Other teens in the video laugh along.

I've always enjoyed watching and attending football games.  I've enjoyed tailgating, drinking beers, and getting excited with my friends at games.  

In my more immature years, my happiness was strongly tied to the success of my team, and I would engage in heated arguments with rivals, often seeing our differences as those between good and evil.

This attitude has waned in recent years and given way to a casual fan attitude that enjoys watching sports for what they are: games.

The NFL isn't looking for a cure for cancer (don't talk to me about those pink fucking ribbons: I'm talking about the raison d'ĂȘtre), and the NBA isn't solving global warming or the energy crisis. 

It is becoming increasingly clear that what should be a form of mild entertainment is a force for corruption, misogyny, corporatism.

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