Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Night Lights Shouldn't Mean Lights Out!

Okay, let's start with a disclaimer.  I was in the marching band. 

So stadium lights in HS on Saturday night were MUCH more important for the band than those for the football squad.... and that reflects a bigger problem here in the bosom of suburbia and beyond across the entire US landscape.

The "news" this week is that an overpaid football star (two or actually even more) was physically abusive to their spouse.  Very much so.  Not a minor problem at all, especially given the NFL willingness to sweep it under the rug.   And, tonight, another "star" has been brought up on felony abuse charges after using a "switch" on their very young son.  And both still aren't behind bars or shunned by all of their "fans".

These athletes are quote, unquote "skill" players.  Stars in the NFL.  And that status all the more explains what is happening.

I went to a great academically focused liberal arts college, Muhlenberg College.  The thing people remember about the school is how it prepped folks for secondary degrees, especially MD, DO, DMD, JD, MBA.  In other words, its prestige was for its academic output and not its football squad.  Thank God!

There are high schools all over America where being the big football star gets you all kinds of extra treatment and education support (e.g. better grades than you should earn) higher than does the greatest clarinet player in the entire county.  Be the best academic student MIGHT get you a great scholarship to college, but be the best tight end, wide receiver or quarterback at a good size HS and you get a full free ride at some college.  That's just messed up.

The "Big 10", SEC conference and all manner of other college NCAA sports machines generate all kinds of $$ from their sports programs, with football being the biggest money machine of them all.  If you get picked to be a "student athlete", you are in for one of the most protected, unbelievable ill-conceived, rides of your life.

That undue dependence on sports means that an unduly "macho" violence oriented (and not at all tacitly supported) culture emerges where those with superior athletic skills are mean that student is given all kinds of help not available to the next super software designer or biologist (who creates a world saving food solution) elsewhere in that university.  

These "student athletes"  (and they are all young men) are given one forgiveness after another for treating others poorly, poor academic performance, and disrespect for others (and especially women).  They are reinforced for their violence, their swagger, their dominance.  After all, its what helps them succeed on the gridiron (or the boards, or the ice, etc., etc.)  And so, we breed an aggressive, often violent, group of "ordained" men who are encouraged to be tyrants and sociopathic in their violence.  Except, they aren't called that.  They are called world class athletes.

And so we create these violent, self-centered beings and are shocked ("shocked"!!!!) when they are violent toward the vulnerable in their lives.  Truth - we created and endorsed that perspective and they live out what they were encouraged to be.  AND - even worse, they are often role-models for young men all across the country who see their behavior as something to emulate vs. be repulsed at.

So, back to marching band.  Our local suburban township board of education sent out a brochure encouraging voters to support lighting our HS football field.  And it had some great points, like protecting the safety of our "student athletes".  

Except for two things.  

The band, which has brought home many more championships than any of the sports teams, was not mentioned at all as benefiting from the lights (all their local competitors have field lights) AND not one word was spent on how the maintenance and ongoing power needs costs for those lights would be funded.  I know - we will.  

So, once more, we idolize our athletes.  Encourage them to be macho and aggressive men and women.  And then we "shocked", "just shocked" when one of them takes that endowed sense of violence out against one of the more vulnerable in their life.

Well, its time to stop.  Enough with full force endorsement of the violence generated out of a sense of privilege.  If you want to be in the varsity level band, you better have the grades with out any special supports.  It you want to play Div I NCAA sports, guess what?  You have to pass English 101 without a special class or lenient professor.

And if you are a scholarship level athlete, you need to be held to an even higher standard of behavior just to make sure you know that you have no endowed privilege to be abusive, sexist, or violent.  

Oh, and back to the marching band.  It is never okay to use your body to shove around the trombone player.  
It was their turn for 8 minutes of glory you insolent offe.  You get 60 minutes (+ an unbearable amount of commercials) to show your stuff.  Leave the band geeks alone.  Odds are they will be making a great life and better income long after your knees are screaming at you to have been a science major instead of a "sports science" major.

One band, one sound!  There's a group of champions - with a GPA to knock your valves off.  GO BAND.

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