Sports and Rape

Something is wrong with sports in our society. Something terribly amiss with the role and goals of young athletes, their coaches and the educational institutions that ‘support’ them so handsomely. Dr Scapegoat is worried. All of us should be. And I know that few readers are going to like these comment because criticizing sports has actually become a taboo, like criticizing mothers or apple pie.

Item: In Steubenville, Ohio, where two ‘high school athletes’ were convicted of assaulting an unconscious 16-year-old girl and posting their exploits on social media. Item: At Saratoga High School, co-ed Audrie Potts is similarly attacked by ‘high school athletes,’ where pictures and words of the degrading encounter are again posted and days later, profoundly humiliated, she kills herself. Items: Famously successful and winning coaches are found to be using their awesome power to sexually and otherwise dominate the athletes, whose life and future they virtually control. Item: Educational institutions turn a blind eye to sports corruption as long as they are winning and they can. Item: All this occurring in the name of the supposed social benefits of learning teamwork and courage on the playing fields of our educational institutions.

The main scapegoats here are obviously the young mwen and women themselves. But what about the scapegoaters, the ubiquity of athletes and their coaches in so many outrages? A disclaimer. I’m a good athlete but I’ve always liked individual sports like tennis, running, and hiking. I mostly disliked team sports, because I found them so full of power trips, legalized violence, and groupies. In my work with leaders, I have never been impressed by the fantasies of how good leadership is learned in team sports settings. My own observation is that the contrary is true: excessive competition, too little sharing and cooperation, too much reliance on stars, bullying, and charismatic coaches do not a good leader make in adult settings.

High school team athletes are supposed to be irresistable to adoring young women. I ask myself why would these young heroes ever have to rape and dope young women to recieve sexual favors. Perhaps they are so inflated by their social status that they assume they can do anything and they’ll get away with it (as they often do because of their monetary value to schools and community).

Or perhaps they feel secretly inferior because they know they don’t deserve all the plaudits they recieve just because they are bigger and more coordinated then their peers.

I would not fault the athletes excessively; it’s their parents (ever watch a small but powerful group of little league parent/coaches?) and our odd sport worshipping culture that pumps them up and ultimately supports their criminal behavior. Big-time sports has been dragging down the ethics and aims of America’s educational institutions for a while now. We are learning to think of our best athletes (our children) as commercial property. Will this turn out to be part of why the hugely popular and incredibly commercial Boston Marathon became a target of terrorism? I hope not, but like gun laws, it’s time to rethink what we are teaching our kids about personal ethics when we support the next huge playing field instead of a science lab or music program.

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