PRIORITIES

Posted in Quick Hits on November 29th, 2011 by Ed

So far I've avoided the Penn State child molestation story and the new, less widely reported allegations that a Syracuse University basketball coach Bernie Fine (who was fired on Monday) molested young boys as well. In the latter case, ESPN had a legally recorded tape of a phone conversation between a victim and the coach's wife in which they indicate mutual knowledge of the various acts of molestation that occurred. In a disturbing similarity to the Penn State case, ESPN received the tape in 2003 (!!!!) and reported it only this past weekend because they thought that the victim had already called the police and couldn't "verify the authenticity" of the tape. Seems like that might have been worth taking to the authorities anyway, guys. But let's not digress.

One particular part of the conversation between wife and victim is noteworthy in ESPN's partial transcript:

On the call, Laurie Fine told Davis (the victim) she'd already warned her husband that one day his alleged molestation of Davis might become public.

"I said to him, 'Bobby and I talked, and I know some things about you that if you keep pushing are going to be let out.' "

Davis continued: "He doesn't think he can be touched … "

Laurie Fine: "No … he thinks he's above the law."

The idea of being untouchable is prominent throughout the events at Penn State as well – that being a coach at a big time college sports program provides lofty social status. Honestly, that is a sadder commentary on our society, and higher education in particular, than even the acts these men committed. None of us are naive enough to deny that people in positions of power are treated differently. Things they do that might get them in trouble can sometimes be swept under rugs because other powerful people will help them. This is part of the way the world works. Life isn't fair, etc.

What's pathetic is that assistant coaches at college sports programs fall into this category of social elites who wield special powers. It makes sense, for example, that the governor or a judge or a billionaire are likely to get Special Treatment from the law. They have actual power. Bernie Fine or Jerry Sandusky, conversely, are college assistant coaches. College sports could cease to exist tomorrow and the collective impact on society would be nil, other than adding more people to the unemployment rolls. What these men do is not important. At all. It might be fun. It might be entertaining. It might boost school spirit or whatever excuses athletic departments use to justify their existence. Sure. But college football and basketball are not important.

It's sad that we place such a disproportionate emphasis on sports and athletes in our society that these men can get out of a speeding ticket let alone avoid prosecution for felonies. The appropriate response to a statement such as "Well I'm a coach for Penn State!" would ideally be "Who gives a shit?" Instead, such people are treated with deference once reserved for heads of state and robber barons. Because, like, the Nittany Lions! Joe Paterno! OMG!

Oh, by the way: don't get all high and mighty on us, non-Americans. We've seen how you treat your soccer players.