National Commentary

Freeh Report Indicts College Football

What was especially troubling about the Louis Freeh report on the Penn State child rapist atrocity was not how extraordinary or unspeakable the whole thing was, including the crimes and their cover-up, but how neatly the whole mess fit into an ongoing macho sports culture.

Especially in the case of college football, it’s an entire world swimming in deception and deceit. Young students are lured from early childhood into patterns of obsessive self-destruction, subordinating their minds to grotesque regimens for overbuilding and distorting their bodies in ways that taint their entire lives.

How many college football linemen fall victim to lifelong struggles with morbid obesity because they followed coaches’ orders to pile on scores of extra pounds in order to function like a robotic bulldozer on a football field?

How many knees are blown, lower backs irreversibly wounded, and, worst of all, brains scrambled by repeated and common concussive blows?

All this occurs in an environment where everyone is making big money by subjecting these young and impressionable athletes to this, except the athletes themselves.

One Tweet that crossed my smart phone last week hailed, sarcastically, that a major university had just spent $2 million to hire a football coach, but had nothing for new textbooks and instructors.

The magnitude of student loan debt, now at a trillion dollars, dwarfs the entirety of credit card debt in the U.S. It means that while athletic departments, coaches, sports broadcasting networks and college administrators are rolling in the big bucks from college football, the players get nothing except physical issues for the rest of their lives, most instructors are woefully underpaid and the university students walk off with diplomas while wrapped in invisible bonds of lifelong debt slavery.

All this is self-evident, yet it is rarely, if ever, openly discussed. In this environment of brutality, is it any wonder that one of its ugly undersides is child rape and coverup?

The obvious questions go to how common the Sandusky case actually is in American macho sports culture and, even if not in the extreme form of this case, how routinely coaches and other authority figures in sports treat boys and young men and women like disposable trash to be used, abused and discarded to serve their own ends, either for a winning record or worse. How different are the two cases, except by matters of degree?

In professional football, we are now finding that a “bounty system” was in place with at least one team where coaches offered financial rewards to players who successfully inflicted injuries on players from the other team, with even higher rewards when the injuries forced the victim out of the game for good.

How more or less brutal is this than the injuries that Sandusky inflicted on his victims? It is this culture that is really the criminal here, and it is highly questionable that anything can be done effectively to change it.

There are coaches who are exceptions to this pattern, but they usually coach sports other than football.

But the way that Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was worshiped as little less than a deity by not only players but the university’s students and alums and the entire national sport edifice showed the extent to which the big lie, the notion of the football coach as false father figure, pervades our culture.

The line separating a cruel predator from a caring mentor is very distinct. The latter values the young for what they have the potential to become in their lives, and guides them from that standpoint. The former lures with false praise and promises in order to chew their victims up and spit them out, overpowering them for temporal gain, or pleasure, and tossing them to the curb, limping and abused.

It used to be argued that rough contact sports prepare the young for the brutality awaiting them in adulthood. That was possibly true when entire generations were subjected to the mass carnage of bloody wars.

That’s not an issue now, however. Such sports these days are a cruel form of indoctrination into a philosophy of life that elevates exploitation, injustice and “might makes right” to a national religion.