FanPost

Reflections on Sick Trash


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So I clicked on an ESPN comment section on a Penn State article. (Big mistake…I know, I know.)

I know that usually there are a pretty large group of low rent individuals that spend their time trolling on that board, but I was sickened to see the vile spectacle that was unfolding. People claiming to be crusading against child sexual abuse by shouting down every voice raised against Pedophile State were themselves making jokes about raping children. When I pointed this out, my post was immediately deleted. I can only imagine by ESPN.

I have had a few thoughts generally about the NCAA handling of the PSU scandal and have, by and large, held my tongue on this board. I’m sure that some of the ground I’ll cover has been beaten to death already, but to be honest this is more about me articulating what I think than about informing you.

#1. Profiting from re-exploiting and objectifying the victims.

Follow me for a second on this – Abuser sees something it wants from Powerless Individual. Abuser uses Powerless Individual to achieve the desired outcome, thereby victimizing Powerless Individual by treating him as a means to an end.

Doubtless, Jerry Sandusky was Abuser and there were numerous Powerless Individuals transformed into Victims during his abusive streak. I would, however, argue that this did not conclude the victimization of these Victims.

Major media outlets saw something they wanted from the Sandusky Victims. Actually, two things.

The first was profit. Profit follows a big story. Regardless of your favorite sports outlet, when something big happens, people turn to ESPN. (It’s sort of the same thing in the News world – everyone watches Fox or MSNBC until a big international crisis – then they turn to CNN.) So ESPN sees profit in Sandusky Victims. ESPN uses Sandusky Victims to achieve that end. How? By unitizing them (all of the Sandusky Victims are suddenly alike and have identical needs because they all happen to have been raped by Jerry Sandusky) and objectifying them – turning them into a banner or a flag.

The second thing they wanted was prestige. They wanted to be able to say “I brought down the unsullied icon that was Joe Paterno.” First, this would allow them to get more profit. Second, this will open the door to individual accolades. “My hard hitting journalism exposed a false idol.” Media types eat that stuff up.

Towards both of these ends, Media (particularly, ESPN who had the greatest incentive to objectify and advance a cause in the name of “the children,” actually reobjectified and revictimized the Sandusky Victims.

#2. The Chilling Effect of the Freeh Report

The first thing that I thought when I heard that the NCAA had summarily sanctioned Penn State based on the Freeh Report alone was “well the only lesson to be learned there was that you get punished for transparency.”

Had Penn State not commissioned the Freeh Report, it still likely would have been sanctioned – obviously Mark Emmert’s main goal in doing what he did was to create the appearance of NCAA activity to make his organization appear responsive, and therefore, relevant.

But for the NCAA to go out of its way to say “we do this solely based on the Freeh Report” will create a massive chilling effect on independent investigations. Why should School X (let’s call it Miami or UNC) commission an independent report if it’s only going to lead to a summary sanction? Instead, wait a while, go through a full NCAA investigation while public outrage subsides, and go through the traditional give and take.

The impact of the chilling effect that will inevitably follow Mark Emmert’s conduct is that transparency, openness, and independent inquiry will be undermined. By implication then, we will have more cover ups. Why? Because the NCAA shot Penn State precisely because it was trying to be transparent. It used that transparency to justify the execution. I haven’t heard any substantive discussion of this anywhere in the media (not particularly surprising), but this analysis alone should deeply concern the NCAA.

#3. University Administration.

Um, why are these guys still in office? Go talk to a lawyer up there about what fiduciary duties the trustees owe the university. If you're a small business owner, ask them about third party beneficiaries to NCAA contracts with the university. I'm not sure either of these approaches would work, but you never know.

I could go on, but then you really wouldn’t read it. You know, it amazes me how little actual sports journalism there is. If something like this happened to a congressman or a big corporation, you’d better believe there would be all kinds of debate in the public sphere. The fact that there isn’t any debate here is a testimony to (1) ESPN’s ability to actually feed people any story whatsoever and have them believe it, hook, line, and sinker, (2) ESPN’s immense profit motive to literally shout down anyone that dissented with their narrative or that was willing to point out that they were re-victimizing young adults harmed by Jerry Sandusky, and (3) the horrific administration of your university.

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