Thursday, April 4, 2013

Winter Is Officially Over; Men Still Behave Badly

The calendar proclaimed it happened March 20, but I declare today the official end of winter and the beginning of spring. Today marks the day I ran the motor dry in my snowblower and stored it away in the shed, took out Gilda’s gardening wheelbarrow and removed the cozies from two of our outdoor faucets. 

Yes, spring was definitely in the air today, sunny with almost no breeze. I even fed the birds, giving them leftover Passover-version Cheerios (they’re really vile tasting, but the birds don’t seem to mind), and crunched up whole wheat matzah. D’ya think it will have the same binding effect on the birds? 

Is it a surprise to anyone that men behave badly? Specifically, men with authority who coach athletic teams and other groups where discipline is demanded. 

The abusive behavior of Rutgers men’s basketball coach Mike Rice toward his players led to his dismissal Thursday, days after a series of videos surfaced of him taunting his players with homophobic slurs, hitting them at close range with thrown basketballs, kicking them and otherwise manhandling them. Sadly, it wasn’t the first nor will it be the last time a coach acts badly. It happens in almost all sports.

But as I tuned into the last few minutes of a segment on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show today, I was intrigued by the comments a sportswriter guest made. Rice’s behavior toward these collegiate athletes was no worse than they might have experienced had they been new soldiers undergoing basic training in the Marines or Army. I am in no way trying to justify Rice’s actions. But it seems we surely have reached a point where college sports have stepped over a line that separates it from the rest of our society. Sports have transcended the educational purpose of higher education. I’m not sure we will ever rebalance our priorities, not when athletics produces oodles and oodles of dollars for universities, nor when the commander-in-chief’s picks for March Madness command as much if not more air time than wars in the Mid-East or hunger in America.

As if to reinforce that thought about war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Lehrer noted the intense interest in the compound leg fracture sustained by Louisville’s Kevin Ware during a game against Duke last weekend. Many people want to watch the video of the mishap. Yet, Lehrer pointed out, as gruesome as the injury was, it was not as bad as what happens every day in war zones, to civilians and to military personnel. We are shielded from viewing those traumas. The wars, it seems, are not for public consumption.


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