Here in the Washington, DC metro area, there are plenty of Penn Staters. Some of these alums are rabid enough football fans to tackle the 400 mile round trip necessary to attend all the home games.
Needless to say, they are in shock, and many refuse to speak about the matter at all.
While there has been no shortage of media coverage, one topic is strangely absent from any story I have read or watched. Maybe it’s because the topic is indelicate, although today’s media can hardly be accused of having much restraint. Perhaps it’s because the topic cuts way too deep.
What I’m referring to is the undercurrent of homoeroticism that exists in all competitive sports. There is, after all, a fine line between the promotion and admiration of physical perfection, and the tendency to take it a step further. Likewise, there is a fine line between so-called “horseplay”—the same word has always been used as a cover, going back at least to Bill Tilden—and intentional sexual harassment.
Moreover, for a predator such as Joe Sandusky, few environments can match an athletic locker room.
Inevitably, these scandals will be compared to the pedophilia occurring in the Catholic Church, but I will offer one difference—slight though it may be. There were a number of priests, including Fr. Leonard Feeney, who spoke out against the rising number of gay priests, and the acceptance of a gay subculture within the priesthood. These clerics also noted with dismay the overly close relationship between certain priests and their charges. Sadly, many of those who did speak out were persecuted, and even worse, were ignored.
The records show that the majority of the so-called “pedophilia” cases that occurred within the Church actually involved adolescents, some of whom appeared to be in consensual relationships. Yet, based on the promise of easy money and the built-in animosity that society has always had for the Church, the lawsuits and media coverage proliferated.
No, I am not justifying any of this sordid behavior, but the word “pedophilia” conjures up the image of a small, defenseless child being molested, which provokes even more outrage.
Contrast this with the fact that no one within Penn State or Syracuse spoke out on these matters until the story had already broken.
If athletics are to be held in greater esteem than religion in this society, more’s the pity that the overwhelming interest is in being a spectator, rather than as participant.