On Being a Sports Fan

purplePeriodically, something happens that makes me stop and wonder why I love sports so much, why the success of my teams (note that I have no ownership in any team) can make me so happy and why I can be so disappointed when we lose (we, although I don’t play on any team either).  This time it could be a hangover from enduring college football Rivalry Week (enduring = we lost, rejoicing = we won).  Yes, my USC Trojans lost to UCLA.  I had to endure seeing my friend, Ben, post Go Bruins!  Who’s your daddy, USC? on Facebook.  (I responded, You’ll have to win a few National Championships to be our daddy!  It was a pretty snappy comeback but not as much fun as winning).  Maybe I’ve been spending too much time in the car listening to sports talk radio.  I’d suggest that nowhere on the planet can one find a larger assortment of over-grown adolescents and clueless doofuses than sports radio.  I want to know what’s going on with my teams but after a while, I feel like my IQ is dropping just listening to these guys.  Other times, I notice the sheer lunacy of many fans and wonder if I want to belong to this club.  Perhaps painting yourself purple and gold, then doing the Macarena mostly naked in freezing weather is just fun-crazy, but how about making death threats toward kickers and poisoning a tree on your rival’s campus?

What’s making me wonder this time, though, is what’s going on in Florida with Florida State’s star quarterback (and Heisman Trophy candidate), Jameis Winston.  In case you don’t follow such things, Winston has been accused of rape by a former student at FSU.  This case has been under investigation for nearly a year, during which FSU has made its run to Number One in the BCS standings and Winston has become the favorite for the Heisman. The alleged victim is a former student because vitriolic attacks on social media and a warning from the police that Tallahassee was a big football town and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against him because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable motivated her to leave school.  Sports talk doofuses have gone on and on about how alleged crimes should not affect Winston’s Heisman candidacy but few have noted that a woman shouldn’t be driven from school for claiming to be raped.   One particular doofus posted a picture of Winston’s accuser (and a sorority friend) a week after the alleged rape, looking sexy and dressed to party, implying that somehow this spoke to Jameis’ innocence.  Are we still blaming women for being raped because of how they were dressed?

I have no secret information regarding Winston or his accuser … you’ll have to try TMZ if that’s what you want.  And if Winston is innocent, I hope he’s absolved.  But there is certainly the appearance that the alleged victim was discouraged from prosecuting by the police … and that both the police and the university dragged their heels on the investigation.  What bothers me is that so many fans are willing to attack the alleged victim in the interest of National Championships and Heisman Trophies.  In an article on syracuse.com, Emily Bazelon notes that, Sexual assault charges against star athletes are often a kind of poison, one that acts less on the athlete in question than the woman who says she is the victim. It’s a story that has played out since the 1990s at a depressingly long list of universities (excellent article, here).  In fact there is an organization, the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes that has counseled victims and consulted to teams ever since 1998.   When we place college athletes above the law, we create professional athletes who believe they are above the law.   If, as many believe, sport is a macrocosm of our society as whole, we have not come as far in our attitudes with respect to sexual assault as I’d like to have believed.

Oh, I’m not going to stop being a sports fan.  I’ll still be watching my teams on the weekend and jumping around the family room when we win.  But I’ll wonder even more about the company I keep and may feel I need to take a shower afterwards.

What do you think?

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