- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 18, 2006

Whatever happened to “Just say no”?

You read about the strippers imported by the Duke men’s lacrosse team and — yesterday’s scandal du jour — the hazing episode involving Northwestern women’s soccer and, well, you wonder if our college ath-a-letes ever think for themselves anymore.

After all, they may not be the best and the brightest, but they tend to be the biggest and the strongest. And yet, from the sound of things, they baaa like sheep during these inane “initiations” and team “rituals.” Is there not a single soul among them willing to stand up and say, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore”?

Or is standing difficult because their ankles are duct-taped together?

I must be culturally deprived, because on none of the high school and college teams I played — basketball, baseball, football, even tennis for a season — was anyone blindfolded, stripped down to his jockey shorts and asked to wait for further instructions. Nor were women hired to gyrate in our presence.

You see, back then, in the dark ages of the late 20th century, athletes didn’t need such adventures to properly “bond.” They spent more than enough time inhaling one another’s body odors, more than enough time gasping for air and cursing the coach who kept asking for “one more” — one more lap, one more line drill, one more up-down. That’s where the unity came from — from proximity and shared pain. You proved yourself to your teammates with your perspiration, mostly. No self-abasement was required.

Guess that’s too boring for today’s athletes. Leaving your blood on the playing field is no longer enough, apparently, to be granted membership in The Club. You have to leave your blood off the playing field, too — or at least your dignity.

How did we get from making the freshmen carry the equipment bags to making the froshwomen (as we used to call them) frolic around in their panties while wearing T-shirts covered with assorted crudities — scribbled, naturally, by the team elders. That was the sordid scene at Northwestern … along with drinking (some of it presumably underage), lap dancing (for the men’s soccer players) and at least one instance of two women smooching as part of their “skit.”

Pictures of the above were posted on BadJocks.com, a Web site that tries to shine a light on collegiate carryings-on. (And just thank your lucky stars it wasn’t your daughter in one of those photos. You would have been mortified.) Yesterday, the site ran pictures of a purported women’s lacrosse initiation at Catholic University. The main entertainment looks to be a male stripper, who in some shots performs pseudo-sexual acts with the players.

Speaking of laps, the Northwestern embarrassment has fallen in the lap of old friend Mark Murphy, the former Redskin and current Wildcats athletic director. Following the Duke model, Murphy has suspended the team pending an investigation into the matter — hoping, no doubt, that footage of the initiation doesn’t show up on “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

As he noted in his statement, “Hazing is forbidden under the University’s anti-hazing policy.” Actually, hazing is forbidden just about everywhere these days — for all the good it does.

What’s even more discouraging, though, is that the guys hardly have a monopoly on this type of behavior. According to recent research by a University of New Mexico doctoral student, Colleen McGlone, 48.5 percent of the Division I women athletes surveyed said they had been hazed.

“We have this perception that this doesn’t occur among women athletes,” McGlone told the NCAA News. “I was shocked by some of the things that I was finding out.”

Aren’t we all? Especially the brazenness of it. BadJocks.com claims it found all its photos online. That’s right, folks, athletes think these initiations are so impossibly cool, they want to share them with the world.

Type “soccer initiation” into webshots.com’s search engine, and you get “almost 2,800 [images],” BadJocks.com’s home page reads. “‘Lacrosse initiation’ or ‘lax initiation?’ More than 2,200 combined.”

It’s as if the ceremonies, in the warped minds of the participants, confer a kind of “street cred.” (Yeah, right. Like you have to be One Bad Mama to play soccer at Northwestern.) Alas, these initiations aren’t likely to go away anytime soon. Indeed, in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, one of Northwestern’s femmes fatales insisted everybody was “just having fun.”

One person’s “just having fun,” of course, is another person’s “sheep to the slaughter.”

Baaa!

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