A Not So Simple Assault

First, let me begin by saying that there is nothing humorous or entertaining about sexual assault.  It is a crime whose emotional wounds may last long after the physical wounds have healed.  That being said…

At the beginning of this year, Alabama and LSU met in the national championship football game in New Orleans.  Alabama was the victor, but that did not stop both sides from celebrating the event to the fullest.  Following the game, a fan dressed colorfully in LSU clothing was found passed out in a local fast food restaurant.  We know this and the subsequent incidents, by the way, because someone was nice enough to post a video to YouTube (search for “Alabama trash teabags drunk”).  In the video, the LSU fan is asleep at a table while a crowd of Alabama fans laugh heartily.  The Alabama fans take turns stacking empty food containers on his back, patting him on the head, taking pictures, etc. until one fan takes it to the next level.  A man in the video opens his fly, pulls out his scrotum, and proceeds to rub it on the face of the unconscious LSU fan.  Well one thing lead to another, and after 400,000 video views, the Orleans parish District Attorney filed charges for sexual assault.

So to recap, there is nothing funny about sexual assault.  But, if you are a guy who spent any time at all in college, you probably laughed heartily at the video.  There was a crime committed there, but I maintain not because of the act per se, but because the perpetrator and the victim were not roommates, frat brothers, or otherwise close friends.  Allow me to explain.

It is a very well known rule in every college in America that you do not want to be the first guy to pass out.  Ever.  For if you do, you are asking for “it”.  In my day, they thankfully didn’t have camera phones so I can only assume what happened to that poor fellow in Alabama never happened to me.  However, I’ll never know.  One of the most common courtesies extended to an unconscious friend was to draw liberally on his face with a Sharpie permanent marker.  Humiliation was key.  If he had an important job interview the next day, an ideal drawing might be sexual in nature, for example.  Another clever trick was to draw eyeballs on top of his eyelids.   Not only did this make the guy look like he was staring at the ceiling while he was asleep, it usually went undetected since the drawings were obscured while he checked the damage in the mirror with his eyes open.

Why do guys behave like this?  Well first, it’s really, really funny.  Doubly so, if you are drunk yourself.  Secondly, it is an altruistic, caring action to encourage our peers not to overindulge.  Counseling, interventions, and education all have their place.  But few things are as effective as walking into a job interview with Merrill, Lynch with the outline of a large, blue penis on your forehead.  That’s a lesson you take with you for life.

Back to our friend in New Orleans, if a crime was committed it was that these actions were taken against a stranger where the implied consent was not present.  If these two men knew each other, the victim needs to drop the charges at once and plan his revenge accordingly.  For this was all done for his sake, and we can all be pretty sure he won’t drink so much the next time he’s in town.

I was at a Las Vegas Burger King a couple of months ago, and witnessed the police wake up a man who had passed out at one of the tables.  He was respectably dressed, and appeared simply to have taken his evening too far (this was at 8:30am).  When the police asked him if he knew where he was, he named a city not in the state of Nevada.  See, now that is funny.  It may be that he got hammered at the bar across the Strip, and just got hungry.  But I hope instead that he was the first one to pass out in his local nightclub in Wisconsin or somewhere, and his caring friends loaded him on a Greyhound with a Post-it on his forehead that read “Vegas or bust”.  For some people a simple hangover won’t do it, and a real hazing is the only way to responsible consumption.

NFL, Amen.

A sports athlete who used to perform in Denver, whose name I forget, recently admitted that he looked at his fame as a platform by which to promote his religious convictions.  Athletic success was nice, but the bigger payoff for him was the attention and promotion that came to his deeply held beliefs.  Upon reflection, it occurred to me that professional football is a sport not only surrounded by spiritual men but is in itself a spiritual endeavor.  Consider the similarities and characteristics:

  • Where other major religions gather at a church, mosque or temple, football fans gather in spaces called stadiums.  If a member of the church of football is among the infirm, the economically challenged or otherwise is unable to attend the main service, there is a support system in place to allow that parishioner to worship privately in his own living room or neighborhood bar.  Instead of wine and wafer, however, the football worshipper partakes of beer and wings.
  • Sunday is not a day of rest for the church of football, but it has significance nonetheless as the holiest day of the week.  Football also has its major holidays, like the Super Bowl, the first day of the draft and the day the Detroit Lions make bail.
  • Like other religions, football parishioners offer tithes, commonly in the form of payments to Ticketmaster or the cable company.  Often these donations are of a shockingly large sum, yet in return there is no expectation of salvation. Rather, the tithe allows the parishioner to watch grown men beat each other to a pulp for a large salary and sometimes intentionally injure each other for a small bonus.
  • Like other mainstream spiritual structures, followers of football hold a belief in a higher power.  However, the power that rules over football does not provide unconditional and unending love.  You hope for some love, but sometimes there is hate, which is often revealed late in a game and usually involves a turnover or stupid personal foul.
  • In fact, unending love from any god of sport is downright dull.  Like wondering if the afterlife will offer you a path towards Heaven or Hell, the whole reason a game is exciting is that you don’t know where you stand in the eyes of the immortal until after it ends.  Take the 40-0 run by the Baylor women’s basketball team, for example.  That was not 40 games of pure, spiritual ecstasy.  That was 38 games of boredom followed by 2 games of, “wouldn’t it be interesting if they made it?”  It’s the unpredictable, flippant, and often petulant attitude of the sport’s highest deity that draws so many followers.
  • Further, the power that rules over football does not love all equally, but instead it displays overt favoritism.  The Jets literally can’t buy a competent quarterback, yet the Colts have less than 90 days after the Payton Manning era ends before the Andrew Luck era begins?  That’s your proof right there.  Who knew the chosen people actually resided in Indianapolis?
  • Ancient religions, like that of Greece, had gods, heroes, monsters, and the Oracle at Delphi.  Similarly, football has owners, players, Art Modell and TV analysts.  The parallel between the Oracle and the TV analysts is indeed striking.  A vague prognostication is handed down, and the masses become obsessed in debate on the intended meaning of the words.  Yet not until after the heroes battle will the true meaning of the prediction come to light.
  • For some, conviction to the church of football takes precedent over all else.  While many vow a devotion go God, country and then family, true football devotees vow first to their team and then their family, provided there is not a pre-game, game, post-game or sports debate show on.  Also, they often ignore their own heath to embrace deeper worship through the consumption of even more beer and wings.

So, before any other athletes look to football as a vehicle to promote their own spiritual path, they should keep in mind that football is not devoid of its own system of beliefs.  And besides, if their higher power wanted singular devotion, why did he schedule church during the pre-game?