Of Linebackers and Perpetrators

Is there a relationship between the culture of football and sexual molestation of children?

Jerry Sandusky has been known as the defensive guru who is responsible for turning out not only “All American” linebackers, not merely linebackers who make it to the professional level earning themselves millions of dollars per year in this sport, but linebackers who are so good that they become “All-Pros,” the term used in the National Football League for players who achieve the status of the NFL “All Star” team. His success led to Penn State University gaining the moniker of “Linebacker U.”

What are the characteristics of linebackers who rise to this upper level of their profession? The best ones have perfected an ability to transform their bodies, with the aid of helmets and shoulder pads, into missiles. They launch their bodies as missiles to explode the head and body of the ball-carrier.

The linebacker, more than any other defensive player, is responsible for bringing down the ball-carrier. The best linebackers have paralyzed opposing running backs by “spearing” them in the back, eviscerating their spinal chords.

Jerry Sandusky was expert (maybe the best in the country, maybe the best ever) at teaching linebackers how to do these things.

Causing Extreme Physical Pain to Children

It has now been revealed that at the same time as he was training young men to destroy other men’s bodies he was serially raping, sodomizing, and torturing young boys. Yes, while he was engaged in training football players, he was engaged in another form of training — that of teaching young boys, who were his charges, how to endure extreme physical pain, and psychological belittling and humiliation. (Sounds like boot camp for marines — except these are ten-year-olds, and they are being sodomized.)

For years others at Penn State who knew about this failed to tell the police. In fact, employment at Penn State became the reward for some of the witnesses who withheld what they saw from the authorities — yes, these people were given jobs at Penn State for keeping quiet. The revered institution that is Penn State University football needed to be protected, along with the perpetrators of sexual molestation. After all, Sandusky’s name, indeed his person, was an integral component of the flower of United States of America culture that is football.

Football is regarded as co-equal with “American” culture. Indeed, for the most violent culture in the history of humanity, the possessor of a permanent war economy, and a prison system which locks up the highest proportion of its citizens of any country in the history of the world, the sport is based on physically annihilating the opponent. The terms of engagement in football are all military terms — long bomb, spearing, sacks, jail breaks, chop blocks… Millions of drunk fans raucously scream in the stands every weekend for college and pro football. One Western psychologist likened this cultural phenomenon to the gladiators of ancient Rome and Greece — you remember, the slaves who fought each other and animals at the behest of Roman citizens who were frothing at the mouth in reflection of the violent orgy. Karl Jung caricatured the spirit in football stadiums as one of blood thirst.

Debauchery as Cultural Norm in Dying Empires

Western sociology records the pattern of empires in decline — the economy goes first, with war becoming permanent. Then debauchery becomes emblematic of these dying cultures.

Marxism is the only Western philosophy which extends this analysis to present U.S. and capitalist society. Indeed, Womanism, Indigenism, and the philosophical underpinnings of the modern national liberation movements each in their turn, as non-Western philosophies, make this link between empire-in-decline and the debauchery associated with the endemic molestation of children. No country in the history of the world has ever suffered from the extent of sexual molestation of children, of incest and rape as normal parts of the culture, as does the Untied States of America.

“Any society that cannot protect its children is pathetic.” (Herman Edwards, ex-football coach and sports commentator, November 9, 2011)

Football is “all American” culture. There is only one champion at the end of the season, and all the other teams are losers. Jerry Sandusky turned out “winners” year after year. Is there an internal relationship between close-ended competition, on one hand, and male domination and patriarchy, on the other? Is there an internal relationship between capitalism in decline and sexual molestation of children?

Is it legitimate to claim a connection? Counselors in the field of domestic violence have produced hard data to the effect that Super Bowl Sunday is the number-one day of the year for the beating of spouses by their male partners.

I hear some of my male sports-fan friends objecting in this way: “Sexual molestation happens everywhere — it’s not related specifically to the United States, nor is there any specific connection to football…” Listen to some of the sportscasters today: They want to annihilate Sandusky. They want to castrate him, or have him executed. Lock him up and throw away the key. This is also essential U.S. culture: Try to cut out whatever makes us uncomfortable. Rather than digging deep to find the internal tie between this normal activity of the culture and the basic foundation premises of the society in general, let’s kill this one guy, get him out of our sight. Indeed, other commentators are saying, “Let’s not keep harping on this subject; can we get back to talking about football?” Sorry Buddy, we are talking about football. “No, let’s change the subject.”

Never mind that dozens of other people took part in the cover up, that they were covering up to protect the cultural icon — Penn State football. Yes, some of the critics are as passionate today about castrating Sandusky as they were yesterday about annihilating the opposing quarterback. This isn’t to be trusted. Is it worth searching into the possible connection between these two impulses?