by Mike Missanelli – a special feature for Cordisco & Saile LLC
Underneath the umbrella of a progressive society is the notion that today we no longer tolerate things that made us small in the first place. In the world of sports, it’s why we now blanch at incidents where Ray Rice is filmed punching his girlfriend in a casino elevator or Adrian Peterson is arrested whipping a child with a branch – instead of pushing these things under the carpet in favor of their rushing totals on Sunday.
And so it is with hazing, which all these years within high school football programs, has somehow found favor as a form of “team bonding.” They shut down the rest of the football season at Central Bucks West High recently. Allegations came to light that underclassmen players from that vaunted scholastic program were being held under a locker room shower with towels over their heads. They were also allegedly punched in inappropriate places as part of the ritual.
Only the people involved know what really happened. At a school board meeting, coaches and most parents of the players claimed administrators rushed to judgment and overreacted by shutting down the program. They said that the incidents could have been isolated and the offending athletes punished, rather than an entire team, many of whom played no part in the caper. They said that administrators succumbed to the shrapnel that scattered from a recent hazing scandal in Sayreville, NJ.
By all accounts, the head coaches at Central Bucks West are good men. But having played sports all my life, I know that coaches can sometimes look the other way, depending on their definitions of team bonding. Some hazing is good? Really? How? You give a teenager a license to bully and you’re lighting a match to dynamite. Hazing doesn’t create bonding. It creates a caste system, with one group exerting its superiority over another. It creates discomfort and mistrust.
You know what team bonding is? It’s when sophomores show that they are good enough to make the team through competition on the field. If a younger kid plays well enough, competes hard enough, against players who are older, more experienced and more naturally physical because of their age, then he should have already won trust. And he’s entitled to respect. He doesn’t need waterboarding or a punch in the groin.
The scandal at Central Bucks West High should teach all high coaches to deliver this message when they first meet their team: There will be NO hazing whatsoever on this team. We grow as a team through competition and competition alone.
It’s 2014. How about we break the cycle?