“He said he woke up the morning after the alleged rape and found graphic pictures on his phone while he got ready to go to church.”

Wow. Talk about multi-tasking.

Didn’t Irving Berlin write a song about this?

I got the church in the mornin
And the rape at night….

With the lovely Vanderbilt University rape trial as …

background, the film The Hunting Ground begins to generate commentary.

Along with institutions like Harvard, Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, “The Hunting Ground” takes on the fraternity system — in particular, Sigma Alpha Epsilon — and even throws down a challenge of a sort for the National Football League with a not-so-subtle suggestion that teams should think twice about drafting one of the top college prospects, Jameis Winston.

Mr. Winston, the Florida State University quarterback, is the focus of one of the film’s more incendiary segments. The Heisman Trophy winner in 2013, he was accused in 2012 of sexual assault by a female student. He has asserted his innocence, did not face criminal charges and was recently cleared of violating Florida State’s student code of conduct by the university. He is widely expected to be among the first several players chosen in this spring’s N.F.L. draft. But “The Hunting Ground,” directed by Kirby Dick, makes a mockery of Florida State’s investigation, and Mr. Winston’s accuser, Erica Kinsman, speaks publicly about the case for the first time in the film, at length.

“Block That Metaphor!” was the title of a long-running New Yorker feature…

… which singled out mixed metaphors in prose. Mixed metaphors tend to mix up your reader. Here’s an example, taken from a review of The Hunting Ground, a film about sexual assault on American college campuses.


Given that the film levels a withering j’accuse against a complex skein of heterogeneous institutions and organizations, it will have a harder road ahead inspiring organizational reform in the same way The Invisible War did, but there’s no doubt it will get audiences debating and talking when it goes on release via RADiUS in March and when it is broadcast later this year on CNN.

Let’s highlight some of the figurative language in here.

‘Given that the film levels a withering j’accuse against a complex skein of heterogeneous institutions and organizations, it will have a harder road ahead inspiring organizational reform in the same way [the film] The Invisible War did, but there’s no doubt it will get audiences debating and talking when it goes on release via RADiUS in March and when it is broadcast later this year on CNN.’

*********************

The j’accuse bit is a rather overheated cliche, but let that go. The real problems in this sentence begin with skein. When we see skein, we see literal lengths of knotted yarn and figurative knotty complexities. Do we need “complex” in front of skein? Scathing Online Schoolmarm thinks not. It mucks up a sentence that already has too many words. And skein itself is maybe not the right word for what she means. She means to describe the network of universities in this country – and they are a network, not a skein. Skein suggests a somewhat fragile, random unit of things, whereas universities are more sturdy, meaningful, interconnected phenomena.

Now the writer puts the skein on the road. The skein “will have a harder road ahead.” I suppose we could at this point imagine something like tumbleweed… But really, the writer does our efforts to figure out her meaning no favors when she jams all of this at-odds figurative language into her sentence. Write simply, and don’t unspool too many skeins.

Damn! Shoulda done this at…

Florida State!

************************

She was totally unconscious so there is no way they can claim consent. It was recorded so they can’t claim it didn’t happen. It was reported not by the victim but by the university so they can’t claim she “cried rape”.

From the article’s comment thread.

The football players’ defense team argues that Vanderbilt’s sinful campus culture sullied the lads and forced their hand.

The local rags – especially in the southland – specialize in propaganda pieces on behalf of the local university teams…

… and Scathing Online Schoolmarm, long a student of propaganda, finds them well worth a look. If you read through the SOS posts on this blog, you’ll see plenty of analyses of modern American sports agitprop.

The point of this genre of writing is to transform empty stadiums into … well, not full… everyone knows what’s what these days in university sports… But to transform the total embarrassment of empty stadiums (the stuff is broadcast) into the mild discomfort of half-full stadiums. And since shitty dissolute sports programs repel everyone, your hackwork here ain’t gonna be easy.

*******************

Why is why SOS finds it sad that the people to whom editors throw these challenging assignments are usually the rookies, or anyway the worst writers on staff. Who else would take the gig? Your job is to rally the troops – to get the burghers of Bogalusa out of bed in order to hit terrible traffic, deal with scary drunks, sit for three hours while almost nothing happens, etc., etc., etc.

Those long empty hours give people plenty of time to contemplate less than attractive aspects of the sports program they’re supposed to be cheering. FAMU’s fans, for instance, will have trouble shaking off memories of their school’s homicidally hazing marching band…

But you won’t find a word about that ongoing unpleasantness in Jordan Culver’s piece in the Tallahassee Democrat yesterday. Culver begins with a lament:

[F]ans have been absent — if not totally nonexistent — during home games.

That’s home games, so I guess we’re talking, uh, even less than nonexistent for away.

What to do? The team stinks, the band kills its musicians, and to make matters worse vanishingly few people are applying to attend FAMU anyway. Into this desperate situation steps the local propagandist. What can he do to help?

There are basically two ways to go: Righteous rage against the people (we’ll see an example of that in a moment), and – the Culver option – humble entreaty. Culver goes ahead and acknowledges that the program’s a total mess, with new coaches stepping in every ten minutes or so… But please note! When I call FAMU coaches, they answer the phone and talk to me!

I call, he answers. I ask a question, he — to the best of his ability — provides an answer.

You can’t abandon a program whose coaches pick up the phone. Plus they all have “a vision.”

[FAMU’s interim athletics director] is willing to share [his] vision, and I think it’s one even the most disgruntled FAMU fan can get behind.

But what is that vision? Culver doesn’t quote the AD; nor does he quote any of the other people who will be running the FAMU program for the next few hours. He just says they all have a vision. The vision thing. We can get behind that, can’t we?

*************************

Righteous rage against the people has certain inherent risks, familiar to the classic propagandists of communist countries. The greatness of humanity, its glorious freedoms – these are what life is all about. They’re especially what the freewheeling all-American ethos of sport is about. You don’t want to mess up that… vision… with nasty, coercive, or – God forbid – threatening language.

On the other hand, if you are Clemson zealot Zach Lentz you are in a terrible vindictive snit, especially about the basketball team.

[S]upport for this team is dwindling at an astonishing rate and it has to wear not only on the coach but the players.

This first point is a variant of what SOS has long called coacha inconsolata (put the phrase in my search function), the evocation of the agonies suffered by coaches who through no fault of their own recruit criminals or make institution-destroying salaries or play to empty stadiums. In an echo of the notorious “kitten” internet meme, coacha inconsolata says Every time you fail to attend a game, a coach is worn down to a nub.

Same deal for the kids:

These student-athletes put hours of blood, sweat and tears into a job that’s sole purpose is to entertain the fans watching. The least we can do as fans is get out of our house or dorm and make the trip or walk over to support them. Maybe if we fans get behind the team from the beginning rather than waiting on a magical end-of-the-season run, we might see something special from a special group of kids.

First, then, you inflict guilt. Next up is the drill sergeant, barking his orders with numbing redundancy:

[T]here is no excuse. There is no excuse for there to be empty seats in the student section. No excuse for the people who have said of football game times, “I don’t care if they play at 2 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, I’m going to be there.”

Liars! Look what you said, and look what you did! No excuse, no excuse, no excuse!

The next thing is fully in line with the tendency of communist regimes to say exactly the opposite of the truth as if everyone knows this exactly the opposite thing is obviously true:

[P]eople love to go to sporting events. They love to be a part of the pageantry and witness the spectacular in person.

We don’t have to threaten our people with reprisals if they fail to show up for the May Day parade. Everyone loves pageantry and spectacle.

**************************

It’s strange how Lentz hasn’t noticed the national conversation about massively tanking attendance at university sports events.

It’s especially strange since he’s writing about massively tanking attendance at his university’s sports events.

***************************

Finally: The sobbing old-timer grapples with his lost world.

There was a time when students camped outside, waited in the cold and rain and people couldn’t wait to get inside to watch their team take on whoever dared enter the arena that night.

Why, I remember, back in two thousand naught eight…

FRAUDZAPOPPIN!

Baby Face Emmert and t’uther boys are saddling up to ride the plains and mountains of America in search of academic fraud in our big-time athletics programs. They’ve already got no fewer than twenty schools to visit in their quest to uncover and erase any stains on the academic integrity of this country’s universities.

You’ll see some naysayers out there for sure.

… NCAA investigations won’t change anything. So long as this system continues to rest on the mind-numbingly stupid idea that education and college sports have anything to do with each other, we will be stuck in this cycle. Colleges and athletic programs will game the system; the NCAA will go scandal-hunting; wrists will be slapped; and everyone involved in the whole sham will go on lying to themselves.

UD thinks this is unfair. Nobody’s lying to himself.

“I am a current employee with Treetops [Hotel]. I personally saw distruction and aftermath with my own eyes! It’s very sad that to see my place of employment in scrambles.”

This is from the comment thread of an article about some pillaging University of Michigan fraternities…

Scathing Online Schoolmarm likes very much the word “scrambles” here. It’s the kind of mistake (distruction and other mess-ups are less interesting mistakes) that makes you think about language, about why people reach for certain words when trying to express certain things.

The writer probably meant shambles – to see my place of employment in a shambles – but also somewhere in his or her head was perhaps not merely scramble (which can have meanings having to do with making quick and sometimes desperate moves, which I suppose has some mental connection to what the marauding lads did), but also scrabble (which similarly can mean panicky random movement). This person’s place of employment will have to scramble, and it will have to scrabble through a lot of trash, to fix the mess the UM group made.

Was trample in there too? Was the desire that these visitors from one of America’s most icky football schools scram in there?

“People who get upset over someone getting food stamps from the government should be very upset about a football coach getting a taxpayer subsidy equal to 20,000 months of food stamps.”

Our beautiful tax-exempt universities. We so want to keep them that way. Because they use the money we give them to give seven million dollars a year to football coaches! That is beautiful. That is so… university-y

…[I]t is certainly reasonable to ask about the size of the salaries at nonprofits that are being subsidized with our tax dollars.

What? Why? Next you’ll ask why Harvard University is sitting on a 32.7 billion dollar endowment. Point One: None of your business. Point Two: It’s a goddamn nonprofit, that’s why! Don’t you know a nonprofit when you see one?

We get very competent people to serve as Cabinet secretaries for $200,000 a year. Suppose there were a cap on the pay at any organization with nonprofit status at $400,000 a year. After all, if an organization can’t find someone to work for it at twice the pay of a Cabinet secretary, then maybe it isn’t the sort of organization that taxpayers should be subsidizing.

The nonprofits will scream bloody murder if any measure like this is even considered. Undoubtedly, many of the nonprofits committed to reducing inequality and poverty will be yelling loudest.

Point Three: You sound like a socialist.

More dispatches from the university’s front porch.

[A]s an out-of-state transfer student [at Louisiana State University], I was not quite ready for the insanity that ensued during football season. I was shocked at the number of students I saw around me that were consistently vomiting, and I had never seen so many students be carried out on stretchers before.

Yet these are precisely the students who eventually turn into the university’s most generous alumni.

One way for universities to save money while retaining loyal alumni would be to forgo the costly football thing altogether and simply, at the Welcome New Students party, spike the punch with Ipecac.

Then, after students have puked their guts out, beat them up.

Once you’ve had all the trouble Chapel Hill has had, you can’t be too careful.

So UNC has hired Gene Chizik as defensive coordinator for its football team.

… Selena Roberts, a former writer for The New York Times and Sports Illustrated, reported that Auburn [University] committed several NCAA violations under Chizik’s watch.

Several former Tigers players told Roberts, among other things, that during Chizik’s tenure Auburn changed grades to keep players eligible, and that the school offered thousands of dollars in effort to keep potential NFL draft picks from leaving school.

UNC: Clean as a whistle going forward!

Good ol’ Kentucky. Always looking for ways to save money.

[University of Kentucky deputy athletics director DeWayne Peevy said that basketball coach John] Calipari’s $1,550-per-night suite at the Atlantis [in the Bahamas], which totaled $12,400 for the eight-night stay, was booked partly so team meetings could be held there. Peevy said that if Calipari had a regular room, UK would have had to rent out an additional meeting space at added cost.

The poetry of the empty university stadium.

The Cougar teams increasingly find themselves
Playing in a mostly empty gym that,
By the end of the men’s game,
Can be eerily quiet.

Such a bland little article, this one; such a typical bit of local journalism, Texas-style…

… in which it’s vaguely noted that some university seems to have gotten itself into a bit of a fix money-wise… but oh well…

Southern Methodist University will lay off 100 employees by the end of February as the school attempts to cut up to $35 million in expenses.

SMU President R. Gerald Turner said in an email to SMU faculty and staff that the eliminations will allow more money to the university’s academic mission…

That’s right, just quote the man on that big ol’ academic mission at Southern Methodist University… Somehow (let’s not say how) Turner and others fucked up so badly that they’re firing people and they’re freezing hiring big-time… Texas-style big…

Perhaps an outsider’s perspective on SMU would help us get a grasp on things.

[SMU has] been notably vile ever since its long-ago death penalty, a signal distinction within a national landscape of dirty sports programs. SMU has not let the fact that the program remains moribund stop it from accumulating … a one hundred million dollar athletic deficit.

Nor has the fantastic campus culture of the sports factory faltered in the wake of SMU’s misfortune. Secrecy about the budget even as they soak the students for higher and higher athletics fees? Check. Sodden frat boys befouling all they touch? Check. Violent hazing? Check. I mean, that last one – hazing – hit the news today, but it got lost, since hazing and sexual assault and all that seem de rigueur, comme il faut and la chose normale at SMU.

How much more sordid can SMU and schools like it get? What can we expect in the next few years? Local journos will keep their traps shut, yes (here’s one local who tried gamely, as it were, to speak truth to the school’s booster-in-chief, but note how his questions keep provoking Soviet-era-style answers), but any significant newspaper outside Texas bothering to track SMU will easily expose yet another massive university scandal. Because keep in mind the context here. Even the local rag can’t help tacking this on to the very end of this article:

SMU in particular is feeling a squeeze from expenses including changing the school’s athletic conference, work to improve the school’s national presence and salary increases.

Those aren’t three different things. The fools think athletics is how you improve your national presence, and the crippling salary increases are largely about coaches.

So… in the new normal, which includes a deficit-ridden University of Texas athletic program, where’s SMU heading? A recent Chronicle of Higher Ed piece describes the now truly desperate financial situation for big-time university athletics, in which there’s a whole load of big new costs and

“States aren’t coming through with any more dollars, and student fees are largely tapped out,” [one observer] said. “It’s going to be a real challenge to figure this out.”

SMU isn’t going to figure it out. SMU is simply hopelessly stupid. It will keep doing what it’s always done – finance football games, throw tailgates, stagger about hazing people – until it runs out of money. Eventually its booster-in-chief (see above) will be forced to flee creditors. They will find him hiding out in a hole in the ground in his native village, à la Saddam Hussein.

“It was no fun seeing all those empty seats at Rentschler Field this past season. The announced crowd of 22,591 (tickets distributed) aside, you know how many fans went through the turnstiles for the final home game on Dec. 6? …5,300. 5,300 is beyond sobering.”

But it doesn’t sober this writer up enough to draw the obvious conclusion. Oh no. He’s a little stunned, a little daunted. But no.

Rentschler’s capacity, by the way, is 40,000.

“There’s a certain sleazy integrity to the NFL that’s absent from the NCAA.”

UD has long felt this too. The NFL never presents itself as anything other than a whore. Watching its leader smirk his way through his role as The Voice of Moral Outrage during the Ray Rice thing was oddly reassuring, in a Popeyesque, I yam what I yam, sort of way.

The NFL is like Germaine, Henry’s favorite whore in Tropic of Cancer:

Germaine was a whore all the way through. … However vile and circum­scribed was that world which she had created for herself, nevertheless she functioned in it superbly. And that in itself is a tonic thing.

The NCAA, on the other hand, is untonically complex – a whore that must pretend it’s a university student. Take Penn State, featured in the recent film, Happy Valley:

[Happy Valley] is not really about a sexual predator and his enabler. It’s about what their downfall illuminates: a nation so drunk on sports, especially on big-time college football, that it has lost the ability to think and feel. America has become a nation, as one reviewer of Happy Valley wrote, “put under a spell, even reduced to grateful infantilism, by the game of football.”

Grateful infantilism – pretty much the perfect opposite of what universities are about.

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