This thoughtful take on the Steubenville lads reminds UD of something she’s noticed about local coverage of university athletes who’ve been arrested for sexual assault or hazing or DUI or theft or gun play or whatever.

Katie Heaney wonders why reporters often devote a couple of sentences at the beginning of the article to the charges themselves, and then spend the rest of the piece talking about how the team’s defense is going to be weakened while the guy’s on trial, but there’s this other guy, a freshman, and this might be a huge break for him and he might rise to the occasion… Reporters often jump right to the win/loss implications of a sudden, er, removal of a key player from the lineup. They’re writing a sports piece with a bit of crime attached to it.

In the case of Steubenville’s multiple accused athletes – high school guys about to go to the universities that recruited them to play football – Heaney asks

[D]o we need to know how many state championships they’ve won? Do we need to know how much the suspects, if convicted, will be missed by their teammates and fans?

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This goes to the rape culture of certain towns and schools – a culture whose existence these places indignantly deny. Pathetic Penn State will insist to its dying day that Sandusky was a grotesque anomaly, that nothing in its engrossing pleasure in violent games had anything to do with current events there. Notre Dame looks the other way. Montana looks the other way…

UD isn’t sure why it’s so difficult for these places to own their violence. They produce violence all the time – on the field, off the field. Steubenville produces young men – local heroes – who film themselves being violent. Football gets more violent by the day, and these places are right there, fashioning young men fully up to the challenge of brutalizing and being brutalized at the highest levels.

Think of the post-nuclear athletic games in Nevil Shute’s On the Beach if you want a sense of where these places are headed: “They’re doing it because they like to do it, honey.”

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