Basketball Jones

A niece who is a senior at Michigan State University twittered this link from the Michigan Messenger this afternoon. I hope she doesn’t mind if I write about it. In a nutshell, a couple of MSU basketball players sexually assaulted a fellow (female) student in their dorm room. The young woman had a few drinks and introduced herself to them and then agreed to accompany them to their room, where they all engaged in a game of strip basketball. They then began to assault her and wouldn’t let her leave the room. A prosecutor subsequently talked her out of filing charges.

Okay. Sexual assault is NEVER okay. It doesn’t matter who the perpetrator or the victim is. Or how provocatively the victim may have been acting. No is no and it just isn’t okay. But. I get particularly irritated when young male athletes assault young women and then [seemingly] get away with it. What is it that athletes do that allows them occupy such a revered position in our culture? That lets them get away with crap like this.

I went to Moo U too. I played the flute there. A couple other flute players and I traded off 1st seat in all the top ensembles there. We were good. Did people jump up and down in their seats yelling and screaming when we played? Hmmm. Well once, Gunther Schuller (Google him) said, “Bravo, alto flute,” to me after conducting our group in one of his pieces. Anthony Braxton (Google him) told me my playing was “Cool!” or something like that when *he* conducted us. I loved his music and I loved playing it, but the passage he was talking about was basically a cacaphony of many instruments randomly and wildly improvising. I was just flapping my fingers around and I can’t believe he could even hear me. Most of my admirers were little old ladies who came to our more traditional concerts and hovered near backstage to tell me how lovely my playing was and admire my black dress. Not that they knew me from any other long blonde haired female flute player.

That’s all okay. I accept that classical music will never inspire the same emotions in most members of the general public as a good, rousing basketball game. I don’t frequently listen to it *myself* anymore. On the other hand, when I was in college, I NEVER used my musical talent as a tool to sexually assault someone. If some young man had introduced himself to me in a dorm after having a few drinks, knowing that I was one of the top classical musicians on campus, I would NOT have invited him up to my room for a game of strip flute playing. I’d’ve won that game more handily than a basketball player throwing a ball into a hoop, but I doubt I’d’ve been able to block him from leaving. In all honesty, the fact that I was a good musician was only a curiosity to most of the boys I met in college. I didn’t have any fans and any boys who pursued me were interested in much more superficial qualities.

Again (and again and again and again). Athletes are people. They are no different than any of the rest of us except that they have a different talent. So what? Being able to play basketball (or football or soccer or baseball or ski or kayak) does not automatically make someone a good person. A person who is worthy of being revered as a hero. In the grand scheme of things, playing basketball is just another talent. It doesn’t really matter how many people love to watch basketball or get emotionally involved in the games or revere individual players. Our star athletes are just as flawed as the rest of us. They are not above reproach and should not be allowed to shove sexual assaults and other criminal activities under the rug.

We need to teach our children that it takes more than bouncing a ball around a basketball court (or vibrating columns of air, for that matter) to make a hero. Or even a good, honest, responsible person.

One Response to “Basketball Jones”

  1. Margaret Says:

    A flute makes a great weapon! I agree with you; it’s becoming an epidemic in our society, very sad.