Scouting and Stubenville

I’ve mostly avoided news coverage of Steubenville because such tragedies sicken me on many levels, especially the way everyone involved is smeared with dirt by some news reporter or blogger.

Events like this should make us ask, “Why does almost every kid’s parent hope to raise a star player?”

How can this be healthy for growing boys or girls? We always hear about how sports teach ethical lessons beyond the mere rules of the game. But here’s the object lesson of sports teaching “win at all costs,” and “to the victors belong the spoils.”

Scouting has its shortcomings (and there is hope they’re being addressed) but it’s more than badges. The good troops (and there are lots of them out there) lead by example, give the kids a lot of non-sexually-themed things to do, and explicitly promote honesty, courtesy, and courage.

Scouting doesn’t have an explicit rule “Don’t rape girls who are passed out,” but it’s pretty well implicit in being “friendly, courteous, kind.” Friends look out for each other. A player who watched the abuse unfold says he warned one of the perpetrators, his (former) best friend:

Just wait — wait till she wakes up if you’re going to do any of this stuff. Don’t do anything you’re going to regret.

While the player was brave enough to speak up for the victim, he didn’t step forward to stop his friend and protect the girl. But he was about the only football player on record who tried to help her. That says volumes about football team culture.

I wonder what would have happened if that player had simply taken the girl in hand and tried to get her home, or to find someone to help her get home. Would the other players have objected, or forcibly interfered? We won’t know for sure, since no one tried.

If only a little bit of scouting’s civilizing influence had been at work, this tragedy would not have happened.

I wonder how many players on that team started out in scouts for a few years, but dropped it as they got too busy with football, lessons on a rarely-touched piano, and today’s countless video distractions. Perhaps the parents took far more pride in a place on the football team than election to patrol leader, senior patrol leader, or Order of the Arrow.

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