The Dangers of Collegiate Athlete Worship
As a Harvard alum, I suppose I could take some obscene pleasure in the recent revelations about Yale quarterback Patrick Witt. You know, the guy who chose to play in the Harvard-Yale game instead of attend his Rhodes Scholarship interview? Yalies celebrated his upholding team and school loyalty over personal prestige–even as Harvard crushed Yale in The Game, 45-7. Except, according to this New York Times story, Witt rescinded his Rhodes application not because of the scheduling conflict, but because of a sexual assault allegation issued against him by a fellow student.
This was already a bizarre tale. Witt’s coach at Yale, Tom Williams, had lied about having been a Rhodes Scholarship candidate himself to suggest that he was in a prime position to advise his star quarterback. Then we find out that the campus paper, the Yale Daily News, had known about the sexual assault charges and been sitting on the story for months.
The thing is, I don’t take any pleasure in this at all (nor should anyone). Instead, we should lament the perils of athlete worship, which has reared its ugly head recently, most notably in the rioting of Penn State students over the firing of the late and disgraced Joe Paterno, protector of alleged child-rapist Jerry Sandusky.
I don’t know if Witt is guilty of sexual assault. But as the NY Times piece indicates from his prior arrests, he has a clear record of extreme douchebaggery. What we have here is a problem of the over-emphasis of collegiate athletics, and particularly the worship of male college athletes. These are people whose already inflated egos are fed from the moment they arrive on campus. This problem can lead to an equally inflated sense of privilege. Sometimes, this privilege just creates more and bigger douchebags. But other times, it can create atmosphere where real crimes go unnoticed, unreported, or unpunished.