HOT BUTTON ISSUE: The thin line between Hijinks & Hazing

Oh, it’s nothing but a little locker room hijinks. During the dogs days of training camp, the boys will be boys. What’s wrong with a little rough housing amongst players? They do play a game, after all. Quit being so sensitive and grow a pair. Is it really that big of a deal?

I’m sick of all cliche reactions to the recents acts of hazing by the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, but to answer those of you who share a similar sentiment as above: Yes, it is a big deal.

And it doesn’t take a heinous act like this one to happen to the New York Jets for it to make national headlines.

Offensive language aside, what defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul did to do second-year cornerback Prince Amukamara and the similar fate of rookie wideout Reuban Randle, who was bound with tape before being dumped in the ice tub, was neither hijinks nor a game. It was irresponsible. (Although I think we can all agree that punter Steve Weatherford stands at the forefront for videotaping/uploading the acts.) It contradicted everything that is supposed to be achieved in training camp: developing a bond between a band of brothers that are preparing for battle.

Instead teammates bonded over the bondage of their peers.

It’s not that I don’t believe in fighting. I think it’s good to fight — to stand up for yourself. It builds character. What I do oppose is a man big enough to handle two Amukamara’s abusing his size and strength to manhandle another teammate. Amukaramara, who clearly didn’t struggle against the 6-foot-5, 275 pound Pierre-Paul, hung his head in shame afterwards refusing to look up at the camera.

The second-year corner from Nebraska told Mike Garafolo of Star-Ledger that he was dunked eight times last season.

“I mean, I’m not a rookie anymore, so I don’t know why I’m getting thrown in the tub. I know it’s all love. Yeah, no one ever likes it, especially when it’s you vs. eight and no one’s helping you. But it doesn’t mess up our team morale or anything,” he said.

Some of those eight that stood on and watched the embarrassment ensue began pleading for Amukamara to stand up for himself. A connection that Garafolo’s makes as an act to toughen up young cornerback. But he did nothing.

Are rookies, like Quinton Coples (above), OK to be subjected to hazing rituals? (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Pierre-Paul, in speaking with The Sporting News, said that it was all “fun and games” and that the “media took it out of proportion”.

Clearly we differ on the definition of “fun and games”, Jason. Rookies carrying veterans’ pads, picking up the tab at dinners, carrying girly luggage in and out of major airports, performing “Call Me, Maybe” in the team cafeteria, getting a not-so-flattering haircut. These are the benign forms of hazing — or initiation rites — that can be viewed as “fun and games”.

No matter what side of the fence you stand on whether professional athletes should be considered role models, the naked truth is they are. That is the reason the media takes this out of proportion. Horrific stories like the one that occurred at W.C. Mepham High School in Long Island, N.Y. back in 2003 serve as an all-t0-real reminder that acts like these have a trickle down effect.

To surmise, on the Mepham Pirates’ annual training camp trip multiple players lubed up broomstick handles, pine cones and golfs with Icy/Hot and proceeded to insert said objects into the rectums of their freshmen teammates. While some needed stitching to physically repair the wounds, the emotional damage was far from repairable.

When news broke of the sodomy, the alleged perpetrators were allowed to attend school for two weeks before any action. In that time the victims humiliation continued as classmates yelled “faggot” and “broomstick boy” in the hallways. Some students shared rumors that one of the victims “liked it” because “he’s just like a fag”.

This is just one case in a stack of high school hazing incidents across the country. In fact, Dr. Norman Pollard conducting in an Alfred University study in 1999 reported that there are 1.5 million high school students who are hazed every year. He also found that 79% of NCAA collegiate athletes reported being hazed initially at the high school level.

Still a growing issue today, young athletes seeing their role models and celebrities partaking in hazing, and then plastering it on the web, not only condone such acts but promote it as well.

This is not being written from the perspective of one who was bullied throughout childhood. Sure, I had my run-ins with a bully or two — some I’m more willing to talk about than others. But this is not a feeble attempt to metaphorically exact revenge against Matthew Joy or any other bully. Instead it’s to drive home the message Uncle Ben told a young Peter Parker right before his untimely death (truly shedding light to my inner dork). With great power comes great responsibility.

As I previously stated, I said I wasn’t a bully target in high school. When I reached college, against my better judgement at that time, I decided to join a fraternity. I went through eight weeks of physical pain, emotional distress and mental strain. For what? Because I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. And what I went through had meaning behind it — well, for the most part. We were told to learn specific things and had a specific deadline to know it by. If we didn’t, there were repercussions — justified ones.

Of course there were those who had a few too many Natural Ice’s who would abuse their privilege — not a right — but that’s why it was important to appoint one who would not abuse the power of the program. It was my father who said if you have “one young male, you have one functional brain. If you have two functional males, you have a functional brain”. The more you add in the less common sense the group has.

I argue that little common sense went into the antics that have since unfolded to millions of viewers on YouTube. After a breakout year with 16.5 sacks in only his third season, I question if Pierre-Paul, 23, is mature enough to handle the type of power that comes with leading a team of men off the field as well as on it.

Maybe Pierre-Paul was teaching Amukamara the lesson of standing up for himself. Maybe that’s been a team-wide critique on the player, like Garafolo stated. But what’s definable is that we are in an age that every person’s move is viewed under a microscope, particularly those in the world of athletics. Their actions, positive or negative, have a ripple effect that is not quantifiable.

It’s stories like these that directly correlate with the disturbing actions that took place with W.C. Mepham high school football team — which garners the reaction of the media “blowing it out of proportion”.

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