Tornado watch over, UD yesterday afternoon got on the big bus (there was one other passenger, a guy who had a long conversation with the driver about the best place to get "real home-cooked Tennessee pork") and entered the alternative universe that is the Gaylord Opryland.
So far she hasn't seen much of it -- she was in a hurry to get to a session on hazing -- but she can report that bars are a big deal. What she mainly walked by were groups of people grasping Guinnesses. Pubs to the right of her; pubs to the left of her...
Which made for a nice segue into hours of handwringing, in the vast dark ballroom that is Presidential Suite B, over how much college athletes drink... Why do they drink so much? And then, drunk, injure and humiliate others and themselves with their revolting hazing rituals?
The alcohol lane leading to the ballroom is much like the alcohol lanes that surround big jock schools -- the University of Colorado, Ohio State, the University of Alabama... take a few steps off campus and see the tightly-packed booze-processing facilities... One recurrent story UD features on her flagship campus involves the post-alcohol-death angst everyone feels about all the cheap alcohol at all the cheap bars that wrap themselves around campuses like a big sloppy hug...
Under brooding chandeliers and brooding television screens that magnified and multiplied each speaker, a huge crowd -- young, natty, heartland -- heard tales of obscene and bloody initiation rites. Such a cleancut crew, and such sordid tales; you wanted to close their ears to them... And yet some of these heartlanders are up to the same shit when the ballroom closes. Cleancut people are the same assholes when drunk and in groups as non-cleancut people are.
There were basically two sorts of speakers: Outraged and well-meaning.
Longtime UD readers know that she's always pointing out how high dudgeon and other intense emotions are the enemies of argumentation, and the outraged speakers at the NCAA session on hazing were indeed hopeless. Emotion has the effect of making your presentation about you. How exquisitely you are able to feel! How sensitive you are to the sufferings of hazees! How profound your capacity for indignation! What shits we are for not caring!
Too much outraged reiteration of hazing stories also makes you look kinky. Why is this guy going on in intense detail about the sexual humiliation of female hazees...??
The well-meaning speakers were equally hopeless. They came across as weak personalities, incapable of understanding in its convoluted depth the Lord of the Flies world about which they were asked to talk. One was a very nice, concerned coach from St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York .
A long time ago, UD taught part-time at that school. Mr UD's first job was at the University of Rochester, and while she wrote her dissertation, UD taught at Fisher. It's a Catholic college, full of local Italian-American toughs, guys who, when they got bad grades from her, would call UD at home and tell her she was a whore...
It's all about values, the coach told us. What are your values? What's important to you? "My students will tell me they care about honesty, family, the team, loyalty... " They do a team-building values session; coach makes them aware how much these things mean to them, how important it is that they remain true to them and don't disgrace everyone by getting shitfaced ...
Propaganda is a sad thing. At the front of the room during the hazing session was a big yellow poster that could've been produced by a Stalinist hack -- big images of happy aspiring people; language on it about being positive and healthy or some such shit... The Communists spent decades propagandizing people like Mr. UD... The Polish nation altogether was the beneficiary of tireless propaganda from Moscow, and it doesn't seem to have taken, does it? That's because propaganda is simple-minded - often insultingly simpleminded. It doesn't understand the complexity of people.
Nice Catholic boys like the boys from St. John Fisher, or the Catholic Duke lacrosse boys, really are nice. They're well-bred, morally serious people. But they also come from, and continue to live in, a heavy-drinking culture. On top of that, if they're athletes, they've been rewarded all their lives for their physical aggressivity.
UD will close this too-lengthy post with the other well-meaning speaker, a woman from Northwestern University. UD graduated from Northwestern University, so when the woman described how Sheridan Road bisects the campus, UD had a very clear image of what she had in mind... UD doesn't do nostalgia, but she has moderately pleasant memories of NU (her intensely pleasant memories are of her graduate school down the road from NU, the University of Chicago)...
NU's school color is a very unpleasant purple, and this woman spent a lot of time describing various anti-hazing initiatives she's been involved in there, all of them incorporating the word PURPLE in various hokey ways...She ran news footage of NU's most recent hazing scandal -- photos were published for the world's delectation of semi-naked women soccer players blindfolded and in bondage as they underwent induction into the team. All were insanely drunk even though, the woman informed us in a high-pitched voice, "Drinking is not part of our culture. It's not one of our values."
Oh mama. I graduated from there. The whiskey spewed like chubby rain.