Does Abuse Motivate?

With all abuse, there’s always more than one incident.

I went to High School with a kid whose dad was a famous football coach at Arizona State University.  In fact, Frank Kush was the highly successful head coach of ASU football for 21 years –until he got caught punching a student athlete in the face.

Through it all Kush remained justified when he said, “It’s my job to win football games, put people in the stadium and make money for the University.”

With all abuse, there’s always more than one incident and such is the case of Coach Kush.  Another former player told TIME, “He’s hit me with pipes, boards and a ship’s rope.” Scores of other players concur; that getting head-slapped, kicked, stepped on and pulled around by the facemask was all ‘normal.’”

Abuse is Everywhere

Fast forward to another famous football coach – Jerry Sandusky.  Mr. Sandusky’s crime was sexually abusing boys –he was convicted of 52 formal counts to be exact.

His boss, head coach Joe Paterno, is believed to have known of Mr. Sandusky’s appetite for young men.  Mr. Paterno within the last two months died and with him his silence.   Penn State administrators remain highly suspect in not sharing their knowledge during the 15 years of abuse but they have been levied fines and sanctions.

In mid 2012, a little local article has Frank Kush saying, “Paterno was the epitome of what college coaching is all about, from the standpoint of youngsters socially, academically and athletically.”  It’s also Mr. Kush’s opinion that the NCAA shouldn’t have gotten involved because of what it cost Penn State.

Today, one to three years after the actual events, a video has surfaced clearly showing Mike Rice, head basketball coach for Rutgers University, physically and verbally abusing his players.  Because the video has gone viral the University appears to have bowed to public pressure and fired Mr. Rice.

The impact of abuse lives on

During middle school and into high school my father forced me to play summer baseball with a neighborhood coach who also screamed profanity at me.  Much of it the kind of stuff you hear Coach Rice yelling at his players –although sometimes it was worse.   There is no tape but there were endless occasions and plenty of witnesses – but not one said anything.

I remained quiet too. The reasons are the same; embarrassment, shame, disbelief, uncertainty that it really happened, etc..  All stereotypical aspects of denial.  I did tell my dad, although I didn’t have too, because on many occasions he was there.

My performance as a baseball player was crappy.  I was scared stiff.  I stood in right field like a frozen Popsicle.  Coach put me in this position because it was the least likely place to see any action.  On this one point, Coach and I whole-heartedly agreed.

I hated the game.  I thought something was wrong with my athletic ability, or me, but in time I would learn this wasn’t the case.  This was very confusing because in other sports I excelled, earning trophies and ribbons.  The abuse I endured was all “normal.”

No one said anything.  Not Dad.  Not Mom.  Not my brother. Not the other assistant coaches.  Not the other kids from my team or the teams we played.  Not the Umpire.  Not other dads and moms. Not even the administrators of Little League.  Nobody.

After all, my Little League team won games.  I guess the rotten rationale was this is how we won.   It was 21 years before the truth surfaced about Mr. Kush.  It was at least 15 years for the kids seduced by Mr. Sandusky to end their internal uncertainty as to what happened.  Maybe it’s only been two to three years of Coach Rice abusing kids but I doubt it.

It appears Mr. Kush has changed little since he was fired from ASU 33 years ago.  He still thinks the coaching ethics and the silence of Paterno “is the epitome of what coaching is all about.”  I’ve been quiet long enough.

I’m not interested in focusing on Mr. Rice, Sandusky or Kush or in spot lighting their victims.  I’m interested in awakening the dead in the silence of; Mr. Paterno, the administrators and anyone else who has sat at practice or a ball game pretending the abuse isn’t right before your eyes.  In the wonderful movie Field of Dreams Kevin Costner was encouraged, “If you build it they will come.”  In my dreams I ask, “If you stop supporting it they won’t come.”