This is a guest blog post from Travis Smith, Associate Director of Student Activities at Colorado School of Mines. Thanks to Travis for sharing his thoughts with us this week! If you are interested in sharing a guest blog post, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post started in my head this weekend as I finally sat down to watch the last few episodes of Deadliest Catch in which they were paying tribute to Captain Phil Harris who passed away of a stroke while filming the show. During one of the three amazing and emotional shows they dedicated to him, one of the other captains made an analogy that stood out to me. In referencing the “greenhorns,” or first year crew, earning respect and their place on the boat as a “full share guy,” he claimed that the whole crew has to go through something together in order to earn each other’s trust, respect, and eventual friendship. I took particular note because he did not say that the 1st year guys needed to perform menial and meaningless tasks in order to earn respect; they had to prove themselves alongside their peers on the boat, rather than to them. Some of the toughest men in the world, doing one of the deadliest jobs in the world do not find the need to haze new members of their crew. The new members simply learn every aspect of the boat and work hard to earn their place as “full share.”
This week, a story on the news caught my ear and frankly pissed me off a little. Dez Bryant used to make me sick with all of his arrogance and ego but I found myself proud of him yesterday for the most astonishing reason. Maybe it was bravado, maybe it was Dez being Dez, but he stood up and refused to let a senior member of the Dallas Cowboys team (Roy Williams) haze him. "I'm not doing it," Bryant said. "I feel like I was drafted to play football, not carry another player's pads." How does carrying another player’s pads make Dez a better football player or even a better teammate if it is not for sincere reasons?
What really made me feel a little sick was the reaction of many of the reporters to this story. Herm Edwards said “just go along with it, get it over with.” Mike Golic said too many idiotic things to count in his two minute tirade this morning on “Mike and Mike in the Morning,” defending the hazing that occurs in the NFL. Reporters are calling it a right of passage and titles like “Dez says no to (innocent) hazing,” and “Dez Bryant refuses chores of a lowly rookie” make Dez out to be the bad guy for doing the right thing.
Of course the right thing seems to be in debate in the American public if you look at popular opinion polls on ESPN.com. At the time of writing this (after my vote of course) the ESPN polls stood at 64% for, and 36% against on the question of “Should Dez Bryant have carried Roy Williams’ shoulder pads?” What I found fascinating was that with the exception of Arizona (76% for), Alabama (66% for), and New Mexico (65% for) every state south of the Mason-Dixon line was under the average. In fact only 3 states were anti-hazing in the poll, Wyoming with 3 of 4 respondents against, Vermont (2 of 3), and Delaware (2 of 3).
"Everybody has to go through it," Williams said. "I had to go through it. No matter if you're a No. 1 pick or the 7,000th pick, you've still got to do something when you're a rookie. I carried pads. I paid for dinners. I paid for lunches. I did everything I was supposed to do, because I didn't want to be that guy." In fashion typical of hazer logic, Dez’s refusal to participate in a meaningless “tradition” may lead the hazing to become more severe as Williams threatened to take things to “step two,” possibly stealing his credit cards and wracking up charges, or as some have suggested, duct taping him to a pole. Sounds like the kind of behavior I want my kids to see portrayed by their idols.
Let’s re-imagine this story to include the modern college fraternity/sorority. A new member (aka pledge) refuses to get his/her head shaved, and carry books across campus for an older “established” member. The next day that student is found duct taped to a pole on campus. The story gets out and who looks like the bad guy in this scenario: the fraternity/sorority of course. I wonder what those online polls would show had the story had been flipped in this way. I always thought that celebrities and athletes were supposed to be held to a higher standard than other people. Popular culture and the media continue to glamorize hazing in sports but condemn it in Fraternity/Sorority life. What makes this double standard exist?
Luckily, thanks to Facebook posts and conversations that have popped up like wildfire, I know that I am far from unique in my thought processes. Though polls may not show it I know that there are a lot of people out there that are fighting the good fight, from students to senior level administrators on college campuses, professional organizations and groups like http://www.hazingprevention.org/ that exist to bring this issue to a close. Keep fighting the good fight Dez!