Saturday, June 02, 2007


my turn with duke

It is now time to tell a little story about my relationship to duke lacrosse. it is an issue of much debate, both on nakedfobi, banthetubetop, here, and major media outlets. First they were terrible, preppy villians. then they were brave, resilient saints. then there was blowback and people wanted them regarded as thugs. then there was counter blowback about what good kids they really were and how smart and hardworking.

well, i lived through about the most analagous situation that exists. I admit that a lesser charge than racially aggravated rape was involved, but let me tell it and see if it doesn't help your understanding.

when i was a sophomore on the yale heavyweight rowing team, we got accused of hazing our freshmen. the whole thing was based on the report of a single RA (I eventually became an RA) which turned into a precautionary suspension of the program to allow for investigation. now this precautionary suspension and accusation found its way into the new york times (with it's school-girl crush that we often talk of here), and into everyone's consciousness on campus. the suspension for alcohol-related hazing pretty successfully fueled everyone's prejudices about rowing. that we were by and large, rich, white, from prep schools, and kindof boorish (all in large part true). and that of course we would behave in such heartless, stupid, and entitled manner. all the previous convictions for drunken violence came to light as supporting evidence for our flawed character. and we had folks with citations, just like duke. I didn't, but that didn't matter. people saw us as easy villians. and we through the previous decades had made it easy for them.

the problem was that we didn't do it. no one hazed anyone. this was the eventual conclusion of the investigation and the team was reinstated 2 MONTHS LATER.

that being said, we did provide alcohol for minors. that was wrong. but more importantly we forgot the best piece of advice our coach ever gave us: 'everyone is watching you.' you are a large group of large, confident young men. people know who you are. so you must behave as though you are being watched. this advice was actually for airport travel (he suggested we help old ladies with overhead luggage and not be rowdy in terminals) but ultimately it applied here as well. we engaged in questionable behaviour, and the world decided to pay attention. and we paid a reputational price for it. same as duke. the truth came out in the end. everyone was exhonerated, but people didn't look at us the same way. same as duke. sorry, boys. I don't care what the coleman report says about how hard working and cohesive you are, or whether your GPA is really high (so was ours), you were in the grey area and you got caught. and you paid. that's how it goes. you aren't heroes. you are apparently very good lacrosse players (advancing deep into the NCAA tournament). hopefully what you are now is chastened.

I apologize for not telling that story last spring. it was the first thing I thought of when I read the reports was "it sure would be weird if they didn't do it. I know how quickly this stuff spirals out of control." but being who I imagine myself to be, the last thing I wanted to do was circle the country club wagons as yale rowing came to the defence of duke lacrosse. I wanted no part of that. secretly, I wanted them to be guilty because it would have made my collegiate transgressions by association seem that much more insignificant.

Friday, June 01, 2007


how do comport oneself as an eastern intellectual in the west

I just came back from a long and delightful camping trip with springydog to south dakota wyoming, montana, and north dakota. and for those of you who are curious, the mall of america is just a big mall with a county fair-style rides in the middle. that's it. and the corn palace of mitchell south dakota isn't cool. not even ironic, kitschy fun. it is just stupid. that being said, we had lots of delightful adventures. we got a flat tire in spearfish, sd. and no fewer than 5 people stopped to help. and the walmart tire center stayed open late to help us. we got snowed on in yellowstone (I am the moron who didn't account for elevation).

which brings me to another point. it is very important to me that my time out west not be "easterners laughing at yokels and feeling superior because they backpack instead of RV." we were in the North Dakota Cowboy hall of fame (#1 tourist attraction for ND in 2006), and some of the inductees were native americans. One of them in a large framed portrait was labelled in big, black bold letters "Cihef White Shield 1". This is clearly a typo of "chief." but the question became, "do I tell the museum proprietors?" I didn't, but I think I should have. same goes for the obese dude at old faithful feeding the 5-lined ground squirrel by hand. should i tell him that is wrong? I didn't, but i think I should have. again for the backpacking boys who were wearing their framepacks like bookbags instead of using the hip strap to support the weight opn bigger muscles.

I know enough to know that westerns know lots of things I don't know. we would have been sunk of the Lakota man hadn't stopped to explain a better method for covering and securing gear in the bed of my truck. that being said, the cultural trope of eastern know-it-all showing up and bossing people around weighs very heavily on me. how can I share the things that I know while operating within that cultural framework which makes it difficult for me to share knowledge without coming off as feeling superior?

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