Our Ongoing Bad Habits

We have an unhealthy hobby. Football — especially collegiate football — is a really unsavory sport of which to be a fan. These kids are largely exploited, although a minority make out okay or even great. It turns out that the dangers of football go beyond the broken bones, or the bum knees of the ex-athlete, but continue on into a player’s life after the game. We spend a lot of public money on stadia and coaches and meanwhile the science building smells vaguely of body odor 1.

Still we love our bad habits. On days like today, when we see Waco’s police department covering up assaults, it makes it still harder to indulge in these pastimes.

In one case from 2011, an assault at an off-campus event in Waco ended with three football players being charged and Baylor and Waco police discussing the incident. Waco police, according to documents, took extraordinary steps to keep it from the public view “given the potential high-profile nature of the incident.” According to a police report obtained by Outside the Lines, Waco’s investigating officer asked a commander that “the case be pulled from the computer system so that only persons who had a reason to inquire about the report would be able to access it.” The report was placed in a locked office.

I am all for giving young people second chances. I am for lenient punishments when a mistake can literally ruin a person’s life and the underlying goal of the criminal justice system is reform and deterrence. When it is obvious the kid is more likely to learn from it and move on than repeat it, we should be cautious as a society when doling out life-altering punishments that do more harm than good.

I do not know that the Waco/Baylor saga is such an instance. Instead it sure looks like the community of Waco will do damned near anything for their newly-successful Bears 2, including covering up ongoing investigations.

I don’t really care if Art Briles benches his players. Given that I don’t have to play with the dudes that are committing these crimes (allegedly) or root for them, or coach them, I mostly just think that “I wouldn’t do that”. It does matter when the police are not following up on these things. Private clubs, like the Baylor football team (I mean, that is essentially what it is) can make their own rules for their own members, but public police? They have a responsibility to the Public at large to do their jobs dutifully.

Ultimately the twain — Briles and the police — are responding to the same set of incentives. Waco, the University, the surrounding communities seems to value the ongoing success of the football team than the plight of the victims. Or maybe they only care about the select influential community members. You know how these things go.

It is difficult to get excited about any and all corruption or misplaced public priorities. I mean, one can’t personally attend nor vet every city government feasibility study on a publicly financed convention center, but we cannot say we didn’t have the time or effort to pay attention to these kinds of things. Because plenty of people do watch every Saturday. And that’s part of the problem.

  1. The rhetorical science building. There is a building on UNT’s campus that smelled of armpit, however. 
  2. Relatively speaking. They’ve been title-contenders for about a decade but before that Baylor was trash.