That was before the money went into it

The New York Times has a whole lot more on the Sayreville football team and the “bullying and harassment” that got the season shut down. Seven players are accused of “hazing of a sexual nature.” It also has more on the pathetic football-worship in Sayreville and the way it motivates grown-ass adults to minimize the hazing.

The charges were announced by Andrew C. Carey, the Middlesex County prosecutor, in a joint statement with Chief John Zebrowski of the Sayreville Police Department.

Richard Labbe, the district superintendent, released a statement.

“As should be evident by now, the Sayreville Board of Education takes this matter extremely seriously,” Mr. Labbe said, “and thus will continue to make the safety and welfare of our students, particularly the victims of these horrendous alleged acts, our highest priority.”

But around town, there were questions about the four separate attacks that the police said occurred from Sept. 19 to Sept. 29. Were they isolated events this season, or had hazing been a ritualistic part of Coach George Najjar’s team, known as the Bombers?

The accusations alone were “absolutely shocking” to Robert Keating, 52, who was walking through Kennedy Park with his two children.

“What were those kids thinking?” he said, shaking his head. “I went to this high school. I don’t remember any trouble like this every happening. But the football team was never very good then. That was before the money went into it and people started making such a big deal out of it.”

Ah now why did that happen? Why is football made such a big deal? Especially high school football? Some people in Sayreville wonder the same thing.

Inside Angelo’s, a pizzeria on Main Street, that was what baffled John Shara, 56, a 20-year Sayreville resident. He motioned to the store owner at the counter and said: “They play a game on Friday night and he tells me that no one comes in here because everyone’s at the field. They play on Saturday, you go into the diner down the street and you’ve got all these 50-year-old men in their Bombers caps and sweatshirts.

“Honestly, I don’t get it. I understand if you’re in Texas, or Iowa, in a town where there’s nothing else around for 20 miles.”

Even in Texas, or in Iowa, why not do something that a lot more kids can participate in, and a lot less violent? Drama, music, singing, dance?

“I hear people from here calling up radio stations and saying it’s just a little hazing and screaming about losing the season,” Mr. Shara said. “Hazing is hitting a kid with a towel or jockstrap. What we’re talking about here is not hazing, it’s criminal. If it’s true, they should shut it down for five years. I mean, how do you leave 60 or 70 kids alone in a locker room?”

Earlier in the week, Mr. Labbe said that coaches were unaware of any incidents, which Stuart Green, the director of the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention, considered excuse-making, if not exoneration.

“At any level, even the N.F.L, with the question of bullying and abuse, the media focuses on the players and not enough on the culture,” Mr. Green said in a telephone interview. “Not to excuse the behavior, but it’s the job of the adults to not put these kids in that kind of environment and expect them to police themselves.”

I would like to see everyone focus a whole lot more on the culture. The culture sucks.


  1. says

    It’s been this way since I was in high school.

    Our football coach was a psychopath. He took pride in his collection of paddle boards; every session of our gym class was accompanied by someone, or multiple someones, getting hacked for trivial infringements of his rules: you forgot your jock strap. You weren’t lined up with everyone right at the instant the bell rang. You came in last when running laps. If he was feeling punitive, the last ten kids would get wacked.

    He was the football coach. He got away with it. Grading gym was easy, too: if you were varsity on one of the teams, you got an A; JV, a B; everyone else, a C.

    Members of the football team were his favorites. He loved to set up games of dodgeball, where one side was the football squad, and everyone else was on the other. It was always that way — we’d have a day of basketball, and the teams were the football players vs. the “pussies”.

    That’s how I got out of gym for one full year: playing basketball against the football assholes, and when I started scoring well (probably because as the unathletic guy on the other team, they kept ignoring me), one of them decided to take me out…by tackling me at the knees. In basketball. Completely wrecked my left knee, got to spend 6 months in a hip-to-ankle cast. The guy didn’t even get a rebuke.

    We didn’t have any incidents of sexual violence, at least. The closest we came was that he liked to stroll around the showers and ask the football players about their sexual activities — details about the girls at school were always welcome.

    Fucking pervert and violent psychopath. I still seethe when I think of that jerk. He got his comeuppance, though: his son was a star quarterback in high school, and when he moved up to the University of Washington, his dad got promoted to a coaching position on that team. I think he also got another bump upwards when his son went pro. It’s a sport that really rewards the worst human beings.

  2. johnthedrunkard says

    PZ’s story is typical. I’ve read MANY accounts of football star’s coaches riding the player’s coattails from high school to college and from college to the NFL.

  3. says

    But at the same time there are far more cases of wannabe football stars’ coaches failing to ride the player’s coattails from high school to anywhere. The fraction of high school football stars who make it to the NFL is tiny. The delusion that high school football will lead to the NFL and millions of dollars motivates a lot of people to waste time and effort, or, worse, to force their children to waste time and effort.


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