Nassar’s sentencing is only the beginning

On Wednesday, former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, a monster who sexually abused over 150 women and girls over a 30 year tenure, and who was enabled by both systems and individuals at Michigan State University, the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics, was finally sentenced to rot in prison.

Nassar’s sentencing is only the beginning of a conversation about the systematic sexual abuse of women. Justice has been served for one man, but there are a hundreds of others who were never punished for their crimes, and hundreds of survivors who were never heard like the survivors of Nassar. While the sentencing is a time to applaud the survivors, their families, the journalists who broke the story and judge Rosemarie Aquilina for the fearless and honest atmosphere she created in her courtroom, the sentencing is not a time to celebrate, feel self-righteous, or be satisfied. Rather, it is a time to ask how to lock up more abusers like Nassar, and how we can prevent more abusers from ever committing these heinous crimes in the future.

Nassar’s sentencing hearing was a week-long affair in which over 100 women bravely and eloquently testified, explaining to the world how Nassar had violated, abused and manipulated them, how these events have affected their lives, and even who they believed had enabled and protected Nassar for so many years.

The American public responded to these testimonies with shock, surprise and disbelief. This reaction alone illustrates the problem our country, and even our world, faces on the issue of sexual assault: how is sexual abuse so prevalent and yet so shocking to the public? According to RAINN, an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. The number of women who are harassed on a daily basis — accosted on the street, harassed at work/school/home by strangers or trusted friends or loved ones — is unquantifiable. With RAINN’s statistics alone, it is easy to comprehend how Nassar was able to rape so many women. And it is even easier to comprehend how none of the systems in place around him were strong enough to stop him.

The sentencing hearing also drew attention to those at Michigan State University, the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics, all of which had a hand in covering up Nassar’s crimes and silencing the women he abused. A number of MSU officials, including MSU President Lou Anna Simon who released a widely-distributed resignation letter Tuesday evening, have stepped down since the words of the survivors have pierced their reputations.

Rather than taking responsibility for the (at best) ineptitude and (at worst) criminal coverup of Nassar’s crimes, MSU President Simon’s resignation letter childishly cited “media politicization” as the reason for public scrutiny, rather than her own personal shortcomings in her role as president. Simon wrote, “As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable.  As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger.”

Simon’s refusal to admit that there was anything more she could have done to prevent or end Nassar’s crimes, whether or not she was informed of them at the time, is a textbook example of the very attitude that has allowed sexual abusers to go unpunished for so long.

Bystanders who choose not to intervene are guilty. So are those in positions of power who do not act because they claim to not have known about these crimes. Ignorance does not absolve those such as Simon of guilt.

All of us — from girls who tell our friends not to wear short skirts for fear of them “attracting unwanted attention,” to “male feminists” like Aziz Ansari who still do not understand sexual power dynamics, to Michigan State presidents who claim they are blameless for the 30 years of sexual assault that took place on their watch — have fed into the culture of sexual abuse.

We all need to change. Larry Nassar’s sentencing can only be the beginning.

 

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PERSONAL ANNOUNCEMENT!

This is a quick post to let you know that I will be studying abroad this fall for the remainder of September until late December, and will be unable to post regular articles. I may, however, post from time to time on The Hoya; if and when I do, I will post links here. As always, fill out the contact form or contact me via Twitter/LinkedIn with any questions or comments!

What Ken Rosenthal joining The Athletic means for the future of sportswriting

Shortly after turbulent changes rocked the sports journalism world this summer, MLB writer/broadcaster Ken Rosenthal announced yesterday that he would be writing exclusively for a smaller startup sports blog, The Athletic. 

Rosenthal’s announcement came about a month after his home publication, FoxSports.com, dumped its entire writing staff—the website is now completely devoid of written content, and features exclusively hot-take videos featuring Fox Sports broadcasters.

This change meant that Rosenthal, one of the most prominent baseball writers of today, had to resort to posting articles on his own Facebook page. The situation was extremely discouraging; if even Ken Rosenthal couldn’t find a place to publish his writing, how could anyone else (especially an aspiring sportswriter) expect a future in the business?

To make matters worse, Fox Sports was not the only sports media outlet to carry out drastic layoffs–ESPN laid off a number of its employees in May, including NFL reporter/commentator John Clayton; Time Inc., which houses Sports Illustrated, laid off about 300 positions in mid-June.

This summer, the future of sports writing looked bleak.

Written sports content is no longer a leading source for straight sports news; Twitter, mobile notifications and other social media cover that. Now, the draw to read a piece of sports writing is for reading in-depth analysis and respected opinions, often that accompany other forms of digital content such as videos or podcasts.

In addition, digital news outlets must be mobile-friendly and easy to navigate. Publications oozing analysis and entertaining hot takes such as The Ringer and sites filled with bite-sized content such as Bleacher Report seem to be the writing-based publications to look up to.

That is, until Ken Rosenthal joined The Athletic.

The Athletic lacks sponsored content or ads; it is a sleek, clean reading experience focused on delivering aesthetically pleasing images and quality content. The site, which began with a number of regionally-based sections for all sports and that now includes national coverage, is subscription only. The Athletic is wagering that traditional, high-quality content based in good, rich reporting presented in an aesthetically pleasing way is a service that sports fans will pay for.

Maybe The Athletic is right. Maybe subscription-based publications really are the future of digital sports writing. Maybe everyone is so sick of ads and popups that they would pay to have a cleaner reading experience. Maybe writers like Ken Rosenthal are so valuable that masses will pay to read his thoughts, a concept that the bigger sports media companies never believed possible.

Whether The Athletic remains a unique publication or becomes a benchmark for many sports websites, one thing is clear: Ken Rosenthal joining a smaller startup publication with a writing focus is a bright spot in the unstable future of sportswriters.

By joining The Athletic, one of the biggest names in sports journalism asserted two very important principles: first, that written content still matters, and second, that smaller sports media outlets can and will rival the previous traditional giants.

In his new home publication, Rosenthal is restoring faith in the business of sports writing. Yesterday was a good day to be a sportswriter.

Baseball math

People love math. They love the objectivity, the specificity and the incredibly convoluted yet patterned and predictable answers that numbers provide. People feel comforted by numbers, wowed by the information they can provide, and interested in manipulating them in as many was as possible.

I am not one of those people.

So you can imagine how difficult it is, even considering my rabid passion for baseball, to delve into sabermetrics–because in the heart of my favorite subject lies an ever growing and ever important trove of insightful information based in my least favorite thing…math.

Up until now, I have mostly focused on the few numbers I understand: BA, ERA, OPS, etc. In other words, the old stats. I have explored, though hesitantly, fielding shifts, WAR and various StatCast home run speed/distance statistics–but I am hardly a regular visitor of FanGraphs.com.

And then I wrote a column last week about fatigue in the Cubs pitching staff following their World Series Championship year, and I just didn’t have the evidence that many baseball fans expect today. Though I included what I believed to be important stats, I was lacking in saber metrics, and my writing suffered.

It isn’t that people like me do not understand baseball, or the statistical direction in which baseball is moving. It’s just that we don’t like math.

So, in an effort to expand and share my knowledge of sabermetrics, I have decided to write one post a week explaining a different sabermetric. Look out for my first post next week!

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but let’s go do some math.

 

The Wiffle Ball League

In eighth grade, my Little League Juniors team came in first place in our league. I don’t remember how I played in that game, what our celebration was, or how our trophies looked. I don’t even remember which team we beat.

The only detail I remember about that game was that it would be, until now, the last baseball game I ever played.

Let’s get this out of the way now: knowing that I am a woman, I bet you expected that the word following “last game of” in the above sentence would be “softball.” Instead, I wrote baseball. Because I played baseball for over eight years leading up to high school, in your neighborhood-usually-all-male-only-except-for-me-and-two-other-girls-who-quit-eventually-so-then-it-was-just-me Little League. I played until age 14, when I was barred from trying out for my high school baseball team and then offered a spot on the varsity softball team as a consolation. I bitterly declined, pursued track and field instead (I never got caught stealing one base in my entire Little League life) and thus ended my baseball “career.”

I have not played any form of baseball–not during the summer with the boys, not on vacation on the beach, not in college intramurals–since that last game in eighth grade.

That is, until three weeks ago, when two of my friends commissioned an informal summer Wiffle Ball League. Once a week, we play a casual, six inning game where the only shoes on the field are the flip-flops that make up the bases, as footwear is strictly prohibited on the field. We play with whoever shows up, and then we usually go to the pool. It’s a great way to hang out with our friends, laugh and play a casual game.

But for me? Not exactly…

Playing wiffle ball has been one of the strangest, most déjà vu-inducing experiences of my life. When I stepped into the “batter’s box” three weeks ago, wielding the much-too-light and much-too-thin yellow wiffle ball bat, I realized the game was not, and never could be, casual for me.

Every aspect of my baseball life came rushing back. I remembered the batter’s box jitters, the quick mental checklist of my stance, my pre-plate ritual–tap home plate with the bat and whip it around once before settling into my stance–and even the way I used to try to lock eyes with the pitcher before he entered his windup. I remembered just how much playing baseball is so damn fun.

But I also remembered the crippling nerves; the awkwardness of a woman in a “man’s” game, the expectation of failure based on my ponytail–which was much longer back then–and the knowledge that every strikeout, every mistake, every swing-and-miss even, was a silent affirmation to everyone that I was in over my head.

Wiffle ball is a game anyone can be amazing at. Some of our players, who had until now never picked up a bat, can routinely smack screaming grounders and high flies to deep left center with the most creative swings I have ever seen. That’s the beauty of wiffle ball–you can hit a comfortable triple by swinging only with one hand.

At today’s game, I found myself up at the plate in the bottom of the 6th–and last–inning, with runners on second and third and two outs, my team down by one run. Everyone was laughing and joking about the “intensity” of the moment, except for me; in case you haven’t noticed, I am ridiculously competitive and serious about anything baseball related.

My at-bat was twelve pitches, culminating in a quiet groundout to end the inning and the game.

During that at-bat, I kept flashing back to Little League playoffs, where I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders not only because I was a member of a team that I wanted to contribute to, but also because I was the girl. I know that is not true of the Wiffle Ball League. Looking back, I probably should have closed my eyes and swung the bat like I was hitting a piñata–then maybe I would’ve hit a homer.

For better or for worse, the Wiffle Ball League has forced me to revisit memories from T-Ball to Juniors. From the smell of the grass to the surprised cheers when I got a hit to the sexist taunts from players in the “good game” line, I remember everything.

But above all, the Wiffle Ball League has reminded me how much I love baseball from every perspective–not just as a fan and writer, but as a participant as well.