Dec 07, 2011 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
Talk about dark. It doesn’t get any darker than a grown man taking sexual advantage of young boys. But it gets worse.
It’s so unimaginable, it’s so deep a betrayal — not only of a coach’s role but of basic human decency — that nobody knows how to handle it.
So everybody freaks out.
The accused assistant coach’s head coach blames the blamers.
The district attorney lashes out at the chief of police.
The mayor blasts back at the DA, while the daily newspaper and the university dance gingerly around the fact that they’d looked into the awful allegations years ago and did nothing.
After a particularly ghastly taped telephone call wafts across the public airwaves, the university finally fires the assistant coach despite the fact that he’s yet to be officially accused of any wrongdoing.
And the head coach talks about it all at a post-game press conference at which he insisted he wasn’t going to talk about it.
Instead, the head coach tries to laugh it off. He smiles and smirks throughout that SRO media meeting and jokes about what his wife makes him for dinner.
The head coach’s forced grins makes viewers cringe.
How could he react so cavalierly to these revelations? So offhand, so casual, so happy-go-lucky?
The answer is that it’s so thoroughly disgusting, you either have to laugh or cry. And the head coach wasn’t going to cry. The next day, he was loudly criticized by locals and nationals alike who found his sneering offensive.
In the past, when the issue was something as relatively minor as missed free throws, the head coach had often dug in his heels and slashed back at mean-spirited media.
Not this time.
But this time we weren’t talking foul shots. We were talking foul behavior.
Instead, the head coach went humbly in search of answers.
Deep down, he knew his Tuesday-night smirking was a desperate façade. After all, his friend of 50 years, his top professional assistant, his across-the-street neighbor was accused of molesting boys who’d looked up to him as one of Syracuse’s top sportsmen.
No wonder the head coach’s head was spinning.
And no wonder he sought solace, and thank heaven his search took him to the right place.
The head coach found answers at the McMahon/Ryan House, at 601 E. Genesee St. McMahon/Ryan is a non-profit organization dedicated to ending child abuse through intervention and education.
“I’m trying to learn from my mistakes,” the head coach said. And that way he sets an important example for all of us.
Sure, this thing’s so repugnant, so repulsive that it’s natural to freak out, to get angry, to snicker and smirk. But it takes real gumption to stand up and admit you made a hasty error.
Following the head coach’s example, this community needs to stop snickering and start facing up to the monstrous problem of child abuse.
Advocacy vs. abuse
At the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center, they understand what Coach Jim Boeheim has been experiencing.
“In Jim’s initial reaction to the Bernie Fine investigation, we see the same shock from him that we see every day among family members and friends at our Child Advocacy Center when allegations of child abuse are first made,” noted Julie Cecile, the center’s executive director. “We believe this community crisis can help us turn this into a teachable moment for all.”
To that end, Cecile has used the intense media interest in this sordid story to shed light on this taboo topic.
Since the allegations emerged two weeks ago, Cecile has given many media interviews regarding child abuse. In them, she outlined signs and symptoms of child abuse and what people need to do to report suspected abuse.
Sexual abuse, she reminded us, is a crime of secrecy.
“It’s estimated that only 10 percent of child sex abuse cases are ever reported, and 90 percent of the time, children are sexually abused by someone they know,” she said. “Given the circumstances unfolding, we have a unique window to raise awareness of this terribly sad fact.”
Boeheim and his wife, Juli, have long been supporters of the McMahon/Ryan center, which was established in 1998. But now, well, it’s more than another charity project. It’s personal.
“I’ve given a lot of money and raised a lot money [for McMahon/Ryan],” Boeheim said Friday, “but I want to do more in the future for kids in this area, and McMahon/Ryan is the best place in the area for kids to go and talk. They need to get this message out… I will do everything I can do, whether I’m coaching or not coaching. I’ve always been committed to kids. There’s no question in my mind that the issue of abuse is the number one [issue] that we should all be concerned about in this community.”
Show your concern by visiting mcmahonryan.org.