Manti Te'o's soap opera moves the school's athletic director to tears, while Lizzy Seeberg's suicide is ignored
Less than a day into the Manti Te’o revelations, we’ve heard more about a fake dead girlfriend of a Notre Dame football player than a real dead girl. Lizzy Seeberg committed suicide, not long after being intimidated by Notre Dame football players for reporting a sexual assault by one of their teammates. A second woman who was taken to the hospital for a rape exam declined to formally accuse another Notre Dame football player after getting a series of bullying texts from players.
We don’t know everything about the Te’o saga yet, but there is probably only one fake dead girlfriend mythologized by the sports media, the existence of “Catfish”-ing as a verb notwithstanding. Whereas there are legions of stories of sexual violence against women and men by star athletes and staff, who can reliably count on the impunity offered by fandom. Confronting the former is a little embarrassing: The public equivalent of loving too much, the allure of a heartwarming story everyone wanted to believe. Confronting the latter requires uglier, more difficult self-examination, and accepting collective responsibility costs more.
It matters, too, how we can talk about each story. Some Manti Te’o Twitter jokes were instant classics; no one decent can make jokes about a girl who killed herself after being told, “Don’t do anything you would regret,” and “Messing with Notre Dame football is a bad idea,” according to Melinda Henneberger’s reporting. Henneberger, a Notre Dame alum, wrote in the Washington Post in early December that she won’t be cheering for the team. “As a thought exercise, how many predators would have to be on the team before you’d no longer feel like cheering?” she wrote. (She also said, “There are plenty of good guys on the team, too, I’m repeatedly told, And oh, that Manti Te’o is inspiring. I don’t doubt it.” Very few did.) It’s easier to just change the subject and not think about whether there is something endemic to football culture that enables sexual entitlement with the reasonable assumption of getting away with it.
We all have heard by now how denial and institutional culture contributed to Jerry Sandusky’s ability to continue assaulting young boys for years, under cover of the Penn State football program. But once that was exposed, it was rightly considered an unambiguous evil. But the sexual assault of women can and is often explained away — including the Notre Dame donor who justified his continued support to Henneberger by saying that Seeberg had been sexually aggressive, that “she was all over the boy.” In other words, it’s not just the players who are banding together around their brothers whether they’re rapists or not; it’s the adults around them who are turning a blind eye because they consider other things are more important. And they’re willing to believe anything except that these nice boys can be rapists.
Dave Zirin, who has long called for the Notre Dame football program to be shut down as irredeemably corrupt, pointed out that the university had hired a private investigator for the Te’o case but not the numerous other allegations of wrongdoing by players. Zirin said of the school’s athletic director, “It says so much that Te’o’s bizarre soap opera has moved [Jack] Swarbrick to openly weeping but he hasn’t spared one tear, let alone held one press conference, for Lizzy Seeberg … The problem at Notre Dame is not just football players without a compass; it’s the adults without a conscience.” We live in a country that officially condemns rape and sexual assault but when confronted with the real possibility of it, rarely strays from denial and excuses. That’s the biggest scam of all.
Irin Carmon is a staff writer for Salon. Follow her on Twitter at @irincarmon or email her at email@example.com. More Irin Carmon.
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Two-for-one for Everyone — West Wind Solano Twin Drive-In, Concord, Calif. This family-friendly attraction with several spots across the U.S. (including California, Nevada and Arizona) prides itself on offering first-run double features (save for premiere events) on the cheap — which is quite the deal, considering their 65-foot screens are among the biggest in the biz. And if you have great car speakers, even better: squawk boxes of old have been replaced with Dolby quality audio piped through your car’s FM stereo.
For the Four-legged Friendly — Warwick Drive-In, Warwick, N.Y. Northeast city slickers looking for a place to watch their favorite movie stars under the stars need only veer six miles east of Vernon, N.J. What began as a family affair in 1950 has since become a seasonal institution offering rural and urban (and pet!) audiences two movies for the price of one on any of its three giant screens.
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See Stars Collide — Ford-Wyoming Drive-In, Dearborn, Mich. Open year-round (unlike many of its surviving contemporaries), this five-screen staple of the Midwest known as the “largest drive-in in the world” plays host for up to 3,000 cars on any given night. And if the double-feature doesn’t hold your attention, relax; you’ve got the best (car)seat in the house for the occasional overhead meteor shower.
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A Hole (Lot of Fun) in One — Wellfleet Drive-In, Wellfleet, Mass.Built in 1957 and still offering original mono sound boxes for those looking for an authentic experience (or not, as FM stereo is available as well), the summer-exclusive theater hosts double features of first-runs on its giant 100’ x 44’ screen. Come for the movies, stay for the mini-golf and flea market (on select days).
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Proof That Film is Forever — Shankweilers, Orefield, Pa. While we’re on superlative street, consider stopping at this roadside treasure: America’s oldest drive-in. Operating since 1934, it may not have the frills and pony rides of nearby Becky’s Drive-In, but it’s defied hurricanes and the wear and tear of time. Worth the one-hour drive from Philly.
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The Gritty Hollywood Reboot — Corral Drive-In, Guymon, Okla. Like a slasher movie menace that died (several times) in the ’80s only to be rebooted years after, the long-vacant Corral Drive-In was resurrected and restored in 2009, providing big entertainment at a nominal fee. And if the $6 adult admission doesn’t make you feel like a kid again, the venue’s inflatable bouncers most definitely will.
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Hop the Healthy Highway — Delsea Drive-In, Vineland, N.J. Less than an hour’s trip from Atlantic City, New Jersey’s only drive-in offers the best of both worlds — old school aesthetic outfitted with modern tech and healthier food choices to boot. Open seasonally, with first features beginning around dusk.
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Bring Your Backyard to the Big Screen — Starlight Six Drive-In, Atlanta, Ga. As much a backdoor barbecue as it is a night out at the movies, this six-screen Atlanta drive-in encourages what most in the theater biz forbid: bringing your own food and grilling it. Those looking to add a hip twist of the theatrical to their Labor Day getaway need only stock the cooler and pack some brats or burgers for the Starlight’s annual “Drive-Invasion,” which features a hot-rod show, live music, and B-movies galore.
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And really, what better way is there to cruise the nostalgia highway of old Hollywood than in a MINI Roadster? Allowing all the headroom one needs to see the stars on the screen and those directly above, the 2013 convertible goes the distance where it counts — on the road (obviously), not to mention the discerning driver’s wallet. Never mind that its fun-size frame also makes motoring in and out of tight traffic all the more enjoyable (or parking in even tighter spots for cozy romantics all the more convenient).
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