College Football’s Latest Trend: T-Shirts Making The Same Penn State Shower Rape “Joke”

  • Glenn Davis

Well, it was bound to happen. Once it came out that unspeakable things happened at Penn Sate at the hands of Jerry Sandusky, it was inevitable that said unspeakable acts would be used for college football trash-talk purposes. This isn’t to say that inevitability is a good thing, just that it is, indeed, a thing – and fans of multiple programs quickly went about proving it.

One might assume that the trash-talk over Sandusky’s crimes (and it sounds more messed up putting it that way; trash talk over child rape?) would be directed at Penn State – after all, that’s where it happened, and obviously it’s the school it’s impacting the most. But judging by images of a few different shirts that have popped up, that’s not necessarily the case. You can see one of them at left – a way to really class up arguably the most storied rivalry in college football, you know? – but that’s not the only one. There’s this one, which one can proudly wear to trumpet one’s lack of desire to root for Nebraska:

And those aren’t the only two. This LSU-themed version was in the news a couple months back:

The “then/than” error there is a nice touch. Okay, honesty time: I just can’t bring myself to care that much about these shirts. Are they in bad taste? Of course. Can things be in bad taste and also be funny/make a larger point? Of course. Are these shirts funny, and do they serve to help make a larger point? I’m not seeing it. Jezebel – whom we have to single out for alerting us to the Ohio State version of the shirt – published a (really good, I thought) guide to making good rape jokes a while back. To me this shirt doesn’t make a good rape joke, just a cheap one that gets cheaper every time some other school makes the same one.

I guess a big reason I can’t being myself to care that much – it’s not like the entire fanbases of any of these schools will be walking around with these shirts on. They’re not official apparel. All the shirts show is that some college football fans take their fandom a little too far – and if you didn’t know some college football fans did that, you probably don’t follow college football.

But maybe that is the (accidental) larger point: in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, Penn State came under deserved fire for putting the football program ahead of properly dealing with terrible alleged crimes. I can’t help but think these shirts, in making a cheap joke at the expense of those same terrible crimes in order to illustrate the intensity of a rivalry, are doing something similar, elevating the football above everything else. Again, not everyone’s loving these shirts – far from it – but enough people must be that the shirts keep getting made. Passionate fandom is the best thing about college football… but how much passion is too much?