Yes, Mr. Vandenburg, it is.
I've spent most of January purging. I still love Georgia, college basketball/football, and writing. I just need a break, I guess. I intend to continue on that purge over the next few weeks (but if you are desperate, I'm on Twitter), but the Vanderbilt rape trial is one that I have been following that compels me to write. But not about the actual trial or what led to the trial.
While there are some pieces to the story that are in contention, these facts are not: Brandon Vandenburg, who was at the time projected to be Vandy's starting TE, videoed his girl friend getting sexually assaulted by team mates, while encouraging them to do so. He and Cory Batey were convicted this week. Mr. Vandenburg was also convicted of evidence tampering and unlawful photographing the victim during the attack.
There is a whole month of cautionary tale posts here, but one thing that just struck me totally wrong was Brandon Vanderburg's father shouting "That is terrible!" when the jury foreman read the verdict.
"That is terrible!"
Yes, Mr. Vandenburg, it is terrible in a real way, but not in the way you meant it. But using that particular verbiage, something I feel comfortable you've shouted countless times at coaches, referees, Brandon's other team mates, teams he's gone against, and probably Brandon, too, illustrates bigger issues. I can't imagine how hard it is to have a child convicted of something this terrible. I hope I never, ever find out or even face the possibility of that.
But there is that video. Perhaps you didn't see it; I know I didn't. I don't think I would have wanted to, if I were in your position. The terrible thing is that sitting in the court room, with the victim, her family, your son's co-defendant, and everyone else that did see the video, you decided one more time to make it about how your son isn't getting his fair shake.
The terrible thing is you made it about your son.
Mr. Vandenburg, it's on us. Fathers. Brothers. Coaches. Leaders. Administrators. Men. It's on us.
The idea that you and your wife will lose your son, who had so much promise, nearly moves me to tears in the abstract. I can't imagine the pain you are going through. I'm gussing this isn't how you taught him to be. I'd sure like to think so. But this is a bed he made for himself. One that ultimately cost his team mate, and likely two more team mates, their liberty. One that cost a young lady so much more.
Don't be that guy. Don't be the 'couldn't be my son.' Don't be the 'he just watched' guy. Don't be the 'its only kids being kids' guy. Don't be the 'boys will be boys' guy. Don't be the 'it is the culture' guy. Don't be the 'it was this way when I was in school' guy. Don't be the 'she got too drunk' guy. Don't be the 'she knew it was coming' guy. Don't be the 'she wanted it' guy. Don't be the 'he ain't responsible for others' guy. Don't be the 'it isn't my business' guy. Don't be the 'that's terrible' guy. Just don't.
It's on us.