Oh, what a mess.
On paper, the Western Mustangs football team appears to enjoying its best season in recent memory. Considering the team's undefeated record and nationally ranked status, this should be a time of joyous celebration. The team has had plenty of come from behind victories, giving football fans plenty to cheer about on the field.
Off the field has proven to be a considerably more sorted affair.
It started out fine. Unfortunately, it was in the early hours of Oct. 2 when things made a very serious turn for the worse. When two of Western's engineering Frosh were making their way to J.W. Little Stadium to take part in a traditional Homecoming prank, one of them was struck by a car in a bizarre hit and run.
Once the Homecoming dust settled, however, things took a turn for the bizarre, as on Oct. 14, first-year student and Mustang wide receiver, Preston Haynes, was charged with two serious criminal charges relating to this incident.
While it is of no rightful place for anyone to decide the guilt or innocence of Mr. Haynes, the confusion lies in what may have led up to the event.
It has been speculated Haynes may have been standing guard as part of a rookie initiation procedure, in which case the issue takes on some new complexities. While clearly the individual who was driving the car committed a vicious and inexcusable act, questionable initiation practices by the team have now come to the forefront.
The Mustangs have recently received some light punishment for these unacceptable practices, but certainly have gotten off easy. While hazing and initiations were supposed to have been left in the dark ages, many organizations, like football, sometimes still actively partake in this ancient form of torture. While it has been argued that such forms of mental (and sometimes physical) abuse lead to stronger camaraderie and spirit amongst a group, more right-thinking individuals are realizing the costs certainly outweigh the "supposed" benefits.
Hazing is an ineffective and ridiculous form of abuse that should have no part in varsity athletics. It's is a barbaric ritual which causes unnecessary stress and anguish to many, but in extreme cases drives more normally rational people to partake in irrational behavior.
The football team cannot be blamed for the unfortunate incident which took place outside J.W. Little Stadium. Still, now that this incident has begun to uncover this hidden aspect of the Mustang football program, hopefully this team and others will change the mental injustices which hazing causes. This sort of nonsense only weakens the character of the organization involved.