Everyone knows that as a sports fan, I leave my heart to two teams in hockey, the sport of the gods: The Buffalo Sabres and the Chicago Blackhawks. I love them both to death equally, but they both have their strengths and weaknesses: The Blackhawks have been infinitely better as of late, winning the Stanley Cup three times in the last six years. Although the Sabres have been watchable only through sheer, morbid curiosity lately, and have finished last the last two years, they’ve been able to one-up the Blackhawks lately in one very important department: The lack of accused rapists on their roster.
Those who read my regular rantings know I’m very honest about the fact that I usually don’t care about how my favorite professional athletes conduct themselves off the field. It’s ridiculous to expect them to expect them to conduct themselves as the cool, wonderful life of the party all the damn time, slaughtering everyone during the game but reverting back to form as an aw-shucks milk-drinker once the game is over. It’s head-in-sand bullshit from the 50’s, when everyone was expected to have one color and one religion as well. Okay, if you were open-minded, you were able to accepts athletes if they were Jewish too, but the “Buddhist” thingie was WAY too out there! Anyway, I’m honest enough to admit I’ve come to terms with the fact that a lot of my favorite athletes are stupid idiots on the outside. I can also admit my line for behavior I’m willing to endure from athletes isn’t set in stone and tends to move regularly, but a few things about it are very consistent. One of them is that rape is located in the deep end of the wrong side of it.
No, Patrick Kane hasn’t been charged with the crime just yet. But frankly, I’m mortified that there is an accusation of it which is being taken seriously. That doesn’t bode well for Kane or for the Blackhawks, and let’s not even start with the poor victim. Yeah, Kane has the right to be presumed innocent until someone proves he’s guilty, but there’s also the corollary: The victim has the right to be considered honest until someone proves she made it up. And Kane isn’t going to look good in this situation no matter what because he’s a transcendent superstar whose personal history is known to everyone: Indicted for assaulting a taxi driver; photographed partying in Madison, where there’s a strong rumor that he choked a woman; dressing up in blackface at a Halloween party; constant drinking. Since Kane has constantly shown in the past that he has the behavioral capacity to do things like this, his behavior doesn’t warrant the benefit of the doubt. His accuser is reported as being a straightforward and honest person.
Yeah, as a Buffalo native and Blackhawks fan, I hope this is a moribund misunderstanding, and that Kane didn’t do anything wrong. But is anyone here thinking of the person who is accusing him of rape? As a regular, ordinary person who experienced something with Patrick Kane that was traumatizing and that she obviously thinks is important, I mean? Oh, people are certainly thinking of her, alright – they’re busy jumping on her to slut-shame her and call her a gold-digger. That’s the local rape culture kicking in. A radio station jumped onto the case, accusing the victim of just about everything except drugging the poor, innocent, privileged, rich star hockey player. The Buffalo News found a more implicit way of getting into the act as well – they had Skybar owner Mark Croce talk about what he saw at his bar, where the whole incident began. Croce famously said he was only reporting what he personally saw and that he had nothing at stake, and anyone smarter than a box of rocks knows he’s lying his ass off. Kane’s day with the Stanley Cup was to involve a big party at Skybar which, by the way, is a favorite haunt of Kane’s. Also, according to New York state law, if anything unseemly did happen between Kane and the victim, Croce stands to be sued through a civil liability law. Therefore, Croce did everything he could to portray the victim as a drunk hanger-on who was pestering Kane – whom Croce said was a sober, responsible, and chivalrous man bathed in holy light through it all – and even followed him out the door.
Soon after Croce’s uninformed yapping, another little detail emerged which threw a kink into Croce’s “viewpoint:” The victim was actually accompanying her friend to Kane’s house in Hamburg. So here’s what it comes down to so far: We have a professional athlete who is a three-time champion, a face of his league, and a transcendent superstar in his sport that even casual fans know of who’s from the Buffalo area and proud of it. There are presumably hundreds of women who would line up in order to have sex with him, and here he may have forced himself onto one of the women who managed to resist his charms.
Have we noticed a running theme so far? A lot of people – including major public sources in Buffalo – are doing everything in their power to either defend Kane at all costs or write it off and hope it blows over. Mark Croce, with his very limited knowledge of everything that happened, is walking the road that passes all the blame off onto her. The Buffalo News hasn’t gotten much information from firsthand sources from its reporters. Its sportswriters have all been silent as the grave, except for the token “we don’t know” piece from Bucky Gleason. Maybe you’re willing to count Tim Graham’s Twitter account as well, but I don’t. Somehow, Jerry Sullivan hasn’t said anything about Kane or begged the NHL to discipline him, and he’s a twit who threw a printed hissy fit about Marshawn Lynch’s behavior toward the press and suggested the NFL suspend him no matter what. Chicago is the other major city affected by this fiasco, and the reporters and columnists there have taken the opposite approach; they haven’t been able to shut up about it. Rick Telander and Rick Morrissey have both written about it for the Sun-Times; Telander, in fact, wrote about it twice. On the Trib’s end, two columns from David Haugh; one from Steve Rosenbloom. EA Sports took him off the cover of their upcoming NHL game.
I shouldn’t need to go into any detail about rape culture here, but in case you don’t know, here’s the quick summary: It’s a setting in which rape is turned into a normal thing. And we live in a society in which rape has become more normal than the people who get raped, apparently. The numbers are staggering: Some 90 percent of rapists never get caught. Some 20 percent of women get raped once in their lives. In rape cases that get reported, the investigation is invasive and the victim is shamed and told she shouldn’t have been drunk; or worn the miniskirt; or she should have just cut her assailant’s balls off. We’re about two steps up from either stoning the victims, forcing them to marry their rapists, or making rape a punishment for a crime. People don’t seem to understand what a rape really is: If the victim says no, it’s a rape. If the victim is forced into a position where they’re not able to say no, it’s a rape. If the victim is coerced into saying yes through certain forms of deception, that’s a rape too. Society turned into Cersei from Game of Thrones oh-so-casually telling Sansa that they could expect a little rape if Stannis Baratheon successfully invaded the city.
Rape culture, though, isn’t the entire problem when it comes to Buffalo’s reaction to Patrick Kane. Another significant portion of the problem is the city’s provincial culture. Everyone loves to play up the way people in Buffalo know their neighbors; one of our nicknames is The City of Good Neighbors! While it’s nice to have a neighbor dig you out for no reason when there’s two feet of snow on the ground, the good neighborliness in Buffalo also means being protective of our own to a fault. Patrick Kane is one of our own. The victim is more than likely also one of our own, but it’s Kane who turned into a national symbol of Buffalo athletic prowess. If you’re good at sports – especially football or hockey – you’re a god in Buffalo. Anything you do that’s bad is going to be glossed over and excused, no matter how flimsy the excuse pretext. The problem is that we think we know Kane because he was raised here. We’re desperate to superimpose our own values onto him and make him our brah, or our dawg, or whatever the current word for Big 10 frat megadouchebro is. Hell, we’re treating the area’s other athletic superstar – Rob Gronkowski of the NFL’s New England Patriots – much the same way we’re treating Kane. Like Kane, Gronkowski has been acting the part of a drunken, grade-A asshole since becoming one of his league’s transcendents. His behavior is not only glossed over, but actually celebrated. The big difference between Gronkowski and Kane is that so far, Gronkowski hasn’t gone out and hurt anyone other than himself. Hopefully he’ll mature before he ends up adopting Kane’s behavior.
That’s what this is all about: Hero worship gone too far. No, Kane hasn’t been charged with anything yet, but a scene like this is about as big a surprise as a two-foot winter storm given his past. He can’t be defended anymore. The Blackhawks have to take action even if he’s innocent, just to see the message gets drilled in. And if Patrick Kane is guilty, he deserves to rot properly in a jail cell and not play another game in the NHL.