The little princes
Player princes bask in culture of entitlement
BY DAVE GOLDINER
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
They come from the wealthiest of suburbs and attend prep schools dripping with privilege and status.
The Duke University lacrosse players arrived at the elite college as princes of the campus - a status that was burnished when the team rolled to a No. 3 national ranking.
For the chosen few, it was a rarefied world of wild parties, drinking and gorgeous co-eds - an atmosphere that critics say paved the way to the alleged rape of a stripper last month.
"It's a culture of entitlement," said Kathy Redmond of the Coalition Against Violent Athletes. "This happens to be a bunch of white, upper-class boys who have the world on a string."
Top college athletes have long led a charmed life on campuses, especially football and basketball players, some of whom are fully expected to be future pro sports millionaires.
But unlike other college sports, lacrosse is an unusually insular and homogenous world, overwhelmingly white and dominated by players from a small collection of prep schools.
That makes the alleged rape of the stripper, who is black, all the more explosive, especially since the attackers allegedly spewed racial abuse.
"She was beneath them, that was their perception," Redmond said.
Others insist the preppie image of lacrosse is a myth, especially since the sport has exploded in popularity and is now widely played in middle-class suburbs nationwide.
John Danowski, who coaches Hofstra University's nationally ranked lacrosse team and whose son was on the now-disbanded Duke team, said most of his son's teammates come from solid, middle-class backgrounds.
"I've never known lacrosse as anything but a blue-collar, hardworking guy's sport," said Danowski. "The kids come from all over, from all backgrounds."
Danowski's smoking crack. Lacrosse isn't football, there's a taint of the elite about the sport.
But middle class means different things. I have no doubt that most of Duke's players were middle class, in the sense that they didn't come from inherited wealth. But to compare them to the average American is silly. Unless they were scholarship boys, middle class people don't pay $20K year for prep school.
Upper middle class, not upper class, is the phrase I would use. The real rich don't play team sports unless it's crew. You're not going to see too many DuPonts or Vanderbilts being coached with scholarship kids. But these kids come from relative affleunce. Their parents have enough money to make minor mistakes go away, not to set them up in their own business.
We tend to confuse the two because we are uncomfortable with class. Because rich kids, real rich kids, don't hang out in houses and drink beer and watch strippers. They go to Vail for the week on daddy's corporate jet. These kids don't have that kind of money. But they live in nice houses and their parents have good jobs.
One point about the ethnic makeup of lacrosse. Even hockey is more integrated. Soccer, which used to be a white, suburban sport, is now played by immigrants from around the world on the college level. So most squads have an ethnic mix. So this is probabloy the most socially and ethnically isolated group of athletes on a campus like Duke.
posted by Steve @ 12:52:00 AM