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Why even shaving cream pies need to go

Hazing is all about status and power. Hence when Seattle Mariners veteran J.J. Putz slaps shaving cream on the face of each Seattle pitcher who notches his first major league win, he is displaying a show of power over that newcomer. You don’t see Putz inviting each rookie pitcher to put shaving cream in Putz’s face, do you? Whether it’s hazing in high school, college, or the pros, those who do the hazing inevitably defend their actions by saying it was done for a good time, “team harmony,” tradition, or the like. It’s a mindset that has to end. While Putz’s ritual is on the LOWEST and LEAST OBJECTIONABLE level of hazing that there is, it is still hazing and needs to end.

My comments refer to this excerpt by John McGrath of the News Tribune in an otherwise topnotch (applause, applause) column on the need to stop the Mariners from requiring rookies to dress as women.

Not all initiations are a problem. The shaving-cream pie that J.J. Putz routinely deposits on the faces of rookie pitchers who’ve notched their first victory, goofy though it is, promotes team harmony.

But in the promotion of team harmony, messages get mixed.

“Players wore pink on Mother’s Day to support awareness of breast cancer,” Johnson said. “But when guys are made to wear a pink backpack, that’s not done to support awareness. That’s to make the players feel like they’re humiliated.”

Again, a pink backpack doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when a metal-health expert who’s tackled women’s issues for 40 years claims it is a big deal, I’m listening.

As for those who defend the most severe aspects of hazing because it’s a time-honored tradition, well, I suppose that’s one way the adults in Sparta justified the flogging of children.

Good column otherwise, John. Thanks for listening to a contrary view.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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