Trying to stay to the theme of Good News Friday is tough when we had two consecutive days of police officers shooting and killing unarmed African-American men, and then the unfathomable killings of five police officers in Dallas Thursday night. America is coming apart at the seams, it feesl like…
We start Good News Friday today with an unlikely “good news” angle, but bear with me, it’s good news at the end.
Eighteen years ago, a 24-year-old Oregon woman named Brenda Tracy was gang-raped by four members of the Oregon State football team. As frustratingly happens far too often in these cases, the charges were eventually dropped, and Tracy was left with awful memories and horrors.
One of the horrible memories she’s carried around for years was a quote from then-OSU football coach Mike Riley, who when the charges were dropped told the press that the players “were really good men who just made a bad choice.”
A bad choice. What despicable, disgusting words. Tracy says now that she hated Riley for those words “more than I hated my rapists … I hated him with every cell in my body.”
Bravely, Tracy opened up to reporter John Canzano of The Oregonian newspaper in 2014, and after Canzano reached out to Riley for comment, the coach expressed some remorse. He said he probably should’ve “done something more to send a message” than simply suspending the players for one game.
“Maybe I should have done more.”
Second, the coach asked Canzano if he thought Tracy might come and talk to his team.
“That would be a compelling talk,” Riley said. “A real-life talk. Instead of just talking about rape and sexual assault, actually having someone talk about how things can change for everyone in a moment like that.”
That was 2014. Two years later, Riley, now coaching at Nebraska, finally followed up on his idea. He contacted Tracy a few months ago, and in mid-June, before addressing the team, Tracy and Riley finally met.
“He hugged me,” Tracy said in this remarkable Washington Post story. “Then he allowed me to cry on his shoulder for a few minutes.” Riley listened to Tracy’s story, and he apologized profusely. Then this brave woman stood up in front of the entire Cornhuskers team and described the horrors of her rape, and the aftermath, including telling how much she had hated Riley.
This is exactly how change occurs. Education, first-hand experience, and a man like Riley, raised in the ridiculous macho world of football, growing and evolving and helping show the next generation how to avoid thinking like he did.
It took two decades, but good for Riley, and good for Brenda Tracy, learning to forgive, and taking a horrible nightmare and turning it into something that could, who knows, help other women in the future.
**Next up, on a lighter note, Stephen Colbert told this great story the other night to his studio audience before his talk show. It’s about how Colbert met his wife, and it’s sweet, self-deprecating, and all over the place, like any great story.
I hope Colbert’s show gets better ratings soon; the guy really seems like a mensch.
**Finally today, a few words from the legendary Vin Scully, who I’ve featured a few times here this year as we prepare for his retirement from the broadcast booth of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a mere 67 years after he began (I hate people who move around and can’t stay in one place like Scully, you know?)
The other night on a Dodgers broadcast Scully told a sweet little tale of the first time he saw legendary pitcher Sandy Koufax. As always, it’s funny and interesting and entertaining.
The man is a true national treasure.