Pittsburgh, do me a favor: Rename Sandusky Street

This (figure 1) comes to me via a Chronicle of Higher Education newsletter. This episode began while I was still in California and, frankly, I didn’t pay much attention:


Fig. 1. Screenshot by author from Chronicle of Higher Education newsletter, May 27, 2021.

But now that I live here, my eyes popped, and I was wondering, what the fuck?

Jerry Sandusky was a football coach at Pennsylvania State University. Ten years later, a child sexual abuse scandal in which the university administration enabled his sexual predation on children still reverberates.[1] It was a story that kept widening and is one of a number of stories which challenge an unholy relationship between universities and football.

And Pittsburgh has a street (still) named Sandusky. It runs by Allegheny General Hospital but also feeds onto East Commons from the 7th Street (Andy Warhol) Bridge. It’s a block east of PNC Park, where the Pittsburgh Pirates play baseball, and about five blocks east of Heinz Field, where the Steelers play football.

If, as one of my passengers put it and others readily agree, “Pittsburgh is a drinking town with a football problem,” my mistake is understandable, but the street name actually precedes the Penn State football coach by at least a century, indeed at least to 1835.[2]

The San Francisco Board of Education would surely have renamed it.[3] After all, we don’t want anybody having to meet on “Pedophile Street.”[4]

It all rubs me the wrong way because I hate sports. In part, I see sports as the sort of regimentation that helps prepare cannon fodder.[5] And Pittsburgh definitely seems to be into preparing cannon fodder.[6] Indeed, the celebration of guns around here (figure 2) really seems quite excessive:

Fig. 2. Map of Gratuitous Guns, allegedly honoring military veterans but mostly placed in or near poor areas where Blacks disproportionately live,[7] compiled by author.

For me, that celebration of guns entirely undermines Pittsburgh’s effort to enact gun control in a state that seems determined to ensure that white supremacists—not just the cops[8]—have all the guns they feel they need.[9]

Sandusky’s sexual predation on children[10] too neatly meshes with my own admittedly unfounded sense of San Francisco junior and senior high school physical education teachers as getting a sexual charge out of watching adolescent boys do calisthenics and run around a track.

With Pittsburgh’s cultural toxic masculinity,[11] that sexual predation meshes, really, with my experience of bullying in those same schools, where I felt I had no recourse and was left entirely vulnerable, as I prowled the halls desperately seeking a place to hide. In retrospect, it occurs to me that in the Vietnam War era, I would never be suitable cannon fodder; therefore, I was unworthy of protection.

That’s not much of a case at all, really, for renaming the street. But I’d still kind of like it if they would.

  1. [1]Charles Thompson, “10 years ago today, Jerry Sandusky was outed as a child predator,” Harrisburg Patriot-News, March 31, 2021, https://www.pennlive.com/news/2021/03/10-years-ago-today-jerry-sandusky-was-outed-as-a-child-predator.html
  2. [2]William Russell Pankey, History of the churches of the Pittsburgh Baptist association (Philadelphia: Judson, 1939; repr. Internet Archive, 2009, https://archive.org/details/historyofchurche00pank
  3. [3]Isaac Chotiner, “How San Francisco Renamed Its Schools,” New Yorker, February 6, 2021, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/how-san-francisco-renamed-its-schools; Jocelyn Gecker, “San Francisco school board suspends plan to rename schools,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, April 7, 2021, https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/san-francisco-school-board-to-vote-on-school-renaming-again/; Greg Keraghosian, “SF school board pauses renaming 44 schools, promises to consult historians in future,” SFGate, February 21, 2021, https://www.sfgate.com/local/article/SF-school-board-pauses-renaming-44-schools-15968504.php; Fernando Martinez, “San Francisco school board considers renaming a school after the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia,” SFGate, January 29, 2021, https://www.sfgate.com/sf-culture/article/San-Francisco-School-Board-considers-renaming-a-15909103.php; Faith E. Pinho, “San Francisco board halts renaming of public schools after months of furor and debate,” Los Angeles Times, April 6, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-04-06/san-francisco-school-board-suspends-renaming-public-schools
  4. [4]Carol Pogash, “San Francisco School Board May Save Controversial George Washington Mural,” New York Times, August 10, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/10/arts/san-francisco-murals.html
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Following football to tyranny,” Not Housebroken, September 3, 2009, https://disunitedstates.org/2009/09/03/following-football-to-tyranny/
  6. [6]David Benfell, “Keeping the poor, poor, even when they serve their country,” Not Housebroken, May 27, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/27/keeping-the-poor-poor-even-when-they-serve-their-country/
  7. [7]David Benfell, “The banners and the guns: Flagrant racism in Pittsburgh,” Not Housebroken, April 6, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/09/20/the-banners-and-the-guns-flagrant-racism-in-pittsburgh/
  8. [8]Mark Berman et al., “Protests spread over police shootings. Police promised reforms. Every year, they still shoot and kill nearly 1,000 people,” Washington Post, June 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/protests-spread-over-police-shootings-police-promised-reforms-every-year-they-still-shoot-nearly-1000-people/2020/06/08/5c204f0c-a67c-11ea-b473-04905b1af82b_story.html; Kyle Cheney, Sarah Ferris, and Laura Barrón-López, “‘Inside job’: House Dems ask if Capitol rioters had hidden help,” Politico, January 8, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/01/08/congress-democrats-capitol-riot-inside-job-456725; Tim Craig, “Proud Boys and Black Lives Matter activists clashed in a Florida suburb. Only one side was charged,” Washington Post, February 2, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/florida-protest-bill-unequal-treatment/2021/02/01/415d1b02-6240-11eb-9061-07abcc1f9229_story.html; James Downie, “Time to toss the ‘bad apples’ excuse,” Washington Post, May 31, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/05/31/time-toss-bad-apples-excuse/; Jeet Heer, “How Not to Mourn George Floyd,” The Time of Monsters, April 21, 2021, https://jeetheer.substack.com/p/how-not-to-mourn-george-floyd; Arelis R. Hernández and Cleve R. Wootson, Jr., “Black Americans are buoyed by Chauvin conviction, but they worry it will blunt pace of reform,” Washington Post, April 20, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/04/20/chauvin-verdict-black-americans/; Jason Johnson, “I'm not happy. I'm not relieved. The verdict is a cultural make-up call. This ruling means it takes a Black man being murdered on TV in front of millions, a years worth of protest and a phalanx of white cops saying "this is wrong" for a black person to get a scintilla of justice,” Twitter, April 20, 2021, >https://twitter.com/DrJasonJohnson/status/1384637989444325378; Kimberly Kindy, Mark Berman, and Kim Bellware, “After Capitol riot, police chiefs work to root out officers with ties to extremist groups,” Washington Post, January 24, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/police-capitol-riot-extremists/2021/01/24/16fdb2bc-5a7b-11eb-b8bd-ee36b1cd18bf_story.html; Maggie Koerth, “The Police’s Tepid Response To The Capitol Breach Wasn’t An Aberration,” FiveThirtyEight, January 7, 2021, https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-polices-tepid-response-to-the-capitol-breach-wasnt-an-aberration/; Kurtis Lee, “Derek Chauvin is guilty of murdering George Floyd,” Los Angeles Times, April 20, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2021-04-20/jury-verdict-derek-chauvin-george-floyd-death; Kurtis Lee, Jaweed Kaleem, and Laura King, “‘White supremacy was on full display.’ Double standard seen in police response to riot at Capitol,” Los Angeles Times, January 7, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2021-01-07/la-na-washington-capitol-police-attack-race; German Lopez, “Police officers are prosecuted for murder in less than 2 percent of fatal shootings,” Vox, April 2, 2021, https://www.vox.com/21497089/derek-chauvin-george-floyd-trial-police-prosecutions-black-lives-matter; Wesley Lowery, “Aren’t more white people than black people killed by police? Yes, but no,” Washington Post, July 11, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/07/11/arent-more-white-people-than-black-people-killed-by-police-yes-but-no/; Brentin Mock, “What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings,” CityLab, August 6, 2019, https://www.citylab.com/equity/2019/08/police-officer-shootings-gun-violence-racial-bias-crime-data/595528/; Elie Mystal, “There’s Only One Possible Conclusion: White America Likes Its Killer Cops,” Nation, May 27, 2020, https://www.thenation.com/article/society/white-america-cops/; Alanna Durkin Richer and Lindsay Whitehurst, “1 verdict, then 6 police killings across America in 24 hours,” Associated Press, April 24, 2021, copy in possession of author; Jon Schuppe, “Police across U.S. respond to Derek Chauvin trial: ‘Our American way of policing is on trial,’” NBC News, April 15, 2021, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/police-across-u-s-respond-derek-chauvin-trial-our-american-n1264224; Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, “How Do We Change America?” New Yorker, June 8, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/how-do-we-change-america; Raphael Warnock, “Today’s verdict affirming Derek Chauvin’s responsibility for killing George Floyd is the right outcome in this trial, but it is not justice. . . .” Twitter, April 20, 2021, https://twitter.com/SenatorWarnock/status/1384651251061858323
  9. [9]Associated Press, “Gov. Tom Wolf Vetoes Bills On Firearms During Emergencies And Gas Drilling Regulation,” KDKA, November 26, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/11/26/wolf-vetoes-three-bills/; Bob Bauder, “Pittsburgh mayor Peduto, state lawmakers call for vote on Pa. gun bills,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 9, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/peduto-state-lawmakers-call-for-vote-on-gun-bills/; Bob Bauder, “Judge strikes down Pittsburgh’s controversial gun bills,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 29, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/judge-strikes-down-pittsburghs-controversial-gun-bills/; Stephen Caruso, “Pro 2nd Amendment lawmakers want to let you carry a gun during an emergency,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, July 7, 2020, https://www.penncapital-star.com/government-politics/pro-2nd-amendment-lawmakers-want-to-let-you-carry-a-gun-during-an-emergency/; Jon Delano, “Lawrence Co. Lawmaker Wants To Abolish Concealed Carry Gun Permits,” KDKA, May 7, 2019, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2019/05/07/aaron-bernstine-abolish-pennsylvania-concealed-carry-law/; Brian C. Rittmeyer, “Wolf allows gun stores to reopen on limited basis during coronavirus shutdown,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 25, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/wolf-allows-gun-stores-to-reopen-on-limited-basis-during-coronavirus-shutdown/; Charles Thompson, “Pennsylvania housed 36 active hate groups last year, ranking 8th in the country: report,” Harrisburg Patriot-News, February 21, 2019, https://www.pennlive.com/news/2019/02/southern-poverty-law-center-counts-36-active-hate-groups-in-pennsylvania-in-2018.html
  10. [10]Charles Thompson, “10 years ago today, Jerry Sandusky was outed as a child predator,” Harrisburg Patriot-News, March 31, 2021, https://www.pennlive.com/news/2021/03/10-years-ago-today-jerry-sandusky-was-outed-as-a-child-predator.html
  11. [11]David Benfell, “Hate, Pittsburgh Style,” Not Housebroken, April 6, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/04/06/hate-pittsburgh-style/

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