In U of M football scandal, a defense of millennials

Among the more absurd observations in the wake of last week’s “boycott” by the student-athletes of the University of Minnesota football team, was this in Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse’s column on Saturday.

The average hard-core Gophers fan is 65, a lifelong Minnesotan, Lutheran, and has been wearing the same maroon sweater to games for two decades. I’m a little older, a lifelong Minnesotan, a casual Catholic and make sure not to wear my 10-year-old maroon sweater if attending a Gophers game.

I’m confident that the average Gophers fan and I do have this common: not many sexual encounters with four friends and one woman.

So most of us are shocked when we hear that detail and then exclaim: “How can the rest of the players possibly support these louts as teammates? Throw them all out of school. Fire Claeys. Fire the athletic director … what’s his name? Fire Eric Kaler, the university president.”

I’m not endorsing anything. I’m just suggesting the shock level for millennials is much lower when hearing of such an encounter than it is for us baby boomers in our maroon sweaters.

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Reusse picked a good day to run his column: Saturday, when few people pay attention to what’s in the newspaper.

What other explanation could there be that it wasn’t until today that someone stood up for millennials on the question of sexual assault?

In today’s Letters to the Editor, someone finally did.

Jim Souhan lists “Too many failures to count in U’s latest sports scandal” (Dec. 18), but he missed one big one, by the Star Tribune, and in particular his Sports-section colleague Patrick Reusse. In his gasp-inducing Saturday column (“Clash of social forces — or a feud — roils U waters”), Reusse clearly suggested that while baby boomers like him might assume five men having sex with one inebriated woman to be nonconsensual, “the shock level for millennials is much lower when hearing of such an encounter.” Seriously? What looks like the gang rape of a woman unable to give consent to us old folks is just a normal good time to these kids today?

As a professor at the U, I deal with today’s students all the time, and I have never seen a generation more thoughtful and aware of the ethical issues involved with gender and sexuality. If Reusse ran his theory by a typical undergraduate student at the U, he would likely be told that he should spend less time feeding his fantasies on his computer and more time talking to actual young women about what sort of treatment they expect from their sexual partners.

Jason McGrath, Minneapolis

Meanwhile, the editorial board at the paper today calls out Board of Regents chairman Dean Johnson for his own tone-deaf comments. Johnson said football coach Tracy Claeys had to defend his players’ ill-informed actions so that they would play hard for him in the upcoming bowl game.

Frankly, Regent Johnson, most Minnesotans could not care less if the Gophers beat Washington State in the Holiday Bowl; they simply want the off-the-field disgraces to stop and for their world-class university to receive national news coverage for its research breakthroughs, not scandal after scandal in its men’s sports programs. In any case, the players should know that, in a dispute, the most visible action is not necessarily the most courageous.

As leader of the Board of Regents, Johnson should be defending the university’s reputation and standards, not making excuses for the head football coach or intimating that something is lacking in the university’s disciplinary procedures.

Johnson and his fellow regents — who are selected by the Legislature to govern the university and safeguard its enormous resources for the benefit of all Minnesotans — are expected to “enhance the public image” of the U, and the student-athlete code of conduct rightly states that athletics are “a window to the university.”

Once again that window is broken and in need of repair. In the weeks ahead, Minnesotans will learn if Johnson, his fellow regents and university administrators are serious about bringing about needed change.

The paper’s op-ed page today is nearly entirely about the latest in the long line of scandals in the university’s athletic department.

Attorney Frank LoMonte writes that privacy laws have made “matters even worse.” It took the leak of private documents to KSTP to force the players to confront the realities of the actions of the teammates they were defending.

Congress drafted FERPA in 1974 with one narrow purpose in mind: To keep K-12 schools from disclosing psychological evaluations and similar documents to law enforcement before parents had the opportunity to inspect and correct them for misleading information. But thanks to aggressive lawyering by secretive colleges — and “home cooking” from deferential state-court judges — the statute has been judicially expanded beyond all rational boundaries. One Ohio court even classified e-mails between a football coach and a booster suspected of offering cars to recruits as “education records.”

Image-fixated colleges have turned the privacy shield of FERPA into a sword of secrecy — in one extreme recent case, even suing their own students. University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto is fighting the campus newspaper to block the release of documents detailing how the university dawdled in allowing an accused serial predator to keep his professorship and then quietly resign — documents that the university is asking a judge to classify as “student education records.”

In a separate commentary, Keya Ganguly, a professor of cultural studies and comparative literature at the university, suggests the immediate answer to the woes is to shut the football program down.

In reality, such an outcome is not likely here. The latest bulletins indicate that Wolitarsky and his brethren have recognized the side on which their bread is buttered, which is to say, they appear to have been informed about who pays the bills for their program. The good news for those appalled by this latest incident is that, at least for now, the U will not lift the suspensions; for their part, the players have assented to play in the bowl game.

But let’s not let them off the hook so easily; let’s give them what they’d asked for — and more — by eliminating the men’s football program entirely. It’s a losing proposition, anyway, and with such a move, the University of Minnesota might stand out in the Big Ten conference for its bold stance on collegiate athletics.

No one at the U should support the bad sexual behavior of athletes simply because it has not descended to an actual crime. The issue is about what is appropriate conduct and behavior for all students. If our student-athletes are not learning this minimal lesson, why stop at suspensions?

  • Gary F

    They just make it easier and easier to say no when that paid student calls me 3-4 times a year asking for money to the U.

  • jon

    “I’m confident that the average Gophers fan and I do have this common: not many sexual encounters with four friends and one woman.”

    Have I been greatly mislead about what exactly happened during the era of “free love” and the “sexual revolution”?

    • tboom

      Yes you have, and Patrick Ruesse’s observations have been somewhat peculiar and mostly irrelevant for more than 3 decades.

  • Mike

    As is frequently the case in public discussions about private matters, there’s more than a little prurience involved in all these discussions about the sex lives of young people. The judgmentalism, the handwringing, and the Puritanical scorn/envy should themselves be the subject of some PhD student’s dissertation in cultural studies.

    I have a modest proposal: treat these young people like the adults that they are. This means that they’re entitled to participate on whatever sexual activities they like, provided those activities are consensual. If they’ve committed a criminal act, let them be prosecuted by law enforcement. Otherwise, universities should get out of the business of trying to enforce selective standards in private realms. College bureaucrats have no business meddling in the sex lives of adults.

    Obviously what’s driving all of this inappropriate incursion into private matters is money – the federal government demanding universities play judge, jury, and executioner or forego funding; wealthy donors reluctant to make their annual contributions due to the PR liabilities; etc. The constellation of monetary interests unfortunately means we’re likely to see more power given to the busybodies and the holier-than-thous, of whatever political stripe.

    • Sam M

      Thank you.

    • Have you noticed that the “it’s not the college’s business what’s going on here” in the comments sections of the Internet are ALWAYS men?


      • I’m curious how many of these men have used the “anything goes as long as it’s not criminal” in their home? Or have they demanded a high standard of behavior than the lowest-bar of the criminal code?

        The U’s football program suggests the former.

        • Sam M

          Bob – Quit portraying the football program as the awful terrible organization full of awful human beings. There have been hundreds of young men who have come through the program and the vast majority of them are wonderful men and human beings doing great things in our community. I get you don’t like football but enough already.

          • Maybe in the past, but not this team. Those men stood up for sexual assault last week. Not against it.

          • Sam M

            I disagree. Please show me in their statement where they said they were standing up for sexual assault. Awful accusation. I think it would behoove you to speak with some of those men before you make a judgment like that. Gross.

          • Anna

            Sam, when you are finally married and have children of your own, likely a girl among them, you’re going to feel very differently when a boy you trusted to pick her up and get her back home safely decides he’s going to have his way with her without her consent and changes her life forever.

            Football teams aside, is it any wonder college women do not report 60-70% of sexual assaults whether its gang rape or date rape?

            People like the former athletic director Teague and men like him give me the willies. They think their positions of power put them above the law.

            If every university took an honest, definite stand on dishonest, disturbing and disgusting behavior by any of their students, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

            The problem is that administrations from K12 districts to elite graduate schools wink at men’s sexual misbehavior and I am hoping the U of M is going to continue its enforcement. Because former employers of Teague did not discover his lewd behavior is not an excuse. They just enabled him to continue it.

            No student, whether they are athletes or graduate assistants are above the university code of conduct and that includes their professors.

            What part of right and wrong don’t you understand, Sam?

          • Sam M

            My issue with Bob was saying that all the men on the football team are in support of sexual assault. I’m not re-litigating what was done that night with that girl so you can save your lecture. I understand what was in the report and I do not support sexual assault so quit implying that I do!

            I am married and have a daughter so thanks for the lecture and thanks for making the assumption that you know who I am.

          • Angry Jonny

            So when your daughter tells you that she was sexually assaulted at a party while drinking, but that the entire football team stands by the perpetrators who deny the assault, you’ll say what? Sorry? It didn’t meet a burden of proof standard at the county, and the football players shouldn’t be held accountable by the standards of the university they attend, so just go back to school and try to either pretend it didn’t happen, or just learn a life lesson that if you get gang raped while you’re drunk, you’re generally S.O.L.?

            Good to know you’ve got her back, dad.

          • Sam M

            You missed my point about the team supporting sexual assault…. they didn’t. Please read their statements and tell me where they support assault. That was the point of all of this. Actually nobody has come back to point out where they have…. interesting.

            Please don’t pretend that you know what my relationship is with my daughter or that you know me. I never said once I wouldn’t support her and be there 100%. Thanks for trying to take a shot at me. Just what comment sections need.

          • Angry Jonny

            And you are missing the point clearly about my statement. Did I say that the team “supported sexual assault”? No. But they chose to defend the assaulters in an ignorant display of bro-solidarity that argued that since the assault didn’t meet the evidence test of state prosecution they should be exonerated from any sort of university due process. But if you want to call that “supporting sexual assault” in order to buttress your argument by calling it something it isn’t, that’s your thing I guess.

          • Sam M

            Well people have explicitly said in this dialogue that they are supporting sexual assault which I don’t think the players said once.

            I’m also not saying I agree with them protesting. I just want people to tone down the rhetoric which is probably silly considering how well you know people are.

            I also never said I don’t support the woman involved.

          • I wonder if any of the boycotting players ever asked the guys for whom they decided to make a stand what happened that night.

            I wonder if the words, “Well, she was drunk and we were all lined up to have sex with her” were involved.

            Even before they saw the report (which the coach who was saying “attaboys” HAD seen), they knew she felt victimized. She’d sworn out a restraining order.

            They made a choice where to make their stand and now they own it.

            Parents must be so gosh darned proud.

          • Chuck Turchick

            Sam, how about this portion of the original boycott statement? “Moreover, the actions by President Kaler have breached fiduciary duty. Not only to the ten falsely accused but all of us.” Claiming the ten were “falsely accused” is not making a statement about due process.

            If your response is they hadn’t read the EOAA report yet, that’s their fault. Their ten teammates had all received copies of it. If the other players hadn’t read it yet, they should have asked their teammates to show it to them. If the players had read it — and they have claimed that reading the report had no effect on their position — then to claim their ten teammates have been “falsely accused” is pretty darn close to supporting assault.

          • Sam M

            No it says they believe their teammates not that they support sexual assault… good try though…

          • Chuck Turchick

            Have you read the EOAA report? To say they “believe their teammates” can’t be true with respect to everything their teammates said, because many of the teammates’ own statements contradict other teammates who were there.

          • Sam M

            They believed what they were told. When they saw the report their position changed. Once again show me where it says they are for sexual assault. It’s pretty simple. It’s an outrageous claim to say they support sexual assault and no one so far has backed it up. You can do all the hypotheticals and inferences you want but their just arent’t statements or proof to back up such a strong allegation as supporting sexual assault.

          • Chuck Turchick

            No one comes out and says they support sexual assault. But their statement in effect did just that. Inferences are precisely what we must rely on. You did notice there was no mention of the woman in the players’ first statement, right? And you infer nothing from the “make our program great again” language?

            Of course, if X wants to be the first person on Mars, and the first person on Mars will die, it doesn’t follow that X wants to die.

            If you really believe this was only about due process, then the players either didn’t read their own Student-Athletes code of conduct, or they did read it but ignored it. That code reads:

            “The Athletics Director has final approval regarding a student-athlete’s dismissal from the team. This decision is not appealable.

            “Student-athletes may appeal department decisions in the following areas:

            1.reduction or cancellation of aid during the period of the award;
            2. non-renewal of financial aid;
            3. denial of permission to contact for transfer;
            4. denial of one-time transfer exception.”

            These are college students. They can read. This document they did have access to. They didn’t publicly raise objections to this code’s appeal provisions previous to these suspensions.

          • Sam M

            They were standing by what their teammates had told them and that’s what they knew at the time. When they received an additional account they changed their mind. You are trying to make this more complicated than it is.

            The boycott wasn’t a smart thing to do but I don’t believe they were supporting sexual assault. Maybe I just try to give people the benefit of the doubt.

          • Chuck Turchick

            I think you’re contradicting what some players have been quoted as saying when they ended the boycott. They said that reading the EOAA report did not cause that decision. I hope you’re not inferring something, but listening to what they actually said.

            I don’t think they were consciously support sexual assault either. But maybe in the way the law deems one to having intended the natural and probable consequences of one’s actions, we can say their boycott had the unfortunate effect of supporting sexual assaults — whether they actually intended to do that or not.

          • Sam M

            I get that but it doesn’t necessarily make them bad people. Which I don’t know if that’s what you think but some people do. Their intentions weren’t evil or bad necessarily and that’s my point through all of this.

            I do appreciate everyone’s perspectives on this and there have been a lot of great points the last few days. I just think the intentions were different that what people perceived.

          • Chuck Turchick

            I agree. The football players are not bad people — certainly not for having called this boycott. Naive? Foolish? Oblivious to how it would look? Based on inadequate information that was readily available? Probably. Bad people? Of course not. Still, though, I do wish one of them who did feel uncomfortable had intervened and stopped what was going on. All of these players were required to take an online course — mandated for all U of M students by the State Legislature — that talks about what bystanders ought to do.

        • Mike

          How is that remotely relevant to this debate? There are many things I don’t want in my home, but which aren’t illegal, and it’s none of my business if someone else does them in his/her home.

          • Your home, mike. Not someone else’s home.

            Are you willing to apply the same standards of behavior to the people in YOUR home that you want the university to apply in its jurisdiction?

            It’s a simple and relevant question.

            If you are entitled to set a standard of behavior, why isn’t the U?

          • Mike

            So the private sex lives of students are the university’s “home”? That’s absurd. It’s not the university’s business to police students’ sex lives. These are adults.

          • A woman is walking down the street, minding her own business at the U, or maybe she’s using the ATM, as in the example elsewhere. A male student starts commenting on her breasts, and maybe saying lurid things to her, unwanted advances.

            All she wants to do is walk down the street and, maybe, use the ATM. But there’s this other kid — adult, by your definition — being sexually graphic to her.

            You don’t see a problem here?


          • Mike

            All organizations have policies against harassment. This is qualitatively different from what may or may not have happened in private, especially when alcohol was involved.

          • Mike

            Because one is inappropriate public behavior and the other is a private act that may or may not have been consensual. How is that difficult?

          • The judgement of what is consensual is not left for the woman to declare.That’s the system. It depends on a man — usually — to determine whether she’s lying or not.

            The culture — and the criminal justice system — defaults to “prove it wasn’t consensual”.

            That’s the privilege you enjoy as a male. And that’s the flaw in the “leave it to the justice system” philosophy. It does not afford equal protection to women.

            The U of M (and Title IX’s) approach does. And that bothers a lot of men.

          • Mike

            So all accusations by women should be believed…. because they’re women? Nice tautology you have there. I’m really happy you’re not a judge.

          • You’ve just described the flaw with your “anything goes/the U has no responsibility to protect students” philosophy.

            The criminal justice system you want to handle all of this rarely allows cases past a man whose “reasonable doubt” applies only to the woman’s story.

            But a jury never got a chance to decide. It never made it past a man.

            There’s another part of “the system” you’re ignoring, btw. One always has the option to bring a civil case if a criminal case can’t be made. The U’s solution is the equivalent of a civil one.

          • Laurie K.

            This is where I am having difficulty understanding why no criminal charges were brought. Per the statute, a woman’s statement that she was raped does not need to be corroborated. It is hard to comprehend that there was not enough probable cause for charges:
            609.347 EVIDENCE IN CRIMINAL SEXUAL CONDUCT CASES. Subdivision 1.Victim testimony; corroboration unnecessary. In a prosecution under sections 609.342 to 609.3451; 609.3453; or Minnesota Statutes 2004, section 609.109, the testimony of a victim need not be corroborated.

          • Someone needs to leak the “complaint denial” letter from HCAO

          • Statement released from Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman’s office this afternoon:

            We are in receipt of the report prepared by the University of Minnesota’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action on the conduct of some of members of the Gopher football team. We are reviewing that report.
            We will have no further comment at this time.

          • Kassie

            When someone comes in to the police station and says they are robbed, they are automatically believed. If someone says they were involved in a hit and run accident, they are believed. If they say they are raped, the first thought is to disbelieve the victim. Why is that? Victims of all crimes should be believed unless there is overwhelming evidence they are lying.

          • Is it the university’s job to protect its students from unwanted, though not criminal, harrassment from other students?

          • Mike

            Come on – there are standards for public behavior that are completely different from private behavior. And if a student is being harassed by a particular individual, then if it meets a certain standard, that student can get a restraining order against that individual.

          • In matters of sexual assault and harrassment, please describe the different standards for whether it occurs in public or in private.

          • Mike

            If someone routinely harasses others in public, sooner or later there will be witnesses to those events. That will have the practical effect of making it easier to assess sanctions, whether violation of a code of conduct or violations of actual laws, etc.

            Private behavior is an entirely different matter. There often are no other witnesses besides the two parties. Judgment is often clouded by alcohol or drugs. Just because one person says something happened doesn’t mean that it actually happened.

          • So in the case of the public harrassment it’s not a sexual assault or harrassment until someone sees it… for someone ROUTINELY harrassing people, that is.

            But “private behavior” is an entiely different matter.

            Would you consider someone sexually assaulted against her will in private to be her “behavior”?

            Also, do you think people inclined to assault women know your code? And would they be more likely to perpetrate their “behavior” in a private setting because of this “you can’t touch me?” reality?

          • Mike

            If someone claims harassment, but has no proof and no witnesses, should the authorities act to punish the accused? If so, under what reasoning? How do you know the accuser isn’t simply lying, or bent on some act of revenge?

            You obviously believe it’s the business of the university to “re-educate” men on sexual behavior because you consider them to be loathsome and revanchist creatures (yourself excepted, of course). You apparently believe it’s the business of the university to sit in the bedroom of every student, male or female, to decide whether their private behavior meets with some sort of bureaucrat’s approval. You’re entitled to your opinions, of course. Clearly, there are others who disagree.

          • Yes. I consider men who sexually abuse, harrass and assault women to be loathsome.

            I believe when they quack like a duck, expel them.

            At some point in your life, you will to.

            I believe that institutions can demand and should demand high standards of its employees or students.

          • Mike

            I thought you said that, along with everyone else, you don’t know the facts of what happened. Yet that apparently doesn’t stop you from condemning people. Good to know.

          • Rob

            As my dear sainted mom used to say: “What’s ethical and responsible behavior doesn’t vary based on whether you’re doing something in private or in public.”

          • Rob

            Cuz we know how well restraining orders work.

      • Mike

        I doubt that’s true completely, but what of it? Does that make the comments wrong, immoral, or irrelevant? Kind of sexist to imply that it does.

        • // Does that make the comments wrong, immoral, or irrelevant?

          It makes them ignorant and uninformed, mostly. Because they have no clue what it’s like to be a woman trying to get through the day. And they have absolutely no interest in finding out.

          You have a privilege that too many women do not. And when women ask to have the same privilege, the victimizers portray themselves too often as the victims.

          Too many men have been raised badly with too many poor role models in their upbringing. And the standards set by the U of M w.r.t. behavior are an attempt to try to undo what the poor upbringing has done, in an attempt to break the cultural cycle of the victimization of women in our society.

          • Mike

            All privilege is relative. A wealthy person of any gender or race has more privilege than I do.

            Another point on which we disagree: for me, it’s not the role of the university to correct anyone’s upbringing in a way that college bureaucrats deem acceptable. It’s to provide an education. By the way, a liberal arts education often changes attitudes about many things. But indoctrination is not what universities should be about.

          • crystals

            1) There is ample research that shows low income white men have privileges because of their race that higher income people of color (men and women) do not.

            2) I don’t think the role of the university should be to tolerate anyone’s upbringing in a way that causes harm to others.

            3) Do you really mean to say that condemning sexual assault qualifies as indoctrination? Good lord.

          • Mike

            1) All of that privilege must explain why the white male suicide rate is so high. I’m not arguing that they’re underprivileged, of course, but let’s acknowledge that it’s complicated.

            2) I’m not arguing what you think I’m arguing.

            3) No, and I don’t understand how you could possibly draw that conclusion from what I wrote.

        • Rob

          It’s not sexist to observe and remark on wrongheaded notions that dudes have.

    • Kassie

      Here’s the deal with colleges: they have codes of conduct. If you do something against the code of conduct, you can be suspended or kicked out. There is no need to have law enforcement involved to do this. This means you can’t cheat on a test nor can you gang rape another student and if you do, you can be punished. It is like most employers, they can fire you for anything without a trial.

      • fromthesidelines21

        Right! Even my 10 year old hockey player (and parents) has a code of conduct that he has to follow. As a player in our association he represents the association and our community. There are standards to follow and the consequences for “embarrassing” the association can be severe including expulsion. I’m sure D1 Athletes spend a good amount of time learning the expectations the institution has for them in exchange for the opportunity to participate in the universities program.

      • Jeff

        Yes, but I think we would agree there should be some sort of due process. This is relatively straight-forward in the case of cheating where each side can testify and evidence presented. In the case of sexual violence this is much more difficult and many victims don’t want to go through this. So to me it’s not so obvious.

        • Kassie

          There is a process at the U. There was an investigation, which is why we have a report. I also believe they can appeal, which then triggers a process that is more like a trial.

          But in high school, there is no due process. In the real world, there is no due process for things like jobs and memberships. Why should their be due process in college? Why would that be special?

        • Chuck Turchick

          When you pay tuition, you have a contractual relationship to the U, so that should give you some due process rights before they can suspend or expel you. But you have no such right to play football and represent the University, so being suspended from playing football has fewer, if any, due process rights. For example, if the coach suspended a player for missing classes, no one — not even Claeys — would say the coach has to give him a full-blown hearing first. One’s a right; the other’s a privilege.

      • jon


        All these calls for “treat them like the adults they are!” and “In the real world…”

        a quick google news search for “employee fired for” Turns up things like this:

        All from the last few days… all instances of people having their relationship with their employer terminated without having to have criminal charges filed, much less being found guilty…

        Maybe we need to get some sort of indication of what the real world is like for people… because a lot of folks seem to be living in a fantasy world, where if it’s not illegal there are no consequences.

    • MikeB

      Some people see this as related to sex. Some people see this as related to violence, hence the difference.

    • Rob

      So your idea of being a responsible (male) adult is standing in line to sexually assault a woman?

  • Jerry

    Here’s a crazy idea: maybe “millenials” are individuals with their own separate traits and values, which may or may not be completely different from the traits and values of other people who happen to be approximately the same age as them. Obviously some members of the football team saw it as more or less normal that four men and one woman should all be involved in the same sexual encounter, and they found it at least plausible that that encounter could be consensual for all parties involved. Meanwhile, other students at the university saw things in a completely different light, despite the fact that they were born within a few years of those same football players with whom they disagreed.

    There is the proof that “millenials” are not a single entity. Now can we please stop having news stories that assume otherwise?

  • Jerry

    Judging by his comments, I really don’t want to see Reusse’s browser history.

    Also, it seems that his conclusions are backwards besides being overly generalized. It seemed to be the millennials who were the ones staging marches for survivors and it is the older fans who will be back in the stands no matter what, to engage in generalizing of my own.

  • mplstim

    I think Collins might be misreading Reusse and a main point; it’s not whether either generation sees it as non-consensual or not,…
    it’s that perhaps younger generations say, “so, it was consensual? Oh, no problem then.”
    Older generations tend more toward saying “group sex among consensual adults? more than naughty; it’s wrong.”
    Even if a woman started such an activity, and ended up “doing” 10 to 20 guys, and bragged about it later, such an “incident,” is considered by many people with traditional values to be way wrong and enough to get a student kicked out of college, at least.
    You media types might be surprised how many people “still” think that sex outside marriage is wrong. Ya gotta get out more.