In our earliest research we began looking for local cases that could be possible fits for Coached into Silence. It didn’t take us long to be drawn in to the allegations against New York basketball coaching legend Bob Oliva, of Christ the King Regional High School.
The man featured in this article, Oliva’s former player and eventually his assistant coach, Ray Paprocky found himself in what–to an outsider–seemed like the most difficult position imaginable. His mentor accused and his friend among those doing the accusing. As a scandal swirled, at the eye of this storm, stood Ray.
As we followed each development, it brought us back time and time again to the work of Michael O'Keeffe in the Daily News. Difficult as it often is to keep the blood at 98.6 degrees while scrolling through them, I have made an effort to study as many of the reader comments as I can when the subject matter is allegations of sexual abuse. It is by no means a scientific survey of public opinion, but it is an excellent way to acquaint oneself with the talking (nay, shouting) points on both sides. Generally, the bulk of the comments fall into two broad categories: those who bust out the pitchforks and torches to lynch/castrate the alleged perpetrator, and those who attack the victims who brought the allegations. More often than not, this latter group cyber-shouts something about ‘thoze liers R jus tryin 2 get CA$H’. Just as often, a litany of outrageously homophobic vitriol spews forth, attacking the “manhood” of children; now grown. What I found was enough anonymous hatred and violence voiced on both sides to fill an entire Potter’s Field worth of graves.
As I forced myself to wade through the caps lock cacophony of comments and contretemps, a compelling drama developed. One user continued to chime in; a voice of reason. He said that he had knowledge of the case and he believed the charges. As defenders of Oliva continued to post accusations of gold-digging, lying “victims” (their quotes) who “wanted it” (my quotes), the voice-of-reason-poster himself grew more adamant. He knew. He believed. More doubt and more hate followed from the peanut gallery.
As what passes for discourse on the internet escalated, our knowing, believing voice of reason upped the ante and took an extraordinary step: he announced himself as Ray Paprocky–the very subject of the article–and posted his phone number, challenging anyone who didn’t believe to talk to him directly for clarification. It had to be a joke. It had to be an impostor. If it was really him…he was crazy…but he was precisely my kind of crazy.
What did it cost to give it a shot? I mean, I’m paying to have a thousand text messages a month,right? So…
I sent the following text:
“Ray, I saw your post on the Daily News site. I’m directing a documentary about the sexual abuse of boys by coaches. It would be priceless to talk to you on the topic. Sorry for the informality, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Chris Gavagan, dir. Coached into Silence”
Two hours later, the digital peal of a bell alerted me that a text message had arrived.
“Give me a call tomorrow. I’m not sure how much I can help. I am not a victim of a predator. I’m simply a friend of one.”
We spoke the next day, and he had enough insights and stories not just for Coached into Silence, but for his own mini-series. He invited us the the arraignment, and a few days later we made our way from Brooklyn to Boston, and the Suffolk County Courthouse at Pemberton Square.
Upon introducing myself, the man we only recognized from the photograph that you see above greeted us as friends. He spoke with reporters, engagingly and with a no-nonsense charm that all the gravity of the moment, which obviously weighed on him, couldn’t dim. He’s one of those men that you find yourself walking away from saying simply–to no one in particular–“what a great guy.” Above it all, what you take away from a moment or an hour spent with him is his matter-of-fact integrity.
Ray Paprocky thinks there is nothing special about what he did. He may believe that anyone would have done the same in his position, even as he draws the ire of so many who did not. When the issue is the sexual abuse of children, all too often the default position for one’s head is buried deep in the sand. Ray saw his choice as no choice at all. It was just the right thing when faced with the most reprehensible of wrongs. No alternative, no big deal.
To those who have summoned the courage to bring the accusations, in the face of an institution intent on silencing them, Ray’s stance was The Biggest Deal. He believed. Nothing is more important to one who has finally, somehow, forced the seemingly unspeakable words from their mouth. He believed and he took the steps to get a child molesting coach–no matter what his reputation or win/loss record was–away from other boys.
There’s a word for someone who does such a thing, and it’s the word that Ray Paprocky is least likely to apply to himself. That word is hero.
Ray is one of mine and if he ever reads this, his reaction will more than likely be to tell me who the real heroes are. There is always room for more names on that roster. ‘Anonymous’ may be the most common name of all.
I can only imagine the strength of those who have spent their lives on the front lines battling against this pandemic. The process of making Coached into Silence requires so much looking-at-the-worst. Heartbreaking story after heartbreaking story in the hundreds daily. A thousand a week for months on end. And when you think you’ve seen it all, a dozen of the latest horrors arrive in your inbox. The shadows are unbelievably dark, yet not a day passes that I am not inspired, encouraged, emboldened and reenergized by seeing the best. The light provided by so many others. The courage of those who do what is right. The strength of those who have survived. The determination of those who lend their voice to others who cannot speak for themselves.
Tania, Ron, Steve, Megan, Paul, Mark, Jim, Sheldon, JP, Tony, Robert, Marci, Chris, Don, Angela, Lynn, Rick, Gabe, Kathy, Theo, Kevin, Aaron, John, Phyllis, Heath, Beth Ann, Durell, Lyn, Joe, Patricia, Wayne, Rhett, Sherri, Rommell, Darlene, Taylor, Catherine, Casper, Ken, Reilly, Jeffrey, Tyler, Alison, Patrick, Mackenzie, Scott, Renu, Felicia, Tim, Glenn, Flavia, Arny, Sam, David, Lee, Erik, Ginny, Laveranues, Loretta, Bob, Brooke, Andrew, Melissa, Sean, Arlene, Christine, Samuel, Darlena, Lisa, Keith, Julian, Nikki, Stephen, Jill, Carla, Allan, Gabriel, Lauren, Vivian, Richard, Tracie, Edward, Kip, Jennifer, Caitlin, Marty, Billy, Constance, Christopher, Ophelia, Antwone, Leslie, Stacy, Nissa, Donnie, Ruth, Byron, Karin, Michael, Margaret, Caesaro, Douglas, Kamala, Michelle, Todd, Dana, Erin, Matt, Jackie…and yes, Ray.
I could go on for the rest of my days…and I will, in no small part because of you. Thank you all for who you are, and what you do.
* a parting note to all who would try to divide and conquer on the basis of gender:
Look at those names, and find another tactic. –CG