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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Penn State, Part III: Watching the Bloodletting

Well, I did not end up going to the game after all.  I am at the WITF studios, getting ready for my shift on KYW 1060 on this Saturday afternoon.  Radio PA decided to send their #1 stringer to Happy Valley for the Nebraska game.  His equipment is a little better than what we have, but he is also a Penn State alumnus, and so can go into places easier.

One of our WITF News people are up there as well.  The situation is surreal, as an ESPN commentator noted.  From a distance, it is indeed.

Bomb threats at Beaver Stadium, the removal of the coach who alleged saw Jerry Sandusky attacking a 10-year-old kid in the shower, the madness, the arrival of the Westboro Baptist Hate Machine (URRRR!) Church, and who knows what more.

The media, and I am a member of it has been playing a prominent role...we are hated for exposing the dirty laundry of Penn State, reviled for talking about it, accused of blowing it out of proportion.

We are also either doing a terrible job of reporting (over-reporting) it, speculating on it, and dissecting it.  It's a no-win scenario; you can't ignore it and pretend it didn't happen (like a lot of people apparently, allegedly did).  How do you deal with it?  How do you walk such a fine line?

Well, for so many of my colleagues, there is no line. 

I have watched all week with a certain dark satisfaction of seeing an entire cadre of my media colleagues go mad with the knowledge that Penn State's anointed one, Joe Paterno has been caught up in the insanity, by his apparent lack of action in the Sandusky matter.  Their insides are gnashing themselves into little bits, as all they once knew as good, nice and wonderful is not so.

Same way Penn State Nation is going right now.

Faith has been shaken right to its foundations.  There has been a great deal of comparison of this scandal to the Catholic Church sex scandal, and it does seem that there are some likenesses:  something goes down, and the authorities keep it quiet, hush it up, shuttle the perpetrators about or ease them into retirement, because the truth would hurt too much.

But to conceal such things, does it not make the pain geometrically worse when it does finally come out?

I had a conversation with my friend and colleague Rob today, and he sheds a very interesting light on why the University Board of Trustees did what they did.  I noted that earlier the board fucked up badly in cashiering Graham Spanier and Paterno as they did.

Rob made a good point about Paterno:  as of this week, PSU had three more games to play, a possible Big Ten Championship game, and maybe even a bowl game.

Week after week, the presence of Paterno would keep this going, even worse than it already is.

I had not thought of that, but I still say the board could have done better. 

Either way, Paterno is a martyr.  We were both stunned by the behavior of two men who were shown on ESPN, coming to Paterno's ranch house near the stadium. 

Here's what they did:  they knelt and genuflected toward the house.  It was like they were praying at an altar.  They were not paying respects.  They were praying to Paterno.

If that does not sum up what the fuck is wrong up there in Penn State land, I don't know what does.

As Rob also said, everyone turned Paterno into a God, and now they are shocked to find that he is not God, but a man...a football coach.

I think it's pretty clear now, that Paterno and quite a few others at Penn State failed to act when action was required.  It is a sorry situation, that a highly regarded state university, in existance since 1855 has given over its values to a football coach and his minions.

It's not about the university, its highly regarded academic programs, its Law School, its welcoming and nurturing atmosphere.  It's not about the students, who like any young person goes to college to learn all they can, and get that experience and life skill set you need to go out into the world and make it on your own.

No.  It's about a damned football team, its revolving door of players, and its coach.

The cult of personality is in full effect, and has been for nearly 50 years.  It's done now.  Even if Sandusky is acquitted or exonerated of these heinous charges (I doubt it, but I am not a lawyer, nor will I try this case), look at the damage done.

What parents are going to send their kids to Penn State?  Would you, if you are the parent of a high school student-athlete, knowing what you know now, send your kid into that?

What if your kids aren't athletes?  Would you think twice before ponying up the cash or entering into financial aid agreement to send them there?

I am not a parent.  I honestly don't know if I would.  Then again, it is each set of parents (and the kid's) decision to say what is the best fit, what programs are the best for them, and so on.

I think though, enrollment is gonna drop for a time; I think a lot of kids are gonna look elsewhere to play sports.  There is a cloud over that entire university, and they have a lot of work to do to clean it up.

In some ways, this is not fair to the wider student body.  The kids are not responsible for what Sandusky allegedly did, nor are they responsible for allegations of a major cover-up.

If these were the actions of a professor in one of the non-sports departments, a colleague noted, this would not be a ripple.  But it is, because of who is involved.

Back to Paterno:  I find it vile that people continue to paint him as a victim and a martyr.  I have pointed out that the Trustees did just that in how they dumped him.  I understand they had to act, but writing him off with a phone call was not the correct way to do it.  They needed to do it to his face, like men.

Paterno has to reconcile within himself what has happened, and just what he will do to make things right.  Someone in the media noted that Paterno, being Italian and at his age, is a man who is called "Old School."  Some still say he may not have understood how times have changed, and that the allegations of Sandusky's behavior may not have hit Paterno the way they should have.

Possibly.  Still, someone had to get to him and say, "Joe, this is fucking serious."

I don't know what went through Paterno's mind, and only he can say.  I am sure he'll be asked about it at Sandusky's trial.

How about the university as a whole?  How do they deal with this?  Time will tell.  I think the first step is to deal with the matter of the victims, and make sure that the outreach is sincere, and proper.  They need as a whole to apologize for this lapse of reason and sanity.

The next step is the program.  I do not believe in the pontificating weanbags of the media who proclaim that the season should be cancelled, that Penn State even drop football entirely.  Those people seek readers and column inches to fatten their wallets and pad their egos.

The Athletic Department needs to be wiped clean, and an entire new staff brought in.  Whomever takes over as Head Coach needs to have the right to pick his own staff, and it must be free of Penn State holdovers.

I doubt this will be allowed to happen.  Consider also that the "Special Committee" that will investigate this matter is led by a Penn State alumnus, and the committee is packed with ex-Penn Staters, that should tell you that the university will investigate itself.

One word:  WHITEWASH.

The university population, and especially the alumni and fans have to go through a very painful process of their own.

It's called growing up.

You placed your allegiance, not to a university and its values, but to a football coach and his values.  As good as his intentions were I'm sure, you made a God of a man.  I don't think Paterno ever wanted that; but the power that comes with such things is a drug. 

You enabled him, and you enabled his underlings to become the law.  Look what happened.

This has happened before, elsewhere in the world.  In religion, politics, society as a whole.  When you set a man up, that man eventually falls.  Sometimes it is his fault, sometimes it's not.

Either way, you lost your free will, your freedom to question, your freedom to doubt.  You now have been slammed with the reality that is Penn State.

You are Penn State alright; welcome to it.

Stop making gods of coaches, players or even just regular people.  If you believe in God, or Gods or some higher power, then fine.  That's your business.  Don't make Gods of men; it always comes back to bite you in the ass.

I'm not putting any links in today; there's no need.  We're watching the Penn State-Nebraska game, and I don't know how it will end.  Doesn't look good for the Nittany Lions at this point.

Anyway, this whole thing remains very sad.  I hope that Penn State can regain its position as a university of higher education, and put THAT as its legacy and what they're all about.

The football team?  Yeah, they're a good team, a very good one.  But that is what they should be seen as, and the players should be seen as players, but also as people.

We love our sports so much, and our heroes so much, and we make them gods.  We never grow up...we remain 12-year-olds at heart if we spend thousands of dollars on season tickets, jerseys, parking, over-priced stadium food and whatever. 

The football stadium has become the cathedral and a place of worship, not a place to go and watch a game with family and friends, and have fun.  The place to forget about real life for a few hours.  No, it is now the religion.

Sad indeed.  I enjoy sports as much as the next guy, but I couldn't tell you stats, I couldn't tell you even who half the players are anymore.  I have to know certain things as part of my job, but that's it.  It's a job, or it's a hobby.  It's not my obsession.  It's not my life.  It's not my faith.

I'm no better than you, the reader.  I'm just saying I didn't do what so many people have done, and not just at Penn State.  Look all around, look where the fanaticism for a sports program takes hold.  Look at Indiana, when Bobby Knight coached basketball there.  Look at Duke right now, and the way Mike K(I can't begin to spell his name) runs the show there.

We've all gone a little bit mad, haven't we? 

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