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Friday, July 27, 2012

The Post-Zoloft Withdrawal, and Gut-Wrenching Psychosis (of Others)...

"Now you're time has come...I'm gonna cut you...Like I should've done...A long time ago........"


Penelope Houston's "Cut You" is a fabulous 90's record that went under the radar back in the day.  Great voice and wit.


Yes, this day is the day for me to fire off a missive about many different things.  I just left my doctor's office, where I reported my self-imposed takedown of the Big Z.  


Ten weeks without the compression drug.  Needless to say the first four weeks of withdrawal were enough to make me a wreck; there have been varied schools of thought about how long it would take to get 12 years' reside of the little blue pills out of my system.  The doc says it's definitely long gone.


It was not a fun period, at least the start of it.


"Criminal," the Pretenders, from that unplugged album of theirs.  Never been a huge fan of them, but it's pretty good.


How do I feel?  Well, I do feel much more like myself.  I have had friends say my color has returned, and that I seem more alive on varied levels.  I do feel that way, but the anxiety and stress levels are nowhere near what I thought they would be.


I still have issues that involve stress, which I'll get to in a second.  I wish to perhaps again pimp a new book, "Coming of Age on Zoloft," by Kathleen Sharpe; she writes for Psychology Today, and the book chronicles her being arbitrarily put on the Big Z while in college.  I think Sharpe suffered from some definite depression in her high school and college years, based on her very frank descriptions and assessments.  There I think was some OCD component, but beyond that I can't really say.


Her experience and that of the individuals she interviewed for the book show a cross-section of people who for as many different reasons ended up on Zoloft, Effexor or any of these other meds.  


The book is NOT an attack on the medical profession, nor is it a slur on the use of the meds...just a good report on the loss of the plot.


"Common Ground," Midnight Oil.  Superb song...Peter Garrett has gone on to represent Australia very very well in Parliament, but I miss him.  He's also a great interview and a really nice guy.


Doctors have admitted this...it became far too easy to hand over the pills and send people on their way.  Moneywise, doctors admit in a number of cases they can bill and make more by handing out the drugs than actually doing therapy and treatment.


What's wrong with this picture, folks?


My physician said that the main aim has been to get people off stuff, if they can tolerate it.  In each person, it's very different.  It also has to do with the ingrained anxieties and issues.


As she said, paraphrasing, when you're crying nonstop and can't stop, or you are so anxious and freaked out that you can't function, treatment has to be looked at.


In answer to my question, she's seeing a lot more depression and anxiety cases.  Much of it is tied to the economy, and the loss of jobs, etc.  Logical; money makes shit like that come down.  I wondered if even before the downturn, were we seeing more of it.


If you for example feel really down, and really depressed, and there's no reason for it, why is that happening?  That is hard to say, again we're so different.  I went through nearly 35 years of it, nonstop.


"Why Did You," Sass Jordan.  Another of the female singers still with us that didn't get the attention she should have.


I do not believe the purists who bitch about how over-medicated we are, because they apparently are all so very happy in their unhappy, grumpy world.  It's true, though a lot of us may well be.


My specialist was the one who suggested Zoloft for me; I at that point in my life felt this was the first medical professional I could talk to about a very serious depression that was leading me to think about some heavy plans to get out of this world.  Not fun.


I don't regret any of it; it kept me together, smoothed out the moods for the most part, and let me live my life.  I've changed.


And we do change a lot.  I'm older, my body has changed and my mind has changed.  Right now, I feel healthier than I have in more than a decade.  That's due to my choices, most of them anyway.


I still do have issues.  Anxiety, guilt, stress, an occasional hyper-awareness.


"Ain't That a Lot of Love," Fabulous Thunderbirds...there we are.


Now, I do think a fair number of people out there do need a little help now and then, and there's no shame in that.


There are however people whose internal chemistry, and the circumstances of their lives where's it's different.  Some serious cases do need meds, plus monitoring.  We can't just decide one way is the only way.


I don't even know what my way is.  I think that changes, too.


I still have stress in certain areas.  Mechanical devices seem to not like me.  I don't think I can use a copier once without it jamming or having a malfunction.  Happened yesterday; making copies at WITF and I'm up to my elbows in trying to figure out how to get that piece of paper out of the top drawer mechanism when you can't physically touch it.


Exasperating; and it's bad form to just walk off and leave it.  Cary Burkett walked into the room for coffee while I was doing this, and we said hello and exchanged pleasantries.  I then muttered, "I hate these things."


He laughed.  We both did.


"Blue Harvest Blues," Mississippi John Hurt.  iTunes shuffle iz good.


Computers...there's another one.  My friend Alice points out that patience is not a good thing with me in certain areas.  True; I can be patient in some ways, not in others.


Now, how about the second half of my title?  The giant metal claws that pop out of some people's fingers and then reach within and start digging and twisting one's self inside and out keeps happening, and I'm watching the sometimes infantile activity take people out of the picture.


"Watching Over You," Mick Fleetwood Band.  I think Rick Vito is singing on this.


This has been on my mind for some months...consider this:  


When you write an email, or post a message/reply on Twitter or Facebook, etc., do you catch the meaning behind the words?  The intent?


I don't always.  Neither do others.


Words are such an interesting and fun thing; we can do so much with them, but as George Carlin used to say, we also use them to hurt.  Not always with bad intent, but we do it.


We also use them for opinions, and those opinions I find become incendiary.  I know I'm guilty of this, as much as the next person:  we over-react.


Then, as Jim Rome likes to say about certain relief pitchers, out comes the gas can and the blue tips.  


FLAME WARS!


We argue over the dumbest things, don't we?  Politics, religion, whether the sky is really blue, and like that.


Opinions are like assholes, we all got 'em.  Why is it when someone actually has an opinion and someone counters it, do one side (or both) go mad?


Then it gets mean...name-calling, accusations, more and more arguing.  We're fighting over an opinion, folks.


Oh but that' right it's also the battle for supremacy, and righteousness.  You get pulled into the game; you must get the last word or you have lost.


Actually, I don't think so.  It is at times best to do nothing at all.


"How Long Blues," Eric Clapton version.


Of course someone's gonna tub thump and proclaim victory by saying they were right all along because they got the last word or wasted hours by dissembling every word to prove they were right.


Time to get a life...I have one, and I'm not being arrogant about it.  I write this blog not to make people mad, but because I like to.  I like to write about the things that interest me, and if you actually can think about this, then good.  I didn't say you had to agree with me.


"You and Me," Mick Ronson...sad loss to rock n' roll.


I suppose living as I do; barely employed, working to keep my sanity, keeping the projects running this way leaves me somewhere.  I don't know where.


The point I make is:  each day of my life, I have do SOMETHING.  I have to do something positive; it can be working out, editing or writing one of my works, cleaning my house, whatever.  As long as I did something of value this day, either for me or for another, then I have done my job.


There are days I don't.  I try not to worry too much about that.  I am more aware that more than half my life has passed.  What have I left behind?


To borrow a phrase, "What indeed?"


"Hangdog Hotel Room," Gordon Lightfoot.


I do feel remorse if I have wronged someone, and I wish to make right those things I've fucked up.  Often, I feel forgiveness is impossible to attain no matter what I do.


I can't back down from what I know is true, but the pull of the other makes me think.  From some I feel, nothing I do will ever be enough.  I will go from what I once was to them, to someone beneath contempt.


I have to live with that; and realize that if they're going to decide I'm a terrible, awful person, then that's their perception.


Maybe they need a bit of mood stabilization.


Now and then, I find I ask myself:  "Am I this horrible person?  Am I really so unapproachable?"


No.


Definitely not.  I'm a person.  If people are put off by my hair, my spiritual leanings, my politics or whatever, then too bad.  I'm not arrogant, just realistic.


"When Somebody Thinks You're Wonderful," Clapton.  Skipping...not one of Eric's better efforts.


"Milk Train," Graham Parker.  Much better!


We do tend to destroy one another, though; we shit on and tear people down because it suits us in the moment.  We make a point, we think we win.


I make jokes all the time about stuff, but do you think I hate people?  Not at all.  Hate is a useless emotion; I see too many people use it.  Just look at the comment section of any website.


People have nothing better to do than spew it, just to start a fight.  


Collective madness, perhaps?  


I'm not sure where this is all going, but we need to again think a little.  I'm sorry if people don't get it, or this, or whatever, but this is where I'm at right now.


Crossroads, maybe?


Could be...we all have one.  I for one do NOT believe 2012 is the end of the world or any of that.  I do not think we're headed for a full meltdown of the entire world, but if something does happen, we survive.  We adapt.  Or you hope we do.


Gotta go...more to do.  In future, we may be transferring the blog over to Wordpress, so I'll let you know where it goes.  


"This is no social crisis, this is you havin' fun..."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Penn State: the Banshee Wails in Morning Light...

Oh, where oh where is the voice of John Facenda when you need him?  Or the wordplay of Hunter Thompson, when such a skewed command of the language in the universe is required?


All such thoughts aside, it is now nearly eleven hours since NCAA President Mark Emmert and his hair stepped to the podium from the safe confines of the association's headquarters in Indianapolis, to announce to the world and the astral plane from where all good little Nittany Lions go when they die of the punishment that the football Program (with a Capital P, like a previous blog) would receive.


We all know why, just some keywords:  Jerry Sandusky.  Joe Paterno.  Tim Curley.  Gary Schultz.  Graham Spanier.  Victims 1 through 10.  Penn State Football.  Rape.  Sexual Abuse.  Cover-up.  Lies.  Emails.  


That enough?


So this morning, President Emmert (with help from his hair) made the grand announcement of what Penn State University, as well as the football Program must take, for allowing the abuse, enabling the abuse, and then pretending it all didn't happen, for the sake of the Program:


http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/8191027/penn-state-nittany-lions-hit-60-million-fine-4-year-bowl-ban-wins-dating-1998


The skinny is there, and here is the decree the university signed:


http://a.espncdn.com/pdf/2012/0723/pennstateconclusions.pdf


Let's look at those sanctions, shall we:


--A fine of $60 million dollars; the figure is essentially what the Program cleared last season, after expenses and funding pretty much every other sport campus.  


The money is to go to legitimate (I hope) organizations all over the US that deal with child sexual abuse, meaning counseling, treatment, all of that.  That I can agree with; the money is desperately needed at many non-profits, and I hope that a fair system can be set up where the money will do the most good.


--Loss of athletic scholarships.  There's a lot of scholarship money handed out to those "athlete-students," don'tcha know, the ol' free ride.  Well, that free ride generally goes to top flight athletes, especially in football and basketball.  As former SMU Coach Ron Meyer admitted back in the 80's, he didn't want kids that could play great football at the collegiate level, he wanted kids who could play in the NFL right now.


Admittedly, a lot of those blue chip athletes didn't have the grades to get into Penn State, but if you did and the chance to play for JoePa is set before you, you'd take it.


This means that the talent pool of freshmen and redshirt freshmen is gonna be mighty thin over the next four, and maybe more years.  Also, players on the PSU squad now can transfer to any school they want and play right away, with no one-year waiting period.


I can just imagine how many of those kids have already left Happy Valley.  Some have claimed they will stay, but I doubt it.  


Why would they?  No postseason football for the next four seasons.  No playoff games.  No bowl games.  No trips to the Cotton/Rose/Orange/Sugar/Astro-Bluebonnet (remember that last one?) Bowl for you, Penn State!  No appearance money for Penn State, either.


--An additional five-year probation period, in which the university will be under the watchful eye of the NCAA, for any more fuckups.  That could mean anything.


But here now is the one that is really cutting into the hearts and souls of those who worship at the altar (now removed) that is Joe Paterno:


--112 victories, earned by Penn State from 1998 to 2011, have been struck off the record books.  112 games won, no more.  Sure, the Nittany Lions won 'em on the field, but not anymore.  Because of all of this, all 112 games during the period of Sandusky's behavior and the cover-up and lies that followed, Penn State forfeits every damn one of them.


--Joe Paterno is no longer the winningest coach in NCAA Division I Football history.  The record goes back to the late Eddie Robinson of Grambling.  His 408 wins will not be caught in our lifetime, I'm sure.  Of course, the media is all about how Bobby Bowden is first in FBS wins...I don't even know what the FBS is.


FUCKING BULL SHIT, I think...nothing against Bowden, but really.


These are indeed the most draconian sanctions ever handed down by the NCAA, and the decisions alone, as well as the methods will be picked apart for decades after, by legal experts, commentators, sports talk show hosts, pundits, and especially, the PSU fans and alumni.


Just look at some of them...just look at them:






Why so shocked, collegians?




They knew this day was coming, but oh, the humanity!  They and their elders (who should damned fucking well know better by now) have been screaming like the sirens who stand on numerous rocky shores and hilltops, crying their hearts out and howling for justice for their beloved university, their beloved football Program, and their beloved "God," JoePa.


They had a pretty fair clue thrown down to them, when the emails came out.  When it was, "Crystal clear, like a windshield without glass" (thank you, Shawn Michaels) that Paterno had his finger on the pulse of his minions' slip-shod "investigation" of Sandusky.  He also had an iron grip on the university; he was party to and decisive in indecision:  there would be no talk about this, no reporting, no nothing.


Just get Jerry outta my hair, JoePa ordered, and keep him out of it.  Who cares about a bunch of kids he showered with, and all this crazy talk?  Fuck 'em; we got a Program to run!


(Okay, Paterno did NOT say that as far as we know...to me it is clearly implied that the Program was more important to Paterno than any kids.  Just like it was catching Robinson and getting those 409 wins.


Oh, and the statue?  How about that?


http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=8188599

Click for comments from a pair of real geniuses.  I'm sorry, but you know what?  These two people are exactly what the fuck is wrong with Penn State, the culture of the Program, and the Cult of Personality that is Joe Paterno.


That student looks like he's about to cry...oh, it's so unfair!  It's just a statue!  It's a statue of JoePa!  He did so much for us!


And he did NOTHING for those kids.


And how about that snippy, snooty woman with the uncool from the 80's haircut?  Still living in JoePa Land, where everything is nice and wonderful and sweet.


After listening to that comment she made, with the arrogance in her face and voice?  It would make the most devout Atheist leap up and shout, "JESUS CHRIST!"


I'm sure my father would have said that...and probably a sight more.


The cult remains in force.  Paterno is gone, his reputation tarnished; Sandusky is right where he belongs, in jail.  Curley and Schultz have yet to have their day in court, so it is too soon to know what will become of Dumb and Dumber.


Oh, and Spanier?  Isn't this lovely?


http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/8192066/graham-spanier-wants-set-record-straight-penn-state-nittany-lions-board-trustees

Dear Graham wants one more time before his former peers, those stuffy, old-moneyed bromides who would likely not even make the end table at one of Mitt Romney's parties.  He wants to set the record straight, does he?


Spanier was a figurehead.  He had NO power at Penn State; Spanier well knew all the power rested with Paterno.  If Paterno wanted something done, or not done, that's it.


Spanier allowed himself to be the whipping boy for the media, academia, politicians, everyone.  He was just one of Joe's Bitches.  


I knew over the weekend that this whole thing was gonna be bad, and I say this because we have to understand what the Trustees, the Board or whatever makes a person sit in a chair up there every so often.  Apparently, they all knew that this was gonna be bad, way bad for the Program, and the school.  One of them harumphed to an ESPN Senior Writer (Dan van Natta) about how Emmert was allowed to have free reign, and use the Freeh Report, rather than do an internal investigation.


He call all of the university presidents, are you ready for this?


PANSIES!


They're pansies, he shouted, for letting Emmert do his job!


Sir...how old are you, anyway?  That's like a 50's or 60's term.  Go back to your country club, and have another 30-year-old bourbon, or whatever it is you drink.  And what the hell, make it a double.


Now...let's take a look at what exactly has gotten everyone's boxers and granny panties in a bunch, shall we?  Beyond all we've talked about so far:


How the Investigation was Conducted...I do agree, that the scope is very different.  Usually, the NCAA does an internal investigation, which generally is a whitewash of affairs.


The unique nature of the Freeh Report really makes an internal investigation a waste of time and money.  Louis Freeh, if you don't remember his name, was a former FBI Director and a former federal judge.  He has his own firm now, and they got the job of independent investigation.  Guys like that don't make shit up.

That report is like 267 pages long; it pretty much is the manifesto for what went wrong at Penn State.  Like in so many other cases, it is not a matter of the university running the program.

No...THE PROGRAM RUNS THE UNIVERSITY.

This is when power corrupts, and corrupts totally.  Paterno had all the power, all the levers under his old-man fingers.  He could do whatever he wanted, and Joe's word was Law.

That line from the email Curley wrote says it all, that part about "talking it over with Joe," or something like that.  Curley was ready to do the right thing and go to the police, the Dept. of Public Welfare, all of it.

Joe stopped it.

Spanier wrote he was "comfortable" with the decision, despite his warning (he is a lawyer) that they could get in big trouble down the road.  For once, Spanier was right.

That says it all, doesn't it?

"Lack of Institutional Control."  This is what took SMU's football team off the field for two seasons, and off the map, pretty much for good.  This is what has plagued Miami-Florida for decades, has done so at Ohio State, Oklahoma and quite a few other schools. 

These punishments were not for trading jerseys for free tattoos, selling basketball tournament tickets for cash, getting a car under the table for the star running back, nothing like that.

We're talking about criminal activity, and the covering up thereof.  Again, this comes with the new powers that Emmert was granted by the NCAA to clear up this mess.  More on that in a second.

Quite clearly, this had to be done.  I'm not saying it's 100% right or fair, but in life, nothing is ever fair.  Those college kids should know that sooner rather than later; I would have thought they'd learned that when they were much younger.  Their elders, parents, alumni, whomever...they should know as well.

Oh, but we're talking Penn State folks, that bastion of probity, decency and higher education...and a football Program run amok.

The Program was the money-maker for Penn State, not the academic side.  As excellent as the school is when it comes to actual education, football trumps everything. 

Now let's have a look at the world I work in, the media.  I saw this today on dcrtv.com.  Dave Hughes covers DC/Maryland area radio and TV stuff on here, and he does a great job.  This is from the mailbag:

"I unprecedented tried to unprecedented listen to unprecedented ESPN radio this unprecedented morning, but their unprecedented overuse of one unprecedented word while covering the unprecedented Penn State unprecedented story made it unprecedented impossible to unprecedented listen very unprecedented long. Apparently those unprecedented little brains unprecedented have a hard unprecedented time unprecedented covering unprecedented real news unprecedented stories, even unprecedented the ones that have unprecedented been telegraphed unprecedented for days. On-air unprecedented talent was unprecedented clearly told to unprecedented use one word unprecedented in every unprecedented sentence. Unprecedented unprecedented unprecedented. Unprecedented."

ESPN could not stop using the word, and I'm pretty sure "Unprecedented" was talking about Mike & Mike.  But likely also about everyone else down there.

Sports Journalism is often sardonically called, "The Toy Department."  It used to be, anyway by the News Department.  For the most part, ESPN has done a pretty decent job of coverage, and even the watchdog site Poynter.org has given them good marks.

Since the scandal broke with Sandusky, all of humanity including media was thrown into two armed camps:  you either loved Penn State and worshipped the ground Joe Paterno vomited on, or you HATED PENN STATE.

The "JoePologists" (I love that term) rushed to his defense; they excoriated everyone who dared to speak any ill of PSU, and of JoePa.  That would not do.  There was NO WAY, they crowed, that Paterno would EVER allow such things to occur, and not take action.

Till those emails came out.  Half of the JoePologists did a fast 180, and began howling louder than the other side about such terrible things this man did, as they tried to cover their own asses and apologize for their own stupidity.

See Rick Reilly's column, either at Sports Illustrated or on ESPN.go.com -- you'll see what I mean.  And Rick, you're still a self-important douchebag.

Most of the sports talk world is unreasonable.  It's like trying to reason with three-year-old children, only these are "adults," whose intellectual development ended when they were 12.  They slammed Sandusky, attacked anyone saying ill of JoePa, and tried to dissemble and find ways of getting their man around it and out of it.

A high percentage of sports talk hosts are not athletes.  They are wannabes; the males are by and large arrogant, loud, tub-thumping nincompoops whose sense of humor makes "South Park" look thoughtful.  Many are misogynist, who take every opportunity to slam women's sports (the late Papa Joe Chevalier was among the worst), and who think they're clever by having lots of scantily-clad women on their websites.  Not gettin' any, but they can dream, can't they? 

The few women in the business are largely reporters who get air time here and there, but have to really be able to take a lot of shit.  How Amy Lawrence holds her own at ESPN I don't know.  The Fabulous Sports Babe (who is now retired) was one of the most hated women in the sports media, because she was loud, a performer, knew her sports and smart enough to take down any man in a war of words.  I personally didn't think her show was that good, but she was smart as hell, I'll give her that.

Paterno became the scapegoat, in their eyes.  A friend pointed this out:  building a statue to honor a man who is still alive is NOT a good idea.  No, not at all; already revered as a coach, Paterno now became God in the eyes of Penn State and the Cult (not the band).

The issue will be picked to shreds for years thereafter, and either you're on one side or the other.  It is inevitable.

Now...back to the way this investigation went down.  Someone on ESPN Radio today made a good point, though clearly he was trying very hard to slag Emmert and whine about the heavy hammer he used.

This guy brought up the Baylor basketball case from a few years ago: 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baylor_University_basketball_scandal

A fair point, in that a murder took place and the NCAA didn't go after the Bears' program for that.  Of course, we didn't know about Penn State, either. 

There's another scandal brewing right now in Montana: 

http://www.sbnation.com/ncaa-football/2012/5/1/2991273/montana-football-sexual-assault-scandal-justice-department 

A second fair point, moreso in that this has not yet played out.  What will the NCAA do here?  The shill wailed that Emmert better come down hard on Montana, or (boo-hoo) it's just not fair!

I agree on the point, and the fairness issue.  If the NCAA is gonna go hard at Penn State for criminal activity, so should they in Montana, once we know the facts in the case.  The shill acted like they're all guilty up there, and that is not so (yet).

Now...let's get to Penn State itself, and what it will face.

Someone got onto a Fox Sports Radio whinefest and admitted that his son goes to Penn State.  You know what's comin', don't you:

This man actually said this:  "THE COMMUNITY IS GOING TO DIE."

(Cue R.E.M. song, please)

Really?  Die?  A tragic, horrible death?  Oh, my.

Actually, let's look a little more carefully at that.  It is true, that Penn State, and especially football are big-ass money makers for the community at large.  It's not just the college, though having thousands of college kids hitting your bars, restaurants, convenience stores, gas stations and so forth makes for a good profit if you know how to run a business.

When Fall Comes to Happy Valley, it's Money Time!  The roads to State College are clogged every Saturday there's a game; people who live around there either stay put or get the hell out unless they're going to the game, too.  Every single store, restaurant, fast food joint, t-shirt stand, and especially the crazy guy who owns the barbecued rib place (his commercials are ridiculously stupid) stand to make a shitload of green when there's a game on.

Now...if the "Death Penalty," that scourge that destroyed SMU's program had been put in place, or if as I'd speculated, Penn State might be banned from having any home games there this or next season, then you might have an argument.

Businesses really do need that revenue, but the community will not die.  The Nittany Lions will play football this fall, so no worries, folks.  There will be games, there will be people going to them, and there will be football.

But what kind of football?

It won't be anywhere near as good as what Paterno put on the field.  Bill O'Brien probably wishes he was back with the Patriots right now.  I do not expect to see a full football squad when I go up there to cover the first game of the season against Ohio.  I would bet half the top players will be somewhere else; those that stay will be supplemented by redshirts, walk-ons and whomever else O'Brien can hustle into a uniform.

I say this because not only does Penn State already have high academic standards, but again, what top of the line players are gonna go to Penn State, when they know they will not contend for a national title, and not even have a postseason playoff game to play in?

SMU, which got the Death Penalty for far less in 1987 (millions of dollars paid to players by well-heeled boosters, and they kept doing it even when caught), was under numerous pressures.  They had no football in '87; most of the players jumped ship that very day.  The next season, the Mustangs were allowed to play a seven-game schedule, but all the games had to be on the road.

No home revenue.  None.  Penn State could have faced this, you know.

SMU had only a handful of kids to play, and they decided to sit out 1988.  When they came back, they looked like a JV high school squad (see "Pony Excess," the  independent documentary that ESPN put out as part of the 30 on 30 series for more).  The Mustangs recorded only one winning season in the 20 years after their return, and have only been two I think two bowl games.  They've never recovered.

I think the NCAA took the economic circumstances into account when these decisions were reached.  The hope is now, that football remains a sport, and not a religion, at least officially.

All I know is, 105-thousand students, alumni and fans will pack Beaver Stadium every home game this fall, and probably for many years after.  They'll tailgate, drink and be merry, and then head into their cathedral for the game.    Their expectations should not be set very high.

Hopefully, the game will be seen for what it should be; a game, a contest of two teams with good players on each side, and good coaches.  It will be a test of skill, of systems, of clock and game management, and a little bit of luck.  Perhaps it will be fun again.

I rather doubt it will be as fun as it once was, though.  Even without the statue in front of the stadium, even with all the efforts Penn State will make to put the whole thing behind them, they may never shed the shadow of this horrid affair.

Bowden said that removing the statue was a good idea, because every time someone passes it, they'll think of Sandusky.  They'll think of Paterno, and what he did/didn't do, and the victims. 

Paterno is dead; sadly, his inaction and his terrible decision to do nothing will be his legacy.  What was announced today is part of that legacy.  There's good, great, but with both there is always bad, and terrible.  The measures are not always equal.

I hope, as I often do in life, that when people recover from this shock, they will see things in a different light, and do their best to move forward and find a way to help make things right.

I hope for that, but I do not expect it.  We're talking about human beings, you and I.

In too many cases such as these, it is too much to ask people to grow up.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Blog-A-Book...If You Blog It, Will They Come...?

Greetings, fellow bloggers, readers, lurkers and what have you...I am writing this Friday evening as I am once more dealing with the bane of writers everywhere...the Big R.


Rejection.


I have had a ton of it through my radio career, my literary career, my personal life, everywhere.  It's not so terrible, because you hope you learn something from it.


I wonder if I have.


Today, a certain unnamed publisher shot down a proposal for the "Sweet Dreams Series."  Nothing new.  One of the reasons given was interesting, because I had never heard of such a thing:  the location, which I thought was unique (coupled with the perspective), doesn't seem to fly with them.


Apparently, it's not conventional enough for them.  


Urgh.  Well, that makes me wonder if just had an idea and it really isn't that good at all.


I do not plan to give up; in fact, I need to share something with you.  I read in "Writer's Digest" about blogging your book.


Well, some of you might recall I tried that not long ago with the first book of "The Other Roads Club" Series.  Didn't get a whole lot of reaction to it; didn't expect it, but what I did get was pretty decent.


I wonder now...should I offer something more, and now that I have a slightly larger platform, would it work?


The aim is to find out what you think.  Is the story good? Do you like characters?  Does the premise work?  Would you read more?


Right now, I feel there is a great deal of stuff I could offer you that's actually really good.  A couple of my stories would work well here, and could lead to more attention.


I don't feel I've much of a choice; getting it out there is the only way to see.


You can still find in my previous blogs, "Take Another Road."  The story is copyrighted and I left it up.  Each chapter is well titled so you can figure the order.


That said:  I ask YOU...IF...I put up a chapter by chapter story again, WILL YOU READ IT?


Look, I realize life is busy for us all...but if you liked the first bit, would you read more?  Would you want to buy it, either as a book or an e-book?


Let me know...also, let me know if you would like the second book of the Other Roads Club, or something newer, different...


Let me know...I am listening...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Penn State: the Unmodified, Unlimited Complete and Total Fuck-Up

Part I:


Well, is this ever going to be a blog.  Honestly, I did not want to write about this, or blog about this; there's been too much written, spoken, gossiped and innuendoed (is that a word?) about the Freeh Report, and the damning evidence at the heart of the Penn State sex scandal.


Let's call it for what it is, folks:  this is a scandal that is not just about Jerry Sandusky.  It could well have remained just about Sandusky, specifically, but it embroiled his long-time employer, and took down a host of high-ranking individuals--especially his boss, Joe Paterno.


More on him later, and those who either continue to whine and moan about his legacy and related conspiracies, plus those who created the myth of "JoePa," and now only want to jab their dull little penknives into the rotting corpse.


The full report, all 267 pages of it is here, courtesy of WITF:


http://www.witf.org/regional-a-state-news/read-the-full-freeh-report-into-actions-of-penn-state-surrounding-abuse-committed-by-sandusky


Now...I have read as much of this report as I can; quite a bit of this is already known to me.  Just a couple weeks ago, Sandusky, the former Defensive Coordinator for the Nittany Lions was found guilty of 45 of 48 of the sexual abuse and related counts against him. He will be sentenced as early as September, and the 68 year old is not expected to see the light of day once it's passed.


The testimony has been horrific and graphic.  Anyone who has ever endured the agony of sexual abuse of any kind knows what this can be like.  While I do think at times the prosecution was overdramatic (the lead attorney's bit of cheap theatre in standing behind Sandusky in closing arguments was unprofessional and stupid), the defense showed it dealt with a weak hand.  I did expect more faux kabuki theatre from Joe "I did the right thing and married my 16 year old baby mama" Amendola and his cohorts, such as Karl "the Situation" Rominger.


Sandusky, who experts say fits the profile of a serial molester remained aloof, silent and generally clueless.  Could this man be so out of it that he actually didn't think he had done no wrong?  No; it was pretty clear to me that Sandusky knew right from wrong.  


Without going into it...I know.  


I know how one can clear their minds of such things and make themselves believe it's okay.


The "Histrionic Personality Disorder" defense was a long shot at best; experts can tell you all about it.  Sandusky didn't fit the mold.  "The Situation's" life-skills tutorial about the shower incident(s) shows how far on another astral plane they all were.  Guess Joe and Karl were angling for their own shows on Court TV.


They also trotted out Sandusky's wife, Dottie...ooh, her nickname is "Sarge."  Ooh, that's so tough!  She also proclaimed her complete and total innocence at all this...one of the victims pointed out that he was attacked right across the hall from her bedroom!


How could she not know?


This was only part of the ongoing dog and pony show.  The media largely rushed to the defense of the Almighty Penn State University, and especially to the Almighty JoePa.  Swirling around the horrid allegations were those who also face charges, partly due to their own poor performance before a grand jury:  (former) President Graham Spanier, (former) Athletic Director Tim Curley (aka, Dumb) and (former) VP Gary Schultz (aka, Dumber).


And Joe Paterno himself.


We know Sandusky's guilty and headed for the final stretch of his life, in more ways than one.  Dumb and Dumber face related charges, and in the wake of the Freeh Report, it now appears that Spanier could be charged as well.


Paterno might well have himself had he not passed away in January.  I rather doubt however that an 85 year old man would be sent to prison, considering his health as well as his (now tarnished) status.


The response to all this has been shocking; to me, I have to admit to being a little, but not a lot, when it came to Paterno.


I was not shocked, when it came to Penn State.


Part II:


Why do I say this?


I have blogged here in the past about the cult of personality that surrounded Joe Paterno and Penn State football.  As it is in most parts of this nation, college football is not a sport.  


It is a religion.


Just as say, North Carolina Tarheel basketball is a religion.  Just as Oklahoma Sooner, Texas Longhorn, and Notre Dame football are all religions.  I do not mean to lump them in with Penn State; they are examples only.


Better examples from the professional world.  The Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, etc., in Major League Baseball; Soccer in Central America and Europe; Sumo in Japan.


Do you get me now?


Howard Cosell often sneered about "big time college sports," when scandals erupted, and there have been plenty of those.  Remember the outrage (much of it manufactured) when some Ohio State footballers exchanged memorabilia for tattoos?  Or the Ponzi schemer who gave Miami Hurricane players money for everything from big hits to prostitutes?  The renegade Sooner program presided over by Barry Switzer?


How about SMU?  Remember that?  The football program that got the "death penalty" for paying players, and which has never recovered?


This is a scandal of another kind, and it is a very difficult one.  It is a criminal scandal that cuts to the heart of Penn State, but on many layers.


It is now proven that Sandusky was covered for and enabled.  The smoking gun was a series of uncovered emails (gee, wherever did they come from?) that prove beyond doubt that Spanier, Curley, Schultz and yes, Paterno conspired to hush the whole thing up.


Paterno told a bold-faced lie in his final interview, when he claimed he did not know of the first incident involving Sandusky, in 1998 when Sandusky was still on his coaching staff.  


The proof is in the emails.  He knew.  And the excuse Paterno's family threw out is lame:  Joe didn't use email.


I'm not even going to dignify a statement so ignorant with a response.


University Park, which is the virtual town that is PSU, and has its own police force shut up about it.  The incident was given a cursory look, and everyone STFU about it.


It could have been stopped, right there.  But no, it was let to go on.  Sandusky used his charity, the Second Mile as a proving ground for vulnerable boys and used his connections to Penn State to entice his victims.


There were more incidents, not all on campus, but the most horrid:  in 2001, former Assistant Coach Mike McQueary saw Sandusky (allegedly or not) assault a boy in a shower.


This incident is the one where the red flags really went up.  The emails prove that after huddles, talks and backroom wrangling, Curley and Schultz were about to head for the police and do the right thing under state law and all known sense.


They didn't.  Know why?  After talking it over, "with Joe," they chose to do none of those things.  They just told Sandusky to stop bringing kids onto campus and took his keys to the gym away.


Now you have to wonder...why would four intelligent, educated and generally smart guys (relative terms I know) would do that?  Why would they throw innocent kids under the bus, and let Sandusky keep up his predatory ways?


That's where we get to the big one, the Golden Goose:  the Football Program.  Not the team, the Program.


Part III:


The Program is what brings in the money.  The Nittany Lions are a money-maker, even when they have losing seasons.  This is the same deal on most Division I campuses that have consistently good, competitive teams.  You get great, exciting players, storied teams come to town (or cupcakes the homeboys can beat up on), fun games to watch (again relative), and you get asses in the seats.


Consider there are 105,000 seats to put asses in at Beaver Stadium (or whatever they call it now).  Joe Paterno helped put a lot of asses in those seats.


The Program funds that freaking school.  Even if no players were involved in Sandusky's actions, the scandal and scrutiny the Program would endure was potentially damaging.  Eyes which turned with nothing but reverence to the wondrous JoePa and the blue and white elan of the Nittany Lions would now look differently.  


"How could this happen?  What's going on here?" They might ask.


Well, they're asking now, folks.  Oh, are they ever.


The four men at the center of the cover-up took a terrible risk, and they knew they were taking one.  But instead of doing the right thing, following the law and their consciences (I assume all sentient beings have one), they covered it up, for the sake of The Program, and Paterno's legacy.


This takes us back to the Cult of Personality that is Joe Paterno.  This has been carefully crafted, built up and nurtured over the years by Paterno himself, the university, the students, the fans, and yes, the media.  The one I'm a part of.


We don't have to belabor the lead-up; Paterno was an excellent coach for many, many years.  He built a great football program, found the best coaching staff, and consistently put good football teams on the field.  His teams rarely if ever got sanctioned by the NCAA; his players graduated, almost to a man, and many made their way to the NFL or other productive careers.  No doubt, he was a man to look up to, and a lot of young men saw something special in him.


That said:  everybody gave Paterno a permanent hall pass.  Players who got involved in fights used to be taken straight to Joe for disciplining, a far better fate than to be jailed.  JoePa wished for the good old days when he could deal with the kids, rather than getting the police and the public involved.


He didn't want bad press.  No one at PSU did; and they made sure there wasn't any if they could help it.


Paterno was the Overlord of the university.  He was the most powerful man on it.  When Spanier and others suggested several years ago that Paterno retire, he said no.


The media rushed to Paterno's defense.  How dare they tell JoePa that he leave, they thundered, after all he's done for the the school, the Program, the community, the this, the that...


JoePa did no wrong, ever.  The few who criticized him were seen as haters, people who had an irrational dislike of Penn State and all it supposedly stood for.  When Paterno was fired, students rioted and howled in protest.


To borrow a phrase, "Let's face it folks, we're talking about God here."


Paterno became God; he was that in the eyes of millions, Penn Staters and non alike.  I do not believe that Paterno ever thought of himself as something like that; but I'm sure he reveled in the power.


So many now ashamedly admit, JoePa is now human to them.  He was not infallible.


Freeh mentioned it in his remarks, that someone said Paterno made "the biggest mistake of his life."


Yes, he did.  Paterno failed to act; he chose to protect himself and his beloved Program rather than get Sandusky off the streets.  He showed, like the others that he didn't give a flying fuck about the potential victims.  Paterno barely mentioned them.  He cared not about the suffering of those kids, he cared about himself; it's a very human thing to do, but sometimes you have to put that aside.


Think about it:  had they done the right thing way back when, sure the university would have been embarrassed.  But it would have been on Sandusky, not Paterno, not the university, not the Program.  They would have been heroes, for getting out front, and taking decisive action.


They would have been lauded to the Heavens even higher than they had ever been before.  At the moment of a moral crisis, they blinked.


And there were more victims.  More tragedy, more damaged lives and now a damaged community, a damaged university, and a damaged Program.


Part IV:


Blame is like manure; you need to spread it about so it does the most good.  Blame is everywhere in this.


At the top, the chief perpetrator, Sandusky.  That is a given; he has been found guilty, and his life is over.  His reign of terror against kids is over.


Curley, long known as Paterno's "Errand Boy," is on the block.  With him is Schultz; Dumb and Dumber could be headed for the slammer, too, but that's for a judge and jury to decide.


Paterno is dead; but his spirit must be wondering, "What on Earth has happened here?"


A friend of mine believes that when the full portent of what was coming down, the scandal that led to his firing, the charges, all of it, that he died at that moment.


Lung cancer is a terrible thing; I watched my father die from it.  Paterno, in his 80's must have had that horrible moment, when he realized that something went wrong, and that he was party to it.


I think it killed him, too.  I want to honestly believe that Paterno realized that he'd gone wrong, and it was too late to do anything about it. 


I indeed am sorry to his widow and his family for his loss. The cancer alone must have been painful.  I just wish his family would stop living in denial, trying to save his image and pretending this was blown out of proportion.


As too many are doing.


Part V:


"Head, meet Sand.  I believe you've met before."


The head in the sand mentality goes beyond Penn State, football, Paterno, the personality cult, all of it.  It goes right to the core of Pennsylvania, and an old-world mentality when it comes to matters like sex.  Especially, sexual abuse and assault upon children.


I know too many people who have been sexually abused and assaulted in this state alone, not to mention elsewhere in this world.  Too many times, the victims are not believed; they are blamed.


One close friend told me of her rape at seven years old by a relative; she said he told her, "she thought too much of herself."


What the fuck does that mean?!?


Seven years old.  Is that some kind of twisted excuse?  I've heard even worse.  I've heard people justify these actions by claiming the child was "sexualized," a word pervs like to use to explain away aberrant behaviors.


Just like adults...they claim the child "came on to them," dressed too sexy for them, "deserved it."


Yeah, right.


In rural parts of America, not just Pennsylvania, this kind of stuff is hushed up.  You don't talk about it, and I'm remembered of lines from of all things, Tommy:  "You didn't hear it/You didn't see it/You won't say nothing to no one/Never in your life..."


And especially when someone of a religious (hah) family is accused of it.  There's always an excuse in religion...look at the Catholic Church.  


Relatives circle the wagons and cry, "He could never have done that, because he's a Christian/a man of God/washed in the blood of the lamb..."


That last one I've heard.  For real.


Americans, thanks to religious intolerance have an aversion to sex, sexuality, the facts of life even.  It is still not well enough reported, and victims are still not believed.


Amendola and "The Situation" were certainly hopeful that what Sandusky was accused of could not be believed.  That they could bank on a jury packed with Penn State students, alums and employees that they could get away with it and get their client off.


WRONG.


Now...back to another "situation," the mess that Penn State has to clean up.  


As a member of the media, I am self-critical of my performance on air, onstage, wherever.  I am not paid to write this blog; I write this because I want to.  The opinions and feelings are my own, and I've a right to them.  They have nothing to do with my job, my employers none of it.


That a good enough disclaimer for you?


I'm pissed off about all this, because of my own personal understanding of this issue.  Let's again examine...


Part VI:


The Media...the closer you get to State College, the more insular it becomes, especially when we're talking about PSU, Paterno and the Program.  Miles of column inches written in print and online could circle the globe a million times about the greatness of JoePa, the wonderfulness of Penn State, the educational opportunities, the small-town atmosphere, all of it.


Paterno has been lauded for decades as the aw-shucks, down to earth guy with the big glasses and the high-water pants who was as tough as nails and put winning football teams on the gridiron.  He also made damn sure those boys went to class, and if they didn't well it was either straighten up or get out.


The sickly sweet story of how he met his 14 years junior future wife at over ice cream on campus that idyllic day so many years ago may well have been true.  But it was made into some kind of love story that Hallmark would've made a movie about.  Just one more chapter in the legend.


Everything about JoePa was calculated to make his image what it was.  Having been in his presence, even in later life the man surely had an aura about him.  I believe at heart, Joe Paternor was a decent man.  Part of me says he made one big mistake and he is being raked over the coals for it.


I've said and done things I wish I'd never...I would hope that my life is not decided by one error no matter what it was.


Problem with Joe's mistake...it led to more suffering, for victims, the school, his family, himself...he tried to cover it up.  


He failed; he lied about it.  Someone once wrote prisons are full of people whose only real crime was not so much breaking the law, but running away from it.  And running from the responsibility.


I have to say I'm very disappointed in human nature.  So many people still believe that Paterno is a God figure...I can just imagine what Jed Donahue is gonna say tomorrow on his weekend sports show.  Used to say he could do one show and re-run it over and over again, and no one would know.  Because it was one giant wank-in for JoePa.


Newspapers, radio, television, the net...so many people lionized Paterno, and in turn Penn State.  He was lauded, loved, fawned over, and anyone who dared criticize was shouted down, attacked and shoved to the side.


Well, so many of those same sycophants are now sharpening their axes and getting ready to take revenge for being played like the fools they are.


That's even worse somehow.


Some in the media are screaming that Penn State football must pay the price...THE DEATH PENALTY, they screech from the highest point of land they can find.  SHUT DOWN THE PROGRAM, BAN THE NITTANY LIONS FOR LIFE, DESTROY THEM ALL!


There's a problem here.  The players didn't do these things.  One man, Sandusky, enabled and abetted by four men, plus perhaps more who knew a lot and wouldn't talk are to blame, especially.


Can the school, and the Program, be hit in some way?


This is gray area; if it is found that a specific law, the Clery Act or others have been violated, the university could be on the hook for stiff fines and who knows what else.


As for the Program:  the NCAA is primarily interested and geared towards dealing with violations by current players, coaches, staff, etc.


As I said elsewhere, I believe the Program could face sanctions for the 1998 incident, because Sandusky was still Defensive Coordinator.  This could be loss of scholarships, post-season play, and a ban from national TV.


That will cost 'em some money, but not a bad hit.


Can the NCAA do more?  I do not know what they can do; I don't believe they're equipped to do more.  


I for one cannot ever see the football team not playing.  The program cannot be shut down, because even in its wounded state, it is a cash cow.  It makes money; it won't stop.


If the NCAA took special action like they did with SMU in 1987, that is the death penalty, I don't think member schools would support it.  If they did, PSU would sue, and it would go through the courts for months, if not years.


All I know is, that the chance to make a clean break was lost a long time ago.  Penn State will have a black mark against them forever; for many who are associated it is unfair to them, but as a full unit, they must bear it.


If "(You) are Penn State," you have to accept the good with the bad.


I don't know if the university is ready for that.  I think many still believe this is all a bad dream or a conspiracy to get JoePa.


And if you believe that shit, you probably believe we didn't land on the moon in '69, that Barack Obama is a Kenyan Muslim activist and Pete Rose didn't bet on baseball.


I love the teary-eyed defenses of their beloved JoePa; some tissues for Matt Millen, please.  All these people still ranting away about how it's all so unfair.


Then there's the bottom feeders of the worst kind:  the crotch-grabbing, jock-sniffing columnists and sports-talk show hosts and co-hosts who tub thump for Penn State, or counterattack with all the testosterone their bodies can muster.


They go on about what they would have done if they'd been there instead of McQueary that night in the shower, or what they'd do if their kid was abused, or what they'd do if THEY ran things...shut up, all of you.  You don't know what you'd do. 


Talking about the issues is one thing...but jock talk, demands for action (where were you at the beginning of all this?) and speculation are too much.


I can't help but be cynical and dark-humored, because if you didn't have that, you'd go mad.  I would anyway.


The next year or two will be painful to watch for Penn State students, fans, alumni, everyone.  Will there be football this fall?  Yes, I believe so.  Will Bill O'Brien be able to move his team past all this and concentrate on the season ahead?


Can the university, from new President Rodney Erickson, the board, the faculty, the staff on down to the students move forward?  Can those with their heads still in the sand remove them, and do what is required?  Can they bear what those above them did?


I don't know.


Oh, and there's one other little bit of business:  the statue.


Part VII:


There is a statue of Joe Paterno, with his usual rig and huge glasses in a running pose.  The calls are to take the statue down, and if not move it, destroy it.


I think it may need to be moved, but I would not say melt it down.  It needs to be moved to a less prominent spot; whatever one may say about that one mistake, Paterno earned his place in the College Football Hall of Fame.  He did great things for the game, for the university and for many, many people.


Just one mistake.  One bad one.  Paterno may not be alive, but I'm sure his spirit is paying for what he didn't do.


Sandusky will soon pay for his crimes; Spanier, Curley and Schultz have had their lives ruined for their complicity and inability to do what they should have done.  Even if they don't go to jail, their lives are over.


The victims?  I doubt any of them (named, unnamed, those who may still be out there) will ever have a "normal" life.  They can have good lives, useful ones, but they need more support than they got when all this happened.


I think Penn State can make a major step in the right direction by doing something.  Reach out to the victims and help.  Apologize, then do what they can to help them, and others.


They have the resources, and the money.  They can make a difference.  I would like to see that.


But that's what I wish to see; I don't know what the future holds.


In the end:  Life goes on; kids will still go to Penn State for a top-class education if they're good and lucky enough to get in.  And for a handful of Saturdays in the fall, they'll don their blue and white gear, tailgate, party down, and enter the 105,000 seat cathedral to watch the Nittany Lions play.


I hope however, that it's no longer a religion.  A passion, sure, but not a faith to make Gods of.