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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.

2 comments:

  1. AWESOME! FUCKING BRILLIANT COMMENTARY!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I was never a fan of JoePa to begin with so I wasn't sorry to see the mighty taken down.

    As to the scholarship thing, the summer before you arrived at St. Joe's, my bff/roomie Michelle wasn't sure she'd be able to go back due to lack of money. The school wouldn't give her a scholarship or financial aid and she and her parents fought with them all summer about the fact that the athletes were being given a free ride and they ALL carried a D or F grade point average. I had a couple classes with them (basketball players) and it was true. They didn't do their homework, they failed every test, they didn't care a bit about their grades and St. Joe's didn't enforce a policy on keeping good grades in order to participate on the teams. Michelle finally got the financial aid when her aunt (a nun who worked in Xavier Hall) pleaded on Michelle's behalf to please give this A+ student the education she deserved.

    ReplyDelete