Thursday, September 18, 2014

Football, the NCAA and the NFL be damned!

No, it’s not good news.

This was the response I wanted to give to the woman at the counter who commented, upon seeing the Penn State mug that I was carrying (my wife’s in fact, because mine was in the dishwasher at home), “good news about Penn State, eh?”

She was referring to the early end of the suspension of the Penn State football program from participating in the post-season. This was one of the punishments imposed in 2012 on the program after discovery of the conspiracy to protect the serial rapist in their midst. And to be proper in speech, that is what this was: a conspiracy. Several men, including Joe Paterno and then University president Graham Spanier, had learned the former defensive coordinate Jerry Sandusky was very likely sexually abusing young boys and had done nothing about it, including remaining silent for 14 years. 

That is a conspiracy.

And their punishment: 4 year suspension of the football program from the post-season and a series of fairly hefty fines and the voiding of all wins during the period of the conspiracy.

But Ms. Coffee-Counter wanted to share the “good news” about the early suspension of the post-season exclusion.

No, it’s not fucking good news.

Joe Paterno took the easy way out and died, while remaining unconscious of his responsibility, as is evidenced by his gall to ask for the suspension of Penn State’s football program not to take place until the end of that football season.  

Now I can easily imagine the justifications these men afforded themselves, about how this was an individual who had been their friend for years and who they well hoped after their admonition (that is, they had confronted him about one incident) would end these activities, make penance, etc.  Perhaps they even imagined Sandusky’s charity did just that.  And to be fair, there is no more hated group of criminal in the US than pedophiles. A group who regardless of the degree of their individual crimes are forever damned and excluded by their society (on this I strongly recommend the film “The Huntsman” starring Kevin Bacon). 

But in fact, they had turned a blind eye to an unrepentant serial rapist, who was a predator in almost the worst sense—that he had no sense of culpability, such that he continually proclaimed his innocence, and that had used his position and his supposed charity to take advantage of the young boys entrusted to his care.  This man was a complete predator and is the person who is imagined whenever the word pedophile is used.

And these men, Paterno, Spanier et al., were worse. They protected the predator, while the latter destroyed the lives of a countless number (because we do not and cannot know how many) of boys.

And for what, for a fucking game in which men launch themselves at each other, beginning a career that will gift them irreversible brain damage and an empty sense of importance and a disdain for more important, more culturally meaningful talents.

And in conclusion, let me just say this: Ray Rice. It's not a few individuals, it's a culture. We need to examine this culture.

And a brief postscript: I am not a perennial hater of football, although I am an egghead and do not follow football.  My wife is a Penn State alumni, as are some of my closest friends.  And I grew up watching Joe Paterno and being impressed, even through the deepest anger of my teenage years, by this terribly myopic man and his skills. He was one of the few reasons I might have had to be proud to be from Pennsylvania.  

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