Penn State, Joe Paterno, the NCAA, and Us

So today the NCAA “dropped the hammer” on Penn State, meaning, they set their football program back basically forever. Four years of a bowl ban, a $60 million fine (about one year’s worth of NET profits for the football program), 20 lost scholarships PER YEAR for the next four years, and a token forfeiture of all games played over a 13-year period … It was brutal, though for many, short of the “death penalty” many were hoping for or believed Penn State deserved.

I have mixed feelings about the subject. My feelings are somewhat tainted by the fact that I hold the mafia in significantly higher regard than I do the NCAA, and if you think I am kidding, you don’t know how many times I have seen Good Fellas. Literally, I expect actions of moral propriety from the NCAA the same way I expect an impressive wine list at Red Lobster. The NCAA is only not the worst people in this story because there happens to be child molesters and defenders of child molesters and enablers of child molesters involved; but if it weren’t for that …

However, the NCAA being a corrupt and inept organization is not really relevant to this situation, at least not yet. The fact of the matter is that a whole bunch of people, for reasons I do not understand for the life of me, worship the ground this dirt-bag, Joe Paterno, walked on. I would understand it if your objective was a slightly above-mediocre football program that hasn’t been relevant on the national scene for well over a decade. I would understand it if people were impressed by an 86-year old narcissist who refused to retire, which is actually what caused this whole problem to begin with!!! Let me say that again: Joe Paterno ran this once-decent program into the ground because there was no limit to his ego, but if he had just retired like a normal person in the late 1990’s, he would not have needed to stick around and defend a child rapist, protect a child rapist, and enable a child rapist to rape again. JoePa could have turned Sandusky in, been a hero, and moved the program on in a very different direction than the one she finds herself in today. So understand what I am saying: The consensus view is that JoePa always seemed like a saint, but because of this we know he wasn’t; my view is that he was never a saint, and in fact, always seemed like the manic egomaniac that he was.

For those of you who have not been to Happy Valley to hang with the modern student body, it is understandable that their deification of this toolbox would bother you. But if you were to go take the time to comprehend the alcohol and drugs that get consumed up there at the nation’s party capital, you would interpret all this data through an entirely different lens. I’m not kidding. These kids party so much, I would be surprised if some of them even know that JoePa is no longer here on planet earth to see the debauchery he has made of Penn State. This is a school that makes San Diego State look like UW, and I don’t mean University of Wisconson, but rather University of Wyoming. Seriously. The administration may have thought they could get away with the cover-up of Sandusky’s crimes because they know that the students at their school were getting away with telling their parents that they went to a class once, which would only be true if the class were offered by the pharmacy school.

Am I picking on them? Maybe. Most college programs today are beacons of debauchery, though it is undeniable that Happy Valley is particularly known for their hedonistic ways. I guess my point is that there are a lot of problems here, even if one is not focused on the sick, evil, despicable actions of Jerry Sandusky. I challenge anyone interested to read the details of what Louie Freeh uncovered in his investigation. Put the pieces together for yourself of what Joe Paterno was doing, and why. I shook my head late last year when folks speculated that “Paterno had informed administration what happened; it was their call from there” … JoePa was the administrator of that school, the math professor, the nurse, the board of trustees, and the chaplain. NO ONE told JoePa what was and was not going to be reported – he told them. And if anyone does not know that Joe Paterno enabled Sandusky to continue raping boys because he wanted his reputation and fame to be left in tact, they are smoking that stuff the freshmen smoke in their first semester. So we have the obvious stuff covered: Sandusky is a sick monster who deserves the death penalty, JoePa was a narcissistic bastard who let his sociopathic egomania take precedent over anything else (and he did this both through this Sandusky affair, and apart from this Sandusky affair), and the administration at Penn State was filled with corrupt puppets who deserve the prison terms they likely have coming to them. So now that we have that covered, what about the future of Penn State football?

I said this piece was not about the NCAA, but maybe it is. Penn State accepted these punishments doled out today because a man with a gun said, “accept this, or I will shoot you”. They faced a program death penalty, and had no choice. This is because the NCAA exists outside of due process. Well, even Jerry Sandusky got due process – does that strike anyone as odd? As far as I am concerned, there is no easy way to handle this: On one hand, the NCAA could have just said, “Penn State – you’re done”, and perhaps they should have. On the other hand, to do nothing would be particularly odd, especially if you are an organization that exists for no other purpose than to defend your legitimacy … (God knows we don’t need them for any actual administration in the scholastic or athletic lives of students or programs of schools). The NCAA is still dealing with the aftermath of their most unjust decision in history – the patently unfair punishment of a USC program that was, at most, guilty of jaywalking. They are still dealing with the reputational damage of letting clear and known cheaters at Auburn and Miami and Oregon get away with it, and giving Ohio State a wrist slap for significantly more obvious infractions than what took place at USC. The NCAA needs to flex their muscles because, as the old adage goes, “use it or lose it”. The Freeh report gave them what they needed to smack down a program that really doesn’t mean a whole lot to college football. Don’t get me wrong: Penn State is no Toledo (well, they used to be no Toledo), but this is not exactly Alabama or Ohio State – two programs the NCAA would walk on lava to protect going forward. The question for me is whether or not this is a case of a bunch of boobs actually doing the right thing, or if this overreach and corruption from an organization known for overreach and corruption.

Ideally, I am not a fan of punishments that ONLY punish innocent people (Matt Barkley), and do not nothing to punish guilty people (Lloyd Lake, Reggie’s step-dad). There is no doubt that many kids at Penn State are innocent victims in all of this, and my heart goes out to them. However, as was pointed out to me on Facebook, the NCAA is allowing them to transfer, and it is allowing the schools that receive them to not forfeit a scholarship in giving them a scholarship (no ruling yet on whether or not USC will be eligible to give a Penn State player a scholarship – Holding. My. Breath.). The problem here is that there is no way to provide an institutional punishment – one clearly deserved in this case – without also giving individual punishments – hurting people who did nothing wrong whatsoever. Life often works that way. Shareholders all suffer when a company CEO does bad things. Citizens all suffer when a President has no idea what he is doing. Life is a series of rewards and punishments that often come to us because of the actions of others. It may not be fair, but it is life. I think in this case, the players at Penn State have a chance to go to another program now, and frankly will have a better opportunity to excel in football now than they could possibly have had at that tainted university. Essentially, Penn State is getting their just desserts as an institution – an institution, that lest is not be said often enough – enabled child rape, and the very tragic consequence of this is that alumni, students, athletes, and even the aforementioned blackout crowd are suffering along with it. I question the legitimacy of the body that gave them the sanction – I do not see the NCAA as being morally qualified to adjudicate which slice of cake gets divied up to which of my kids – but I am not going to lose sleep over the severity of the punishment.

There is only one thing worth losing sleep over, and that is the heinous crimes committed by the monster that is Jerry Sandusky. Our society has lost its moral compass in too many ways to count, but THANK GOD, we still, at least for now, are holding on to the good old-fashioned anti-child molestation viewpoint. Penn State today is finding out that hell hath no fury like a society dealing with a child rapist. Did some people become a little less likely to protect one today? I reckon they did. And that may be the only good news I have heard so far out of this entire awful, awful mess.