Thursday, November 10, 2011

America's Game

The Penn State rape scandal is mind blowing. In a culture of noise, idiocy, and violence, this might be somewhat muted, especially for younger people. But don't let that fog your eyes -- the Penn State story is big and bad. Very bad.

We're not just dealing with a twisted pedophile here. We see how deeply corporate sports corrupts those who profit from it. Penn State's program, under coaching legend Joe Paterno, was supposedly one of college football's jewels. They did things the Right Way. Paterno provided steady, inspired leadership. "Success With Honor" was their motto. Beneath it all, the raping of boys was allowed.

I've read some tortured defenses of Paterno on various sports sites, saying that he fulfilled his legal requirement by reporting to his superiors. But reporting what? Sexual misconduct of some kind in Penn State's sports facilities. Maybe Paterno didn't know how horrible it was. Maybe his source, Mike McQueary, current assistant coach, then a graduate assistant, didn't make it graphic enough for him. But something serious happened. Yet nothing was done.

If you receive information about sexual assault, regardless of how it's presented, and you're in a unique position of authority, does filing a simple report cover it? Paterno obviously thought so. His job was to win national championships, not police the showers for felonies. But if Joe Paterno wanted action taken, he'd doubtless get it. Again, it came down to, Not My Department, Not My Problem.

That it took the university to fire Paterno further proves his cluelessness. Saying that he'd retire at the end of this season was arrogance based on privilege. Think about it: in the midst of the biggest scandal in college sports, based on the rape of children, Paterno thought the next step was to prepare for Nebraska's defense. You can use his age, 84, as an excuse; but if Paterno's that out of it, then he shouldn't be coaching in the first place.

Of course, Paterno's not the only one culpable. McQueary did nothing. Athletic director Tim Curley and a vice president Gary Schultz did nothing. Former Paterno assistant Jerry Sandusky apparently did something, as he is now charged with molesting eight boys over 15 years. Sandusky claims he's innocent. He'll have his day in court. But what must truly shock Sandusky is how Penn State's football apparatus failed to protect him for life. It's like you don't know who your friends are anymore.

Money is the only reason why Penn State football isn't shelved until further notice. How can those kids be allowed to play with this hanging over their helmets? The Penn State uniform is tarnished. And not in a traditional sense. Recruiting scandals are one thing. Paying players under the table is now expected. Covering for a serial rapist is new rancid ground.

Clearly, I picked the wrong time to write American Fan.