The idea in sports is to win. But more importantly than winning, it’s to play fair.
You must have seen the news over the last 48 hours that Joe Paterno is out as head coach of the Penn State (American college) football team. This is because of a scandal involving one of the assistant coaches, involving young boys, and occurring over a 15-year period.
Many people are angry at Joe Paterno, because it looks like he knew that the bad stuff was going on. Many people are angry at the Penn State administration and the Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett. Paterno was fired. The President of Penn State University was fired. (I heard his name but I forget it. He was nowhere as “big” as Paterno.) Some young people at the college rioted, because they were big fans of Joe Paterno.
My take on this scandal:
1) This is typical Pennsylvania. People think Pennsylvania isn’t corrupt, because you’re not hearing about corruption all the time like you do in New Jersey. What is different though, is that everyone’s nose is in everyone else’s business in New Jersey. Pennsylvania is a lot more spread out. And a lot more “lords and serfs”, even though the New York metro region has more dough. Paterno was one of the lords. So whatever he wanted to happen in his sphere of influence–or not be–was made so.
2) The New York Times says Governor Corbett knew about the scandal two years ago, because, at that time, he was Attorney General. So he had to keep quiet due to prosecutorial ethics for two years. He’d still have to, if the grand jury information hadn’t have leaked. Penn State had corruption in it, and the Governor is well aware. Penn State, like Temple, is one of those schools that is “Commonwealth related”, which means Harrisburg writes it a big check every year. It is time for the Governor’s appointees to the Commonwealth schools to start asking the tough questions and otherwise representing the public.
3) Sports glorification typically leads to a bad end. Certainly it did in ancient Rome. Too many people glorify sports people, the athletes and coaches in the various teams. What this always descends into is a certain lawlessness. These guys start writing their own laws, and they forget about the dignity of all people. They start forgetting where they came from. The sad fact is that around the Penn State football circle, a facemask violation was a bigger thing than a child abuse felony. What’s wrong with this picture?
Paterno hired a criminal lawyer. What a heck of situation for an 84-year-old man who should have been enjoying his retirement (maybe as coach emeritus) this fall season.
[Update 11/12/11: See? The New York Times is starting to pick up on this theme. It’s a big problem on college campuses. The laws are supposed to apply everywhere, without colleges being this big bubble in which the laws don’t.]