The quiet of this week around Buckeye Nation provides a moment of peace prior to August’s chaos of fall camp and Olympic dreams. It’s completely different than July of 2011… and I don’t hear many complaining.
What I do hear, though, are the thunder and raging winds still swirling from last week’s Freeh Report. Both the national news coverage and the responses from Lion Faithful and PSU alums are clamoring- and, like what passes for dialogue these days, neither side are really listening to the other. Civility seems to be yet another casualty of this situation- although, it can be argued that this merely highlights the fact that it’s been dead for a long while.
So, this week’s SBP will take a look at some of the interesting articles and reflections on this almost indescribable set of circumstances. The view we’ll be taking will be a bit farther out- looking not at the particulars but at the “culture” that’s seems to have been on everyone’s mind lately… although, I’m not sure we’re looking deep enough.
If you’re tired of this story, I hope you’ll at least stick around for the commentary after the jump- there’s a lot to learn and think about from this, even if you’re not Nittany.
Responses to the Freeh Report
Everything about the crimes and the cover up is horrific, so please keep that in mind while you are celebrating Penn State’s coming reckoning. When you pop the champagne tonight in jubilation, try to remember that children were raped and grown men in charge of leading young men allowed it to happen. Then try to think of any reason why a human being should ever be happy that this could happen to a child, let alone children.
Don’t let football blind you, because that’s what Penn State did. They willingly let themselves lose sight of of what actually happened to these children, and then somehow found a way to ignore it. Hate Penn State for what happened here all you want, but don’t forget why you feel the way you do. And it should have nothing to do with football.
The Greggster must have gotten what he was looking for, because his next comments on the matter were… get this.. a complete change in tone that went against what others were saying.
This week, the spotlight turned somewhat from Coach Paterno to former president Spanier, in the “what did he know, when did he know it, and why didn’t he act” line of thought. First, Doug Lesmerisies had eight observations regarding the Freeh Report/Penn State situation, including the following-
I’m tired of college presidents acting like they’re powerless when it comes to major college sports.
They can block a football playoff for 100 years but they can’t control their coaches? Even if they make 10 or 20 percent of what their football coach makes, presidents have to stop being afraid of their employees. Do your jobs. Run your colleges. Don’t be your coach’s pal, or worse, his lackey. Be his boss.
The greatest message in this is to university leadership. Don’t be afraid to govern your sports. I’m not even sure university presidents should go to football games. If you’re a fan, can you be a leader?
Yahoo!’s Dan Wetzel took this line of thinking one step further, and held that Spanier’s actions actually revealed the inherit hypocrisy within the NCAA. Pointing to Spanier’s position on key NCAA committees, as well as his decision to disassociate a possible agent from interacting with anyone related to the University after concerns were raised regarding improper benefits, Wetzel said that Spanier’s decision to turn the Sandusky situation into an attempt to minimize bad publicity only highlights that the organization and it’s members are more concerned about economic status quo than they are caring for young adults.
Again, Spanier’s time in court is yet to come, and I can’t begin to imagine the pressure that someone in his position had to deal with on a daily basis as a part of his job. That being said, it’s horrifying that someone can find themselves in a position where they end up sacrificing the integrity of their institution, not to mention the harm that came to children due to the choices made here.
They say that absolute power corrupts absolutely- and the influence that a fan base and television revenue and media coverage and merchandise deals can bring to an institution brings an awful lot of power with it. Combine that with a legacy that includes a “cult of personality” around one person, and it’s easy to see why so many pointed to the Coach’s office as housing the real decision making power on campus. And when you consider that there were chances to make changes, and that these were passed over, you realize how insidious this whole situation is.
I had a brief chance to talk about this with the OZone’s Brandon Castel via twitter- He commented that this whole matter seemed to be more of an indictment into the current state of affairs in college sports, and went on to lament that even Presidents will work to protect athletics. I mentioned that, even when Presidents did act, the alumni/fans then crucified them for it- there’s a reason Dr. Holbrook’s tenure was less than popular. It’s not just at Penn State where this can be a problem.
Commentary: No One To Blame But… Ourselves?
Last weekend, my 7 hour drive from Flagstaff to LA turned into a 13 hour one- so I’ve had a lot of time to think about this situation. Those of you who’ve been reading this summer also know that I’ve been processing what the “purpose” of athletics is in a Higher Education context and community. The Freeh Report highlighted even more some of my confusion and concern for the state of affairs where we find ourselves.
While I won’t totally agree with his angle (seems to have an anti-playoff axe to grind), Jason Whitlock’s article regarding this situation being a symptom of a much larger issue in college sports hit several nails right on the head- particularly the reflection that, in some way, the responsibility for this situation lies at the feet of all of us who call ourselves “college sports fans”.
Or, as Mark Emmert put it in the interview we posted above, ” This is as systemic a cultural problem as it is a football problem.”
Before this goes any further, let’s just go ahead and get this out of the way:
So, now that we know that I’m a someone who prefers an anarcho-syndicalist communeand who’s attacking the very fabric of America, perhaps now we can start thinking a bit deeper.
See, you’re reading this either because a) you’re related to me or b) you care about college sport- Ohio State sports, most likely. Part of your enjoyment in life is to follow the comings and goings, the on field and off field choices of 17-23 year olds (or younger, if you’re a recruiting nut) who attend THE University in Ohio. Perhaps you attended there, perhaps you lived in the state and chose to follow the team as a part of the festival that happens in autumn. You’re a fan.
More than likely tBBC isn’t your only stop for “news”- you check out the rest of the BBN sites, you participate in the forums at Buckeye Planet, you scroll through facebook and twitter or pop in at Eleven Warrior or even (shudder) ESPN to find out what’s going on with Ohio State’s football (or other sports) program.
And, if you’re like me, you very rarely think about things that are Scarlet and Gray but not directly related to that program. That’s why we get so frustrated with Storm Klein or Jake Stoneburner have legal issues, why we get so shocked when coaches forget to forward email. It breaks our narrative, and makes us think about some of the things in the world that we turn to sports to distract us from- crime, corruption, or just the boredom that comes with normalcy.
Again, this is typical- we want a distraction, we want entertainment, we want to be a part of something bigger than us. Take a look at this great Deadspin article that outlines how a specific PSU fan “bought in”… it could be written, in many ways, about affinity development for any major program in the nation.
But it’s also part of the problem- we care about what’s going on in the athletic department and give little to no thought about the thousands of other young adults who are at the University for it’s created purpose- a life long education. We’ve said, in effect, that sports are more important to us than everything else that happens at the school. There aren’t a ton of networks out there for debate competitions or amazing Mathletes.
Granted, we’re not coaches or vice presidents or presidents who are all charged with continuing to play by all of the rules that exist; in the game, from the NCAA, within the University, and in society at large. I also believe strongly that most people would either report what they’d seen and work toward resolution, even if it took a bit to get over the shock and find out the correct protocol. The ability to allow what happened with Jerry Sandusky to continue takes a significant level disconnect from a person’s values… but those disconnects come easier and easier the more often they occur.
While we’re not in the positions that Spanier/Curley/Schultz/Paterno were in during this mess, the power that they had was power that people like us had given them- either by selection to and support of their positions, or by our inability or unwillingness to think outside of the boxes we’d placed them in. People make compromises as long as others will allow them to do so.
And, as long as our culture is one that doesn’t focus on the bigger picture of the educational mission of a University, we shouldn’t be surprised when other aspects of that institution begin to be more important.
Let me be clear- I don’t think that this is totally an athletics issue. For years, there’s been debate at the large research institutions regarding “purpose”- is it publications/research/outside funding where most classes are taught by GAs while tenured faculty spend time in libraries or labs, or is it education for the undergraduates? The “focus” of the American higher education model is something that’s discussed (to no avail) by people much smarter than I.
But, while it’s certainly not solely an athletics issue, it’s athletics where we seem to make the most consistent compromises. Universities continue to look for ways to include persons who could not otherwise be in their communities; but only if they have a 42 inch vertical or can spike a ball off of a flat-footed start.
And, as fans, we don’t have a problem with this. Because sports is what matters…
That’s why I also found myself resonating with this article from Off-Tackle Empire; the Penn State situation is a simple one that’s as old as the stars- people put money ahead of their other values. And, thanks to you and I, college sports is big money. Also? Water is wet. FYI.
So, while we wring our hands at the “tragedy” in Happy Valley and want to point fingers at “those” people, we do so while missing some other “issues” of similar ilk.
Tuesday, an article in the Eugene Register-Guard described Oregon’s new “football palace”, including a hot tub for Coach Kelly where he can continue to watch game film. The facility is funded by Nike’s Phil Knight… during a time when the state is cutting funding for the rest of the institution, tuition and student fees are being raised, and degree programs are under the axe. In Morgantown, the news was about the expansion of the Stadium with the Mountaineers’ move to the Big 12… expansion that includes a “Party Deck”. I’m sure it fits the learning rubric somehow.
Those things are not wrong- please understand that’s not my intent. Heck, I just bought a house that I wish had a party deck and TVs near the hot tub. But those two small examples highlight the larger problem, and make it easier to understand how people who could otherwise be considered to be decent human beings can make horrible, tragic decisions.
And how our nation’s infatuation reinforced those decisions.
Last night, as a precursor to this mornings article, I tweeted a quote from Bob Marley that I thought encapsulated my 13 hour reflections on this, and I’ll close with it-