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Penn State’s season opener convinces me that they should have gotten the death penalty
- Updated: September 4, 2012
At first, I was disappointed that Penn State didn’t get the death penalty. But that was before I realized the sanctions imposed by the NCAA were far more crippling than a measly 2-year ban on all-things-football. Once I figured that out, I felt the penalties were an even better option.
But now that Penn State’s season opener is in the books, I realize that I was wrong. The death penalty was clearly the way to go.
Many would disagree. Many, in fact, believe the NCAA overstepped its bounds by even punishing Penn State in the first place given that, technically, the university didn’t violate any NCAA rules. (Because, you know, they didn’t think to put no using athletic facilities and/or program prestige to earn the trust of little boys whom you intend to molest in the handbook.)
The case most often cited to support the notion that the NCAA overstepped its bounds is the 2003 Baylor basketball scandal.
This, per the LA Times:
In past situations in which athletics and criminal activity intertwined, the NCAA got involved only after its rules had been violated. For example, when Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy was killed by a teammate, the NCAA stepped in with penalties (only) when it learned the coach was paying players.
The article suggests the NCAA has created a slippery slope by opening the door for them to get involved in any future case where criminal activity and college athletics go hand in hand.
And I just don’t see it.
I mean, yes, it’s true. The NCAA’s punishment of Baylor wasn’t in response to the murder of Patrick Dennehy, but rather to all the improprieties that were uncovered in the wake of that murder. And yes, it’s true, too, that the NCAA had no right to levy any type of punishment in response to the murder, itself.
But if the murder had been covered up by the four most powerful men on Baylor’s campus in an attempt to avoid a little bad pub for its hoops program? If that cover up had gone on for over a decade and led to other murders that could have been prevented? If those powerful men had looked the other way, even as they (a) granted the murderer access to their facilities which (b) helped him lure his victims?
Then I suspect the NCAA would have levied punishment in response to the crime. But that’s not what happened in Waco, which is why there were no murder-related sanctions. But that is what happened in Happy Valley. Which is precisely why the NCAA dropped the hammer.
The NCAA also caught flack for how quickly they acted on the matter. For not launching its own formal investigation before levying punishment.
And I don’t get that, either. I mean, first, the Freeh Report couldn’t have been more expansive or thorough, as the 3 million subpoenaed emails, 400 interviews and 6.5-million-dollar price tag would attest. And second, it was Penn State who commissioned the report which means the Freeh Report essentially serves as Penn State’s own investigative report.
And if the NCAA doesn’t feel it can improve upon an institution’s own investigative report (which, honestly, how could the NCAA have improved upon the Freeh Report?), then it doesn’t make any sense to waste time and money conducting such an investigation.
Another knock was that the NCAA punished the wrong people, innocent kids who had nothing to do with the horrific acts that went down.
But isn’t that almost always the case when it comes to punitive measures taken against those who have done wrong? Isn’t there almost always collateral damage?
Example: A man gets caught sport-fucking his mistress and his wife makes the difficult decision to leave him. The couple’s children, who haven’t done a single thing wrong, will pay dearly for their father’s indiscretion — their home, forever broken, their lives, forever altered.
Collateral damage is a part of the deal. That’s why clichés like all it takes is one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch exist — something Joe Paterno, Graham Spannier, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz probably should have kept in mind when they decided to take the “humane” route.
So in my opinion, the NCAA got it right, not only in deciding to levy punitive measures, but also for choosing to levy the ones that would be most crippling to the program, regardless of the fact that many innocent players would be among those paying the price.
Well, that was my opinion before the Ohio game, at least. Because after watching it, I finally realized that the NCAA should have just given the Nittany Lions the death penalty after all.
You see, I tuned in on Saturday to witness history. To see the new Penn State that first-year head coach Bill O’Brian has been talking to the media about. But I quickly discovered that it was impossible to see it because too many Penn State fans kept thrusting the old one in my face.
The public worshiping of their pedophile-enabling demigod is as creepy as the life-sized cardboard cutouts they employ to pay such homage. And it’s hard to turn the page when you’re bombarded with cardboard JoePas — whether it’s the one that stands where his statue used to preside or the one that stood alongside Franco Harris in his box on Saturday.
Look, here’s the deal: this site is called all VOL y’all, which means it’s mired in SEC fanaticism. So believe me when I tell you that I understand (to an extent, at least) how some of the more passionate Penn State faithful might have a hard time seeing this situation for what it really is. Fanfare is a funny thing. An irrational thing.
But the simple and sad truth that everyone outside of Happy Valley has come to accept is this:
Joe Paterno made a mistake of the gravest proportions by placing his program and his reputation above all else. And because of that mistake, little boys were raped. Repeatedly. And because of that, Happy Valley will never be the same again. Ever.
To the school’s credit, it already knows this. Which is exactly why it’s doing all it can to become a new Penn State. A post-JoePa Penn State. Penn State 2.0. But it’s not working and the reason why is the fans aren’t yet ready for it to work. And thanks to them, I’m unable to watch a Penn State game without being reminded of the monster who molested little boys, or the other monsters who stood idly by and permitted such to happen.
And that’s why I, along with most of the nation, rooted against Penn State on Saturday. That’s why I’ll always root against them. Until, I suppose, they manage to distance themselves, to whatever extent possible, from their horrible past.
But for that to happen, there needs to be a silent period where we no longer hear from the zealots who blindly defend their fallen hero at every turn. A time to let the cray-cray go bye-bye. A time for the Penn State nation to step back, take a deep breath and reconcile the awful truth. Which is exactly why Penn State football should have been sentenced to death. So all that could happen.
Because if the program is to ever again breathe new life, the beast must first be killed.
Oddly, while watching the game, I kept circling back to the “collateral damage” argument. Because time and time again, I felt guilty for rooting against the young men in the white unis and black cleats. I mean, when you think about it, all they’re trying to do is usher in a new era. They’re laying it all on the line and playing their guts out in hopes of restoring the glory their program has lost through no fault of their own, all of which makes them the type of young men that this fan ordinarily roots for.
Instead, I find myself hoping they fail which, I’d be the first to admit, isn’t really fair. But, then again, life isn’t fair.
Just ask one of Sandusky’s victims.
He’ll tell you.