Joe Paterno has been a hero and icon to many in the world of college football. This past week all hell broke lose when the story surfaced about his alleged knowledge of an inappropriate sex act committed by his long time assistant, coach Jerry Sandusky.
What is a story about Joe Paterno and Penn State football doing in a political blog? Politics dominates college football; as well as money and power. College football is big business in the United States. Winning coaches like Joe Pa are considered Gods at the Universities they serve. Many of them have as much power as the president of the university or more!
There is a tendency in Division I football and sports to win at all costs and “look the other way” if controversy should occur. Athletes at big name sports programs are treated like kings and all is fair game, short of committing murder. This writer was the beneficiary of preferential treatment as a Division I athlete at a major university in the mid to late 70’s.
There is much speculation that the scandal is more profound than initially thought; now that Joe Paterno has hired a high powered criminal defense attorney. On it’s face this doesn’t bode well for Joe Pa. It gives one the impression that he may be more culpable than originally thought.
In the coming days and weeks, it’s a sure bet that more shocking revelations will be brought forth. As the scandal unravels, it challenges us to re-examine our “win at all costs” culture. This has gone beyond football, it’s about the young victims who will be scared for life.
Penn State is not the first sports scandal and it won’t be the last. The common denominator in all of these scandals is the pervasive “look the way” attitude in the name of winning and going to the big post-season bowl games.
While many college football players play with the hope of making it to the NFL, the reality is that only a scant few will make the cut. Most college athletes will have to enter the work world like most of us. Unfortunately, with the high numbers of former college jocks who don’t graduate, many have a hard time fitting in after their college playing days are over.
To his credit, Joe Paterno has a higher graduation rate than most big college football programs. That is not the case in the majority of programs. Clever institutions find ways to successfully recruit blue chip athletes who otherwise would not academically qualify to enter these institutions.
If a young man like this does not make it to the pros, and many don’t, he was only exploited by the university. This goes back to the “win at all costs” mentality. This too has to change; the question is, do we have the guts to do so?
If these shocking allegations prove to be true, all involved should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. To abuse and exploit the most vulnerable among us; children, is unconscionable.
The American sports culture needs a gut check and much introspection. We have to ask ourselves as a nation; aren’t we better than this? We need to reassess our values and pursue what is right and re-examine our “win at all costs” attitude. As we seek justice for the innocent children who were victimized at the hands of those we trusted at Penn State, we hopefully find our soul.