Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hate It All

Hate’s a strong word. I understand that as I say the following:
I hate everything that happened at Penn State. Above everything, I hate Jerry Sandusky. He’s a monster. I hate those who didn’t run to the nearest mountain top and shout for the victims. I hate that Joe Paterno sat on his hands and turned a blind eye. I hate that Paterno did everything else with so much class and integrity. I hate that Paterno didn’t recruit like every other football coach and made it so easy to admire him.  I hate calling what he did and didn’t do a “mistake.” I also hate calling him a criminal, even though he just might be. I hate that we’re putting so much faith in what seems to have been a very thorough investigation, but wasn’t, in anyway, a legal investigation.
I hate that the NCAA is getting involved now. I hate that I agree with a lot of their sanctions. I also hate the idea of vacating wins. While playing for Penn State in 2000, Adam Taliaferro was paralyzed on the field in a game against Ohio State. Adam’s response to the vacating of wins was perfect, “NCAA says games didn't exist. I got the metal plate in my neck to prove it did. I almost died playing 4 PSU. Punishment or healing?!?” Today Adam is an attorney and a motivational speaker.
I realize the NCAA was in a tough spot, but so is everyone else involved. A reaction was needed and just. The word of the day was “unprecedented,” and I guess that’s a good thing. I wouldn’t have been upset had they received the “death penalty” for everything that went on, and I have no beef with the $60 million, but vacating 13 years worth of wins is bull. This isn’t about punishing Penn State or Joe Paterno. Vacating wins is about the NCAA not wanting to see “#1-Joe Paterno 409 Wins” in their record books. I understand why, it doesn’t feel good to have someone who was involved in such a horrendous crime against children. Okay, so it doesn’t feel good. It happened, and while Paterno did a lot wrong, he coached his team to those wins. We saw them. Players played in them, and one almost died in one of them.
If a CEO, or anyone else, is linked to a crime, or even convicted of a crime, we don’t get to vacate anything they did. Good or bad, life happened. Vacating is just another way of trying to look the other way. Vacating wins, in the instance and any other, is a cowardly and weak act. It’s also an insult to the victims of a monster. I can’t say their lives were ruined, because that seems unfair and judgmental, but their innocence was ripped away from them. Don’t tell me that had anything to do with a game, or even 111 games.
We now know a lot of things happened over the past decades. Sandusky preyed upon innocent children. Paterno and the powers that be at Penn State assisted in covering up unimaginable crimes. And games were played, many were won. Those games are simply not important here. I hate it all.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Zero Worship

So I’m 35 (wait, what?) now and I can safely say that I don’t worship athletes, or any celebrities, the way I once did. I won’t lie, I still find myself looking up to people more than I should. Yes, both literally and figuratively.  But the 13 year old in me (I know, this is opening me for a lot of really bad Sandusky-like jokes) doesn't deserve to have his heart broken anymore. It’s not like I was ever a huge Penn State fan or loved Joe Paterno. I did, however, have a ton of respect for him and appreciate what the school stood for. Of course I liked him, how could you not like the old guy on the sideline with glasses so thick you could see what he was thinking. How I wish that last statement was true.
Man, there’s something about those glasses. Damn those glasses. Having worked in optics as long as I did, I've made lenses that thick before. Every time I did, I felt bad for the poor SOB who had to wear such heavy things. More than that, I couldn't help but feel sorry that they had such poor vision. I had a vague idea of how much they missed seeing. Or so I thought. Turns out, Joe wasn't missing as much as we hoped. He was just looking the other way.
We all shoulder some blame here. Not that we’re responsible for what Sandusky did, or what the powers that be at Penn State didn't do. But they don’t jump up on that pedestal as much as we put them there. No one should be on a pedestal. Funny, when looking up “pedestal” on Wikipedia, there’s a note that states it’s often misheard as “pedal stool.” Turns out, that’s probably more accurate. Even more accurate is “peddle stool.” It’s all bought and sold, and it’s almost always crap.
I think it’s time we reevaluate what a hero is. No longer should it be the guy who runs the fastest or jumps the highest or throws a ball the hardest. No elected officials. Not even the guy who runs into the burning building. A hero, for me, is not anything I want to define. Being a good parent, spouse or a loyal friend, that’s heroic enough now.  Maybe it always was.