Monday, November 7, 2011

Washington Post column: Penn State scandal threatens one of sports’ greatest legacies

My article from The Washington Post on the Penn State scandal ---

“Tragic” is the single most over-used word in sports Almost nothing that takes place within the context of sports is a tragedy. There is no such thing as a tragic loss or even a tragic injury.

What is happening right now at Penn State is, if not tragic, well beyond sad.

If the sexual abuse and assault charges brought by a Pennsylvania grand jury against former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky prove to be true on any level, then this will be the single worst thing that has happened in college sports in just about forever.

That’s not to diminish what happened at Baylor in 2003, when one basketball player killed another. Or the death of any athlete, on the field or off.

Th Penn State case could prove tragic in a completely different way, because it involves Joe Paterno. No football coach has meant more to his sport in the past 50 years than Paterno, and his 409 victories at Penn State are only a small part of why he is who he is. In an era when so much is wrong with college athletics, Paterno always has stood for all that is righ.

When USC, Ohio State, Miami and North Carolina are caught cheating in one way or another, most people roll their eyes and say, ‘Here we go again.’ When public records from a lawsuit allege that an agent was bankrolling a basketball player and his mother starting when the kid was 14, the reaction is more eye-rolling. The university presidents publicly wring their hands, declare they’re shocked cheating is going on and go back to counting their money.

Click here for the rest of the column: Penn State scandal threatens one of sports’ greatest legacies

My newest book is now available for pre-order: One on One-- Behind the Scenes with the Greats in the Game 


Anonymous said...

Unbelievably sanctimonious

Ed Tracey said...

Very well stated. Paterno's contract is up at the end of this year - Penn State should not renew it.

Anonymous said...

It shouldn't have taken a dozen or more paragraphs for Feinstein to come to the crux of this horrific story - the victims. Not Joe Paterno and his place in history. Not Penn State's vaunted football program, which obviously matters more than sodomized boys. God in heaven. What have we come to when worry about an old man's reputation trumps stories of child rape and brutalization? Paterno cannot adopt the "I followed university procedure" any more than former Nazis can excuse inhumane actions with "I just followed orders." He had a moral AND legal obligation to follow up on what he had learned. That he didn't may not bring him legal consequences, but he and the rest of the sad excuses for men at Penn State who failed to protect these children deserve to be drummed out in disgrace.

DingerTwiggy said...

Full disclosure: I am a graduate of Penn State, and a self-proclaimed, hardcore, "bleed blue and white" supporter of Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions.

A few years ago a friend gave me an autographed copy of Jerry Sandusky's autobiography, entitled "Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story" that was published in 2000. Assuming one can even look beyond the double-entendres of the title, the following is the last line of the book's Epilogue: "This is how I have been touched by so many people in my lifetime--and how I hope I can add a little touch to others' lives, as well." Ugh.

Little did I know that my decision to attend this Saturday's game versus Nebraska might very well be JoePa's last home game ever.

Anonymous said...

Well John, if these allegations are true I think we have found a collective group that acted as one whose ramifications are far worse than anything a Miami booster, UNC coach-agent, or Tiger Woods ever could comprehend. From McQueary (who didn't step in IMMEDIATELY to stop the sodomizing of a child) to Paterno (who seemingly only did what was lawful) to Curly to President Spanier to whoever else was in that chain, they all acted in a way that led to the ability that some (more) of the most horrific crimes imaginable could occur.

I wish this were just a day where I give you grief for picking on coaches egos and the good guy/bad guy hall of fame, and taking another unwarranted pot shot at Tiger, etc. I know no one involved, and yet I feel like I've been punched in the stomach when thinking of those innocent kids whose lives were ruined.

Anonymous said...

I could not believe your article!!! You went on and on about how tragic this story is for college football, Penn State, Joe Paterno and his fans. Are you kidding me? What about the innocent boys who were taken advantage of and violated? The trauma they endured is the tragedy of this story. You line about there will not be another Paterno coming along soon... if he did nothing more than tell his boss about this, then Thanks God there will be no other Joe Paternos coming along soon.

Anonymous said...

Guys who are questioning why John focused his article for the paper on Paterno, and not the victims, is probably because he was asked to write in the context of sports. Now, if they ask him to write a Page 1 article on the entire scenario my guess it'd be a far different tone, far different angle.

This write John? You should write the overall context here, or somewhere similar. Would love to hear your view on the humanity side of the story.

Anonymous said...

Have you read the Grand Jury Report. This is a cover up that goes way back. The reason Sandusky was "retired" in 1999 is because of the 1998 scandal. Please. Joe Paterno does not care about kids he cares about his legacy and you are a coward if you do not call him out. The only way Penn State moves on from this is to fire Paterno and Spanier now! Not tomorrow or the end of the season, NOW! I believe when everything comes out the pattern of cover up will be on par with the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts.

cbirdsong said...

Jason Whitlock said it best; its no coincidence that all this has only now surfaced... AFTER Paterno won his 409th game.

Dan said...

Just saw JoePa has resigned, effective end of season. They can't let him coach any more, your media family will crush him/them.

I think Sally Jenkins article was best piece on this yet -- she didn't lose focus, let emotion reign.

Momus said...

I just got sick to my stomach reading...the WaPo column by Sally Jenkins. Leave it to good ol' Sal to find a way to absolve a coach of any responsibility.

And John, this story is not "heartbreaking because it involves Joe Paterno." The story is heartbreaking because children were sexually abused, and no one at Penn State, to including JoePa, did anything to try to stop an (alleged) pedophile.

Gordon said...

Lets not "soft peddle" this. This was not a mistake, 2+2=5 is a mistake. This was not tragic either. The tornado that went through Toscolusa is tragic. This is a felony crime comited by an entire university. Jopa not only is the face of PSU but dictates policy. He just may also be the most powerful person in the state of Pennsylvania.

The transgressions at Southern Cal, THE Ohio State. Miami , Florida State , UNC and others are sadly business as usual in D1. All are pale in comparison. What the aforementioned did were done for financial gain or to gain a competitive edge. All were crimes against the basic rules of athletic conduct.

Penn State crimes were against humanity.

The fact that Joe Paterno is now being allowed to dictate the terms of his "retirement" is reprehensible. Should he be allowed to coach the Nebraska game Penn state football should be given the death penalty.