You know how Sports Illustrated comes out weekly, relentlessly, and how, if you’re a subscriber, the magazines tend to pile up, and you swear you’re going to read them all, every last word of every article, when you just get a minute?
So I was reading from my stack, starting with the Nov. 7 issue with the Green Bay Packers on the cover, and in the FOR THE RECORD section was this:
‘‘BROKEN – By Penn State’s Joe Paterno, the all-time NCAA D-I wins record, as the 84-year-old collected career victory number 409 last Saturday with a 10-7 win over Illinois. Still suffering from a sore right leg, shoulder and pelvis following an accident at practice in August, Paterno coached from the press box while 62,000 Beaver Stadium fans endured a snowstorm to see Illinois miss a potential game-tying 42-yard field goal as time expired. With the win .â€‰â€‰.â€‰â€‰. Paterno passed Eddie Robinson in the FBS record book.”
Not even two weeks ago. Well, there was some lead time for the publishing date, but it came out before the Jerry Sandusky sex-crime arrest, before the dismissal of Penn State’s president, vice president, athletic director and Paterno himself. Before the perjury charges, the alleged cover-up, the shame, the ugliness, the lung-cancer diagnosis.
So, so long ago.
â—†â€…NOW CHILD PREDATION and pedophilia are the talk of the sports world. Is that weird, or is it about time?
We hear allegations about a longtime assistant basketball coach at Syracuse having sexually abused a ballboy. We hear about many more of Sandusky’s victims coming forward in the Penn State scandal. We hear about a district attorney in the case who disappeared years ago and never has been found.
We have esteemed writers, such as Grantland’s Charles Pierce, saying that if the crime and cover-up ‘‘blights Joe Paterno’s declining years, that’s too bad. If that takes a chunk out of the endowment, hold a damn bake sale. If that means Penn State spends some time being known as the university where a child got raped, that’s what happens when you’re a university where a child got raped.”
Indeed, it is hard to express the magnitude of this disaster, a sordid, life-demeaning mess that forever will change the way we view adult-child sporting relationships.
Remember, Penn State isn’t just a university; it’s a massive economic and sociological beast.
It has 96,000 students statewide, more than 10,000 employees, a budget of $4 billion and a football team that is perhaps the dominant symbol of the state, maybe even more so than the Liberty Bell.
The Nittany Lions’ football team is the reason Paterno already had been cast in bronze, declared (at least as of two weeks ago) a living saint. How crazy is that?
Can we melt down statues? Can we pause for a moment and simply stop, stop, stop this culture of coach worship?
These whistle-tooters are not saints. They are, at best, businessmen and teachers who can do one thing well: coach.
When Mike Krzyzewski passed Bob Knight as the all-time record holder for men’s Division I basketball victories the other night, that was a nice thing. And Coach K is a decent, funny, self-deprecating, intelligent man.
But when he said he studied as a player and an assistant coach under Knight at Army, under ‘‘the greatest coach in any sport ever,” you had to wonder if the mystique and self-aggrandizement of coaching had gone to Coach K’s head.
Don’t the chair tosses, rudeness, bullying and degrading of women by Knight count fractionally as much as his 902 victories, or are the W’s all that matter?
Paterno was a saint because he did things ‘‘right” – which means he wasn’t a blatant thief, criminal or mercenary, like so many modern-day coaches – stayed forever and won a lot of games.
But does anybody take life lessons from a history, English or math professor? Do those people scream at us, tell us how to live? Do we build statues to those people?
Because of the cult of Paterno and other coaches like him, sicknesses such as the Sandusky perversions occur. Isn’t it at least a tad ironic that these great men now are being looked at as people capable of horrendous crimes and know-nothing cover-ups?
â—†â€…THINK ABOUT THIS, at least: If Penn State doesn’t tear down the shower room in the Lasch Building – where Sandusky did his thing – and completely rebuild it, how can any sane person shower there again?