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Bad sports, good sports: The jackals surround Penn State after the Freeh Report

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What a miserable week, in the midst of a miserable year, it has been to be a Penn Stater. I am going to start by stating that no one I am writing about here has or will suffer in a way that compares to the actual victims of Jerry Sandusky’s evil. That is clear. That said, there are legions of Penn Staters out there who are having a very hard time dealing with every aspect of this situation, and I am one of them. As much as I despise what went on there, I find myself being very defensive as I read more and more of the drivel that has been written about the release of the Freeh Report and what it contained. I nearly left this story off of my list for the week for a couple of major reasons. First, it hurts to write about it, and I am hardly in the mood to put myself through that after the events of the week. Second, it is simply not a sports issue. It does not really belong in a sports column, just as it does not belong under the jurisdiction of the NCAA.

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh was hired by the Penn State Board of Trustees seven months ago to conduct an investigation into how the various aspects of the Sandusky situation were handled back in 1998 and then in 2001, as well as last year after it all came out. The report was released on Thursday, and it has absolutely dominated the news since then. As I read the report that morning, I was aghast at the cover-up about which Freeh wrote, which seemed to include Joe Paterno in a much larger way than I had expected. Something was nagging at me, though. I am no legal expert, but there seemed to be an incredible lack of detail and backup to the broad statements of “fact” that were laid out in the report. It struck me immediately that almost nothing that he was saying would actually hold up in a court of law. Freeh’s interpretation of events may well be accurate, of course. The point is, though, that this document was very much his interpretation. There is a huge amount of conjecture and opinion being stated as fact, and that ate at me the entire time I was reading. Joe Paterno was not included as a recipient on any of the emails (he famously did not use email or various other kinds of technology), and the statements that supposedly indicate his involvement in the wrongdoing of the administrators are very vague. Some of the emails do not reference him by name at all, and some of them may not even be about the subject at hand. That is what surprised me the most. How do you include an email with a question like “anything new in this department?  Coach is anxious to know where it stands” without including something else that indicates that it actually had anything to do with the pertinent subject? Marc Rubin, of the Tom in Paine blog, wrote a column the other day that tore the Freeh Report to shreds for this and other transgressions. I was glad to read that, as I was shocked that none of my concerns were being mentioned in any of the avalanche of stories littering the web about it.

Beyond my issues with the report, the other thing that amazes and angers me is the chorus of voices calling for the NCAA to hand down the infamous “death penalty” to the Penn State football program, along with the even more extreme and absurd calls for the entire school to be shut down. I know that people are angry, and that initial reactions to horrible stories like this usually involve overreactions of all types. For idiots on a college football message board, this is to be expected. Schadenfreude runs rampant in that environment. It is the participation in this foolishness of journalists employed by mainstream media organizations, though, that really bothers me. The “death penalty” was employed once in the history of college football, when the Southern Methodist University program was shut down back in 1987 after an enormous number of blatant violations involving recruiting were revealed in detail. The idea that the same penalty is warranted here is absurd. First and foremost, as I mentioned earlier, this is simply not a football issue. Yes, Jerry Sandusky was a football coach until 1998. His crimes were unrelated to football, outside of proximity. The cover-up that appears to have occurred appears to have been an attempt by the people involved to save their own hides, with an element of protecting the school itself from bad publicity. Again, this is not the fault of the football program. If everything had become public back in 2001, how exactly would the football program have suffered? From what was it being protected? Sure, it would have been an awful story, just as it is now, but the football team would not have been held responsible. The 1998 incident had been reported and had gone through all the proper channels (and the authorities had not filed any charges). If it was revealed in 2001 that there was fire behind that smoke, and Sandusky had been subsequently turned in the way he should have been, wouldn’t the people involved have been looked upon positively for having outed this monster? I just don’t understand the thinking that they were protecting the football program from something. Anyway, the NCAA exists to police college athletics and the way it is run. They do not punish schools for crimes committed by people in the athletic departments that are unrelated to the sports themselves. If they did, there would be a whole lot more punishments being meted out by those folks. Law enforcement handles these things, as it should. If the NCAA gets involved here, it will be setting a precedent of which I don’t think it wants any part. I keep hearing commentators say things like “they will have to act simply because of the public outcry.” I sure hope that the rules themselves will be the reason for any punishment, and not just a response to the bloodlust of the uninformed masses.

The people calling for the program to be shut down simply have no idea what they are saying. Who exactly would they be punishing? The people who are said to be at fault here are either in jail, dead, or charged with crimes. They are certainly no longer in their positions with the university. The school itself has been slammed by everyone with a keyboard for the past eight months, and its reputation will take years to rebuild. The school will face a multitude of civil lawsuits, so the financial punishment will be substantial. Crushing the football program will simply punish thousands of people who had nothing to do with the crimes, and are simply trying to figure out how this could happen at a place like Penn State. The football players there had nothing to do with this, nor did the coaches. The students and alumni share no fault in this. The people in State College whose livelihood depends a great deal on the games do not deserve to be punished. The other 50+ non-football sports at Penn State are all entirely funded by the money brought in from football. Should all of those athletes lose their sports, their scholarships, and possibly their future in athletics because of the crimes of a few men? What a ridiculous notion.

My daughter will be starting her freshman year at Penn State next month. I hate the idea that she will ever have to defend her school to some idiot who tells her she goes to “Pedophile State University,” as if the school itself is somehow no longer the fantastic educational institution it has always been because of the very poor judgment of a very small handful of people. I hope she gets to go to and enjoy football games while she is there, and I believe she will. Bill O’Brien, the new head coach, has been very impressive in the way he has handled himself since being hired this year. If he is half the coach that he seems to be, the team will be in good shape. The NCAA needs to keep its hands to itself, and all of the self-righteous people out there calling for an end to the Nittany Lions need to go back to watching the Kardashians, or whatever other sensationalistic drivel they watch to boost their sense of outrage.

Bad sports, continued:

2) Hope Solo, the keeper for the U.S. Women’s soccer team, received a warning this week from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. She apparently tested positive for a banned substance. I guess those guys are a lot more lenient than the ones in the NFL or Major League Baseball, as her doctor’s note saying it was in her system due to a legitimate treatment was actually accepted and kept her from a suspension.

3) New York Mets pitcher Dillon Gee was hospitalized on Monday for a scary situation with a blood clot in his right shoulder. It was caught in time, and he is expected to fully recover.

4) Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game was this week, preceded as always by the Home Run Derby. Reigning champion Robinson Cano was booed lustily throughout the competition in Kansas City because, as captain of the American League squad, he had left hometown hero Billy Butler off the team for the event. Major League Baseball has since said it is considering changing the format of the future events to make sure a player from the host city is included. Ridiculous. The Home Run Derby is stupid enough, but shouldn’t it include the best homerun hitters, regardless of the city where they play?

5) New York Knicks point guard and restricted free agent Jeremy Lin was said to be upset at the team this week after he received an offer-sheet from the Houston Rockets. Lin was angry that the Knicks had dragged their feet rather than signing him immediately. Yes, Lin was a great story for about two or three weeks last season, but come on now. He should be thankful that he got a huge offer from Houston and move on with his life. 29 million dollars is a whole lot of money for someone whose entire resume basically consists of 25 games.

6) Kyrie Irving, the dynamic point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers, broke his hand in Las Vegas on Saturday during a practice with the team’s summer league squad. Irving punched a padded wall after committing a turnover.

7) Dion Lewis, a backup running back for the Philadelphia Eagles, was arrested in Albany, New York, last week after he and his brother, both drunk, got locked out of their hotel. They stood and banged on the glass doors, nearly breaking them, and they then pulled a fire alarm. This was all before 5:00 in the morning. Geniuses.

8) Tyler Clary, a swimmer who will be participating in his first Olympics this summer, ripped Michael Phelps, the most decorated swimmer in history, for his work ethic. Clary has lost to Phelps every time they have gone up against one another. There are certainly situations in which I could understand this sort of criticism, as even some of the great ones could be even better with a greater level of focus and effort. It’s hard to find fault with Phelps’ success, though. He has won more Olympic gold medals than anyone. Ever. That’s pretty good.

9) Denver Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil was arrested on Saturday night in Miami. He was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm.

10) Early this week, Jason Kidd left the Dallas Mavericks to sign with the New York Knicks. On Saturday night, he and his car hit a telephone pole and rolled off into the woods as a result of him driving drunk. He was arrested for DUI.

Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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2 Responses to “Bad sports, good sports: The jackals surround Penn State after the Freeh Report”

  1. No good sports this week?

    What is most nauseating is that it is clear that it’s all about perception. The NCAA, Nike, the FBI, even PSU itself are more concerned about doing and saying the right thing after the fact so that they protect their own image. Nike doesn’t want to lose business if it continues to associate itself with Joe Paterno. Being against the Nittany Lion football program is an “acceptable” response right now due to the court of public opinion – even if the crimes are not related to the football program.

  2. I am NOT a Penn State alum … but I have long been a staunch fan of their football program and its coach … I guess it stems from my days as a member of the Dallas (Pennsylvania) High School Marching Band, where many of us dreamed of someday marching in the Blue Band … and from the fact that the football program at my alma mater (UNM) was traditionally abyssmal.

    This whole thing has left me saddened … adding to that feeling is the gleeful coverage by the sporting press in Texas, where die-hard football fans have long resented the notion that, occasionally, a football program OUTSIDE the Lone Star State may be the nation’s finest.

    I think you make some good points on what agencies should – or should not – be involved here, on what punishments should – or should not – be assessed, and what points may – or may not – be proven in court.

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