Monday, January 23, 2012

"It's Only Football..."

Joe Paterno, rest in peace.

The full story of the scandal that collapsed his otherwise pristine reputation and legacy on this earth as a football coach and educator (or is it the other way around?) is still being written.

The possibility for further exoneration OR condemnation exists. Time and court proceedings will have the final say on all of that.

His mountain of "good" I believe outweighs the late breaking tsunami of "bad" associated with Sandusky the child predator. I need not go through the box score on all of that.

Joe Paterno BUILT Penn State.
Joe Paterno LOVED Penn State.
Joe Paterno RAN Penn State.
Joe Paterno WAS Penn State.

Things should have stopped after the first two.

Somewhere along the way to JoePa becoming so insanely BIG at that place, more people should have said: "Hey, it's only football."

Somehow, JoePa got big enough that apparently nobody really "had his ear" to serve as a balancing consigliere of sorts. When the AD comes and says after 54 years as coach "hey, how 'bout riding off into the sunset" and the coach tells you to stick it, well then, you no longer have a functional athletic department.

You have a benevolent dictator.

I know JoePa feared death after football, like what happened to Bear Bryant. I know Bobby Bowden felt the same way at Florida State.

But that kind of thinking is nuts. JoePa didn't want to retire, because he felt there was nothing after football but death? Really? Somebody should have had his ear to say: "You're wrong, Joe. There's another glorious, post-football chapter waiting to be written. You are nearly 80! Time to move on."

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports has a very well constructed piece today about what is left...
Penn State as we know it has died as well. 
In some ways, it needed to. The do-nothing university culture that allowed Sandusky to allegedly operate unimpeded certainly needed to die. The Paterno as emperor machinery, built to sustain an image and perpetuate a career beyond its rational boundaries, needed to die. The university’s disproportionate dependence on football for its identity needed to die. 
But there are some other elements to this obit that are disheartening. 
They’re burying an ideal alongside Paterno, an ideal most big-time football programs don’t even pretend to aspire to anymore. Paterno himself referred to it as “The Grand Experiment” – trying to win big while keeping winning in perspective. Those aspirations usually are mutually exclusive, but JoePa never believed it had to be that way. 
They’re burying the uniqueness of Penn State football, where it was OK to be old-fashioned. They’re burying a place where commitment was unconditional between school and coach. A place that dared to be dull amid the Oregonization of college football. A place where the coach never strong-armed the school for a bigger salary, never hesitated to help the school’s educational mission, never sold out to the corner-cutting methods that felled other big names in the profession. 
Amid the burials of both good and bad, one thing is sure: We will not see anything like the Paterno-Penn State dynamic ever again. It is a relic of a different era.
Penn State, and Penn State football have a chance at beginning a new chapter, certainly in Joe Paterno's mold, with Joe Paterno's values, but stripped of the lunacy of letting one man act as a King. Let's hope they figure it out.

Reminding yourself: "It's only football..." every now and then, would be a good start.



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  2. Czabe, you've done enough to fan the flames on this one... time to let it go. No one who went to Penn State (myself included) listens to your show anymore... sleep well, you coward.

  3. don't listen anymore, but yet you take the time to visit his website? Douche canoe...

    1. ... look up, now look behind you... that was my semantic going over your head. Stay in school.

  4. I'm a PSU alumnus, having graduated 18 years ago. The last three months have been hellish, mindblowing and confusing. In the wake of JoePa's death, maybe now is a final time to pause and look back at it all. Try to make some sense.

    Honestly, I can't. I'm still going to need some time.

    But what is obvious is how out of control sports media has become. On 1/23, I sat over my laptop, trying fruitlessly to get some work done, while the great FOUR LETTER ran tribute after tribute for this man they tried, convicted and executed a scant three months ago. I also recalled the "fun" the media had covering his "firing" and the outrage of "PSU fans everwhere" on naming Bill O'Brien his successor. Again, I'm a PSU alumnus. I know many other PSU fans and alumni. Many of us agreed Paterno had to go in the wake of the scandal (though we all had qualms about how it occured). Many of us, while maintaining huge respect for the man, still agreed Paterno had to go and probably should have gone at least a decade ago. Many of us believed that this is why such a "failing" occured at PSU - that Paterno was confused about what McQuery confronted him with and really didn't know how to react to it. Yes, I agree that if he didn't know how to handle this issue he shouldn't have been running a major, multi-million dollar football program by that point (I'll agree to that to the end of my days), but this was not a man who would sacrifice what is right for the sake of football - it just didn't fit his profile and the totality of his actions, which speak far louder than words, that he undertook before the slow inevitable decline of age began. Myself and most of the PSU alumni I knew were also not against the selection of Bill O'Brien as a successor. What, did people still feel like Urban Meyer was an option? But the incensed few screamed and that is what the media covered, characterizing PSU fans & alumni en masse as outraged and more than a little dillusional. Me and my silent majority of collegues just kept our mouths shut and shook our heads.

    I understand. What the FOUR LETTER and most outlets ran with was a better story. It's much more interesting to hear about LaVarr Arrington and Brandon Short and Franco Harris spouting off than the fact that majority of level headed PSU fans saw it as a sound decision made in the worst of circumstances. That the majority of PSU fans recognized the tragedy and outrage of what was allowed to occur on Paterno's watch. But painting PSU and it's legion of fans and alumni as a homoginous, brain-washed cult of worshipper ever ready to sip the Kool-aid handed out by Jimpa Jonespaterno was simply the easy road for the media to take. The "better story". A funny caricature that maybe a lot of folks outside of Happy Valley really believe. But it's not the truth and never was the truth. But it doesn't matter.

    And JoePa is dead, like I figured he would be within a year of his "departure". And as when any family member dies, you look at and remember the good. You remember the accomplishments. You remember the failures. You remember the bad things that person also did along the way. Just like I did when my Dad died. And my grandfather. And unless your relationship with that person was disfunctional, you forgive them, and love them, and miss them, no matter how many times they messed up. And if you had your wish, you'd give up so much just to have them back again. But you know you can't, and you move on, and you treasure their memories in your heart, warts and all.

    And that's how it feels with Paterno.

    We love you coach.

    We'll miss you.

    And as in so many cases, over and over again, that's all any of us are ever left with.

    And it'll have to do.

    Media be damned.

  5. Eric, as a PSU alumnus (who also lived in State College for several years as a kid) I feel obliged to point out that you're wrong on a couple fronts here.

    Calling Czaban a coward is ridiculous. Putting aside the obvious fact that he's paid to express his opinions, I'm hard-pressed to think of anyone more critical of how the Washington Redskins are run, despite the fact that the team's owner also owns the station where he does his afternoon drive-time show.

    I haven't agreed with many of the things Czabe has had to say on the matter (e.g. I think there was an unseemly rush to judgment and that the Board of Trustees acted purely to cover their @sses), but that's certainly not a reason to stop listening to a program that I generally find entertaining.

    Frankly, promoting the attitude that people who went to Penn State and/or lived in State College can't handle the idea of anyone criticizing Joe Paterno is more damaging to Penn State's reputation than the opinions of a man who's paid to entertain people with his opinions. It's one of the reasons some people writing about Paterno/PSU treat the situation as if it's the second coming of the Jonestown tragedy. Rather than simultaneously burying our heads in the sand and castigating all remotely critical voices, the true Penn State faithful would better serve the legacy by treating others with respect, even if we feel their opinions are misguided or uninformed.

    Some of what's been said, such as people declaring that Paterno is now in Hell, is way over the line, but Czabe has by and large been sensible.

  6. Don,

    Appreciate the response, but you are way off. Apparently you weren't listening to Czabe and his compadres the week of the scandal breaking. "Sensible" you say? His comments and "opinions" couldn't be farther from the definition of that word. Words that come to mind... flash judgement, vitriol, pent up hate, squealing glee, self-righteousness, one-sided, lack of perspective. I'd go on, but I'm sure you get the point.

    Don't blindly throw me in with the subjective PSU crowd, I know exactly what I'm talking about and doing when I defend Mr. Paterno. And I'm ready to admit his failing when they are proven...and I'll live if PSU football never wins another game. This is not about my ability to brag about how "good" my football team is... I leave that to the mongrels who live and die with their sports team. This is about dragging down good men by cowards who are afraid to look in the mirror. It is about defending those with characters and those who lack the ability to be fair, balance and intelligent in the face of mob and popular sentiment.

    Good day to you sir. (read in Gene Wilder's voice)

  7. I was indeed listening to his show the week things went crazy and stand by my use of the phrase "by and large sensible", though, I freely admit that I'm grading on a curve. I may not like a lot of what he's said, but when viewing a continuum with Franco Harris on one end and the likes of Buzz Bissinger on the other (not to mention all the people filling Internet message boards with comments about Paterno being in Hell and comparing him to Hitler), Czaban's comments are relatively measured in the overall context.

    For the avoidance of doubt, the preceding doesn't mean that I agree with Czaban on all (or even most) aspects of the story. For example, I think he was way off in his view that the Board of Trustees was demonstrating mature leadership by firing Paterno. I happen to think they were engaged in a serious CYA exercise using other peoples' rush to judgment as their justification, something that should worry a lot of the rank and file faculty at PSU. At the same time, Czabe's assessment that "[Paterno's] mountain of good...outweighs the late breaking tsunami of bad associated with Sandusky the child predator." is eminently reasonable.

    As far as your assertion that he's a coward, I refer you to my previous comments regarding the local NFL team and his employer. I'd also that, unlike some of the hatchet-men who only came out of the woodwork to slam Paterno when he was in disgrace, Czaban has been critical/skeptical of Paterno for as long as I've been listening.

    In closing, the correct quote from Willy Wonka is "Good day, Sir!" (minus the preposition and pronoun) Auf Wiedersehen.