Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Say It Ain’t So Joe

I’m not much of a football fan; I don’t pay much attention to the stats, or the game. I do a quick glance at the standings to see if the Chargers are doing well, not so much this year, and I am done. College ball, if Notre Dame is not in the hunt, does it really matter? Yet as divorced as I am from the passions surrounding College Ball, even I know about the Nittany Lions and the storied Joe Paterno.

Mr. Paterno has best win record in all of College football. He has a history going back sixty two years. At over eighty years old, he was twilight of his years. He could have hung up his cleats and left the game a living ledged. But that is not to be. This man, who spent three generations in College Football, is about to be tossed out on his rear. This is his last season.

Joe Paterno is being cut loose, dismissed in a cloud of scandal and accusation. A huge F-5 PR tornado has touched down in College Park, PA and the whole program is being torn asunder by accusations of pedophilia, and cover up.

The story bubbled up only a few weeks ago; it centered on Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky. It was horror story that had the man who created “linebacker U” sexually molesting numerous underaged boys in the gym and at other sites. It was a story backed by a Grand Jury indictment, i.e. criminal charges against Sandusky, and two other university officials.

Prosecutors are claiming that eight boys were molested by Sandusky, with the University doing nothing to stop the abuse. Mr. Paterno is not charged, but is tarred with the accusation of complacency on the matter. God, what a mess.

Not to get too Meta here, but you can see a lot of what is wrong with the early 21st Century USA in this story. At base this is about a big business, and the corrupting influence of the huge profits that can be made in sports.

While we love our College teams, but despite that love, College football and College basketball are big business. The falderal of this being an armature sport, about it being a way to mold young men is transparent. College ball is the minor leagues for the NFL and the NBA; and there is gold in them thar hills.

The flood of greenbacks brought in by the Lions Football program helped turn a back-water agricultural school into a top-flight university.  It brought no end of perks, development, and advantages to the school. A top-flight university was built on the back of a football team. The incentive to keep that gravy train rolling must have been immense.  As long as Paterno kept on winning, no one dared to ask what the price of those victories might ultimately be.  

In many ways this ‘just win baby” mentality is part of the general zeitgeist. We have become a hyper-competitive nation. Our captains of industry and finance are in it for the “win,” for the quick payout.  Even more so are the political parties that call the dance in DC. It is all about the win,  about the all or nothing destruction of the opposition party. Compromise, especially for the Republicans, has become a dirty word. There is no substitute for victory for the radical reactionary right. They are quite willing to drag down the nation in to a financial melt-down just to get their way. If the whole nation has to lose along with the Democratic Party, so be it; only the Republicans are allowed to win.

Not that Neo-Liberals like Obama are much better; they are still going for a “win.”  The only difference is how a win is defined.  You saw this played out in the epic farce that was Health Care “reform.” When any “win” will do; when the definition of “win” is getting something, anything, out of Congress, is it any surprise that your “win” turns out to be very, very ugly?  Looking at the sell-outs, betrayals, and vile horse trading that were done to get “Obamacare,” it hardly seems worth the effort. It seems the perfect definition of a Pyrrhic victory. But to the amoral morons of Team Obama, and the cult of personality that aid and abet it; a win is a win.

It may be that the people who were supposed to be providing oversight on Paterno were thinking in the same light. A win is a win; we have a winning football club, our University, our town is a winner; let’s not rock the boat. Thus was Papa Joe, and his assistants, allowed to run the football program straight off the rails. The lack of adult supervision lead to a situation where alleged child rape was allowed to flourish unchecked; a very nasty business all around for Penn State.

Yet the most depressing thing about what happened at College Park, is that we, as society, will learn exactly nothing from what happened. We will continue to worship at the heathen alter of competition and ignore the deities of cooperation and community.  Long term sustainability will be ignored for short term gain. We will keep following the ideology of “just win baby,” until we all manage to lose.  
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