Instagram user Emily Husk notes the following, “Lt. Col. Tisdale funeral. Aggies forming a barrier bt the church & #Westboro Baptist Church protestors. You can’t tell by the pic but tons of #Aggies are here.”
Andrew Sharp compares religion and football to try to understand this tragedy [SB Nation]
Josh Levin says the discussion of the NFL goes in only one direction now: player health [Slate]
Dr. Ali Mohamadi describes in detail what the medical community knows about CTE in former players [SB Nation]
Mike Silver remembers Junior Seau, the beloved man, player, and teammate [Yahoo! Sports]
Jon Bois delves into why athlete’s deaths are different [SB Nation]
A Marine Captain wrote in to Deadspin to tell of his memorable chance encounter with Seau last year, and a heart-warming side of the player that most of us never knew [Deadspin]
Chris Jones implores us to make great efforts towards helping those who are alive and suffering now [Esquire]
Sad to see the Kid go so soon.
What you just witnessed, albeit in a probably illegal and definitely difficult to view manner, is what many consider to be the greatest scene in the four great seasons of the acclaimed AMC show Mad Men. The scene is renowned because it features the main character, Don Draper, putting on his single greatest performance as an ad pitchman, utilizing his own family in an attempt to get Kodak’s business. It has greater meaning though because the character Don Draper is actually a former war veteran named Dick Whitman who used a wartime tragedy to change his identity and achieve his own version of the American dream. When Don Draper talks about going back to a different time, it might be impossible to distinguish whether it is the former Dick Whitman speaking about more innocent times or the new Don Draper, a high ranking, cutthroat business man who would go to any length to succeed.
It’s far more likely that it’s actually a highly calculated act by an extremely manipulative man, even though you can’t help but feel that Dick is still present at various times in the pitch. And what’s crazy about all of that is that any fan of the show would tell you they actually hope it’s Don Draper who’s talking. He’s a far more compelling, far more intriguing character to bring up in debate and discussion. But as the show reveals to us along the way, Dick Whitman never fully transforms into Don Draper, while at the same time, Don Draper can never really go back to Dick Whitman. They’re stuck in a mezzanine void.
I must admit that I still think it’s impossible at this time to accurately judge Joe Paterno’s legacy. I intentionally delayed writing this column so that I could soak in the opinions of the national columnists that I respect the most. Most of the columns followed a similarly boring pattern. They first discuss Joe Paterno as institution, next they bring up that the Sandusky scandal probably stains that memory forever, and then they conclude that his memory will forever be an unresolved case. While I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I haven’t encountered a single column that rushed to judgement in either direction, I was still mildly disappointed by the mainstream media’s treatment. Nobody really took a unique angle, nobody dared to take a chance to say anything meaningful. In fact, most made the decision to compare his life to a Greek tragedy, given his affinity for education and the classics.
To better understand it, I needed to dig deeper, which led me to this fantastic Dan Jenkins piece from 1968. It seems now to be a kind of informal introduction between America and the Penn State football coach. The piece is naturally excellent, if only because Jenkins is probably the best sportswriter whoever lived. In it, you’re introduced to a lovable and quirky young man who seems intent on throwing the whole system for a loop. It’s hard not to make a comparison to Mike Leach upon first viewing, given both’s perceived devotion to education as well as being intentionally weird. The telling line though comes about halfway through when Paterno tells Jenkins the following:
“We’re trying to win football games, don’t misunderstand that,” said Paterno last week. “But I don’t want it to ruin our lives if we lose. I don’t want us ever to become the kind of place where an 8-2 season is a tragedy. Look at that day outside. It’s clear, it’s beautiful, the leaves are turning, the land is pretty and it’s quiet. If losing a game made me miserable, I couldn’t enjoy such a day. I tell the kids who come here to play, enjoy yourselves. There’s so much besides football. Art, history, literature, politics. The players live all over the campus. I don’t want ’em to have a carpeted athletic dorm, or be bunched in together where they can’t associate with all types of students. When a kid takes a look around here and says, ‘Gee, there’s nothing to do,’ I tell him I suppose there was nothing for the Romantic poets to do in the lake region of England.”
They should have just built the statute right there. Those words form the crux of the chorus that has been Penn State’s identity ever since. And I must admit, it is very appealing. We’ve all heard it since then, probably from a Penn State alumn. It usually was something to the effect of Penn State allegedly valuing education above football, but football was still really great too. They’d never had a major NCAA violation, after all, despite all the on-field success. From that standpoint, it was easy to cast the Nittany Lions in the hero role in the slimey and murky world of college athletics. It was also easier to root for them when set against teams like the Miami Hurricanes, a team that America was in no way prepared to understand at that time. How could you not admire what Paterno achieved in the shadow of the Alleghenies?
Joe Paterno, the myth, the legend, was always a far more compelling, far more intriguing character to bring up in debate and discussion too.
A universal theme begins to emerge when discussing an identity change: at one point or another, the person undergoing the transformation is eventually found out. The degree of the discovery or the magnitude with which the secret is shared may vary, but the constant is that the discovery takes place in one way or another. In Mad Men, Don is initially found out by the widow of the man he is pretending to be in real life. Through some sort of miracle work, he convinces her to go along with the lie and eventually considers her to be his best friend—the only person who really “knows” him.
While the idea to become Don Draper initially seemed to have good intentions behind it—Don wanted to no doubt escape the memory of his harsh upbrining—there eventually comes a point when he has to go all in. It’s hard to judge exactly what that moment was in the series. Is it when he tricks his future boss into hiring him by getting him blackout drunk on a lunch date? Is it when he married Betty and started a family with her while pretending to be Don? Is it when he was willing to sacrifice that same family for his business career? Or maybe it’s when he returned from the war and pretended to not see or hear his half brother at the train station? I’m not sure the answer is definitive.
The answer is probably that it wasn’t any one moment but a series of moments.
What was that moment for Joe Paterno? That is to say, at what time did Joe Paterno the well-meaning kid from Brooklyn become the icon of an academic institution? At what point did his throwback outfits become a brand associated with a different way of running a football program? At what point did he cease to be only a man?
Again, it’s hard to say.
It could have been something as simple as that Dan Jenkins piece. It could have been that legendary upset of Miami. It could have been when the school made the decision to build a statue of him while he was still the coach. But more likely, it was a series of events largely outside of his control. When you build something as successful as that football program, it becomes impossible to control every aspect of it. While Joe Paterno probably could have done more to contain the myth and dictate people’s thinking, how is he supposed to stop a whack job from lionizing his simplicity? How could he have ever stopped Sports Illustrated from naming him the Sportsman of the Year?
There is a danger in the perversion of great ideas. People spin them for their own selfish uses. People misinterpret their true meanings. And people often preach them as gospel, which usually goes against the point of the great idea in the first place.
Many of you might know the movie Wall Street which was directed by Oliver Stone. What you may now know is that there’s a famous story that Stone was horrified by what he had created after the movie become an iconic American film. He had originally intended for his character Gordon Gekko to highlight the evils of pure greed. The idea was for the audience to recognize this flaw and hopefully be inspired to do the exact opposite. Instead what happened was a generation of young men and women made it their mission to become real life Gordon Gekkos, all the way down to the “greed is good” anthem. It got so bad that many lawmakers now blame the “Gordon Gekko generation” for all that has transpired on the real life Wall Street in recent years.
I bring this up because I happen to believe there is a similar danger in Mad Men. While many of the more sophisticated viewers of the show would recognize that one of Mad Men’s main purposes is to show just how necessary the 1960s were for American culture, I think there’s a danger that many of the fans mistakenly long for the alleged “Romantic” days of the 1950s. I can testify from my own account in college and post-graduate life that I know several individuals who secretly enjoy the sexism, racism, drinking/smoking on the job that Mad Men is in actuality speaking out against.
The idea, again, is that great ideas are attractive to all individuals, and that at some point it becomes impossible to control them.
I didn’t know Joe Paterno. In fact I hardly know anyone who went to Penn State.
I know that Joe Paterno had a great idea though. I know that he believed in that idea and practiced that idea in real life. I know that he was lionized for that idea. I know that that idea then became the brand for an entire school. I know that he was willing to risk it all to protect that idea. I know he was then fired because of that same idea.
RIP Joe Paterno, a man with a great idea.
I’m sure a lifetime spent taking steroids and painkillers had nothing to do with his heart failure. From Yahoo! Sports:
The St. Petersburg Medical Examiner’s Office found that the 58-year-old had an enlarged heart with hardened coronary arteries. He became unresponsive while driving his Jeep Wrangler on a Florida highway in May and crashed into a tree. While the auto accident left minor cuts and bruises, the heart problems were the official cause of death of the wrestler.
At the time of his death, it was unknown whether the former wrestling star had died because of the heart issue or because the heart issue caused him to crash. The coroner said Savage was found with therapeutic levels of a number of prescribed drugs in his system and that alcohol wasn’t a factor. There was no evidence he was taking any heart medication, leading to the assumption that Savage may not have known about his condition.
This is awful. Vince McMahon has an emerging problem on his hands and you’d like to think WWE could reach out and do something to prevent this from continuing for the next decade. Check out this graphic courtesy of this alarming story from Yahoo! Sports:
Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be wrestlers…