I really hope this is working people up. I really can’t get over how much I’m enjoying all of this.
I honestly have no problem with this if they weren’t taking money to lose. Couldn’t you argue they were actually competing to get the gold by trying to get the favorable seeds through losing intentionally? Scroll ahead in the clip to the :45 mark.
A rare double column day at Gen Y! I’m overextending myself, obviously. I promise not to write again for three weeks…
It’s hard not to be fascinated by what took place this very morning when NCAA president Mark Emmert took unprecedented measures against Penn State University. The school will be forced to pay $60 million to be given to child abuse causes, will be banned from bowls for four years, and will slowly vacate increasing numbers of football scholarships over that time period. Furthermore, the NCAA erased all of Joe Paterno’s wins from 1998 until 2011 meaning he will no longer go down in record books as the all-time winning-est coach in college football history.
I even dare to broach this subject in the first place because of the shocking reactions I’ve seen on both sides of the fence on this issue. You’re either really, really happy about what the NCAA did this morning or you’re really, really pissed off about it.
Admittedly I’m a weak person and can’t really decide what side I want to side with on this one.
I confess that I felt a sick sort of pleasure this morning knowing that all of the Penn Staters out there basically suffered the post-modern version of the NCAA death penalty. By all accounts, one could easily argue that what Emmert did was far worse than anything suffered by SMU back in the 80s. I smiled when he read his penalties out loud. I do believe that this was a problem with a college, a city, and an overall culture. Whatever side you agree with, you have to admit that the NCAA did make an attempt to punish that whole community with this ruling. I liked that, sadly.
On the flip side though, I can’t stand the idea of the NCAA as an entity in the first place. If you ask me, the whole notion of college athletics really is a modern day version of slavery. It’s a bunch of rich white dudes making vast amounts of cash for doing nothing whatsoever and not deserving any of the ridiculous amounts of money that they earn.
If you’re not familiar with the history of the NCAA, you may not know that they used to wield almost no power whatsoever. They only gained their modern day authority thanks to Walter Byers doing some savvy political moving back in the 1950s. It was then that the schools kind of agreed without knowing it to let the NCAA have authoritative powers.
For the first time since those early days when none of the schools actually paid attention to the NCAA, these last five years have seemed to finally show the general public that we need to get rid of the idea of amateurism and the NCAA once and for all. College sports, bowl games, all of it. Until the athletes are compensated there is simply no justification for its existence, no matter how enjoyable it is to root for your alma mater.
My fear is that what we just witnessed this morning is the second most important event in the history of the NCAA since Walter Byers was hired all the way back in the 1950s. I’m afraid that Mark Emmert just rebranded the NCAA as a moral authority in the eyes of the public and that they’ll use this new position to continue an unjustified existence. So long as they keep the blood-thirsty public satisfied, the public will drop this notion that the organization needs to be terminated.
The sad reality is that those saps at the NCAA don’t care about the victims at Penn State. The only thing they’ve proven to care about in their entire history is self preservation. As satisfying as it was this morning to see that program get what it deserved, there’s a danger in the amount of power the NCAA just attempted to demonstrate. So I urge you all caution.
Don’t be fooled by their sudden amount of empathy for the plights of the student athletes in letting all the kids transfer immediately and without penalty. Don’t be fooled by the NCAA using the fine money for charitable causes. And don’t be fooled by Mark freaking Emmert who once used his power as NCAA president to prevent a kid from playing at Kentucky, simply because the kid reneged on an offer to play at Washington while Emmert was the president there. He’s a petty sap who makes $1.6 million for the stupidest, most pointless job in the entire country.
This is the NCAA version 2.0 and they’re coming to a campus near you.
Word broke late last Friday afternoon that the NFL was mounting a huge investigation into an alleged “bounty hunting” system employed by the New Orleans Saints under former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The common perception right now is that Williams may have coached his last game in the NFL and that the Saints will face heavy penalties including and not limited to any of the following: fines, suspensions, and loss of draft picks. It is suspected that the punishment will be far more severe than that of the New England Patriots when they were caught cheating in the infamous Spygate scandal. It is believed that the Saints will likely not be the only organization penalized for the offense either. More details continue to leak from around the league that several other teams carried out similar schemes.
What’s excellent about this situation, if there’s anything excellent that can be drawn from a situation of the rewarding the intentional, organized violence against individuals, is that it’s opened up a much-needed dialogue amongst fans and analysts of the NFL. For years, the league did its best to avoid the issue of long-term football-related injuries, only choosing to get proactive in the last year or so after a series of devastsating pieces by newspapers and magazines across the country. After finally facing the music on that issue, it seems that it’s now going to have to address the other big elephant in the room (way ahead of schedule, I might add): the fact that football is really, really, really violent.
When plowing through every column on this very issue, there are a couple of common themes that arise in decrying what the Saints did. The first is that it takes away from the integrity of the game in the same way intentionally aiming a fastball at a batter’s head would do in baseball. The second is that what Williams oversaw was actually a criminal offense, which could be prosecuted under the law. The final is that the NFL has to do anything possible to salvage its image, given the future repercussions surrounding long-term football-related injuries— basically seizing control of the message now.
That last issue is probably the most important from the perspective of the public and it’s exactly the reason Roger Goodell is expected to absolutely hammer the Saints in the coming weeks.
What I think is great is that we’re being forced as a society to examine what exactly we’re willing to permit from a sport before it is deemed socially unacceptable. There is a growing movement in this country that believes football could possibly go the way of boxing in the very near future. What I mean to say is that at some point society as a whole will deem football too violent to celebrate anymore and slowly but surely the popularity of the sport will wane until it becomes an afterthought in the American sporting conscience. At the heart of the issue, this might be what Roger Goodell is most afraid of, although he’d never admit it publicly.
It’s a very fine line, when you think about.
Somehow we’re willing to accept that a strong safety running at full speed, colliding with and breaking a wide reveiver’s leg is okay. Somehow that same safety hitting a receiver at full speed, with the receiver’s natural reaction of curling up his body in anticipation of the imminent contact thus causing a helmet-to-helmet impact is completely outside the rules and punishable by fines though. For some reason we celebrate a fullback blowing up a blitzing linebacker even though his quarterback has already thrown a pass, but decry that linebacker when he blows up a quarterback who has already thrown a pass.
A serious credibility question that the NFL has to address in the future will be how it can possibly legislate between what acts of violence are permissible and what aren’t. I just don’t see any way out of the hypocrisies that become very apparent when you sit down and think it all the way through.
I brought up this very issue to one of the national columnists (Gregg Doyel of CBS) that criticized the Saints earlier this morning. We had a quick back-and-forth with me pointing out that he is a huge fan of MMA, UFC-style fighting. I wondered how he possibly reconciled the difference between the violence of that sport and the violence of the NFL. His response was the following, “MMA is understood risk. NFL players being paid extra to try to KNOCK OUT an opponent? Not understood risk.”
I disagree though. How do the players in the NFL not understand the risk they take every time they step out onto a football field? How could anyone actually be naive enough to believe that? Football is a sport played by men with (likely) the most finely-tuned bodies in the history of civilization. They lift weights, alter diets, and take substances (both illicit and not) from their early teens on in preparation for the physical requirements of playing in the league. Throw in the fact that the most-desired trait of any potential NFL employee is speed and you basically have a recipe for destruction. These are gigantic men with gigantic muscles running at impossible speeds that result in violent collisions, many of which resulting in players getting “knocked out.” I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe that at some point in their lives every player considers that there is an understood risk to playing football, that any time you take the field it could be the last.
And again, I think that’s what is at stake here.
Roger Goodell wants to continue the illusion that the NFL actually has control of the violence that takes place on a football field. Roger Goodell wants you to believe that there is some very definable line between the types of violence committed by these Saints players and the type of violence you witness every Sunday between “clean” players. Roger Goodell wants you to believe that he is very much in charge of all of that.
Instead what you should find is that the NFL is trying to keep a veil over your eyes. This is very much an institution coming to the realization that its great illusion is about to be discovered. The public is about to find out how great a fallacy the NFL’s business model actually is. This is the same league that seriously believes changing to an 18-game regular season schedule won’t have a direct correlation to player health and safety, after all.
What the Saints did was wrong. They broke rules. They tried to cover up the fact that they broke the rules. They deserve to be punished.
But how long until we pull back the curtain and see that Roger Goodell is really just another Wizard of Oz trying to sustain a crumbling empire built on and profiting off the very same principles the Saints will be punished for?
Violence is violence whether it comes from legal blocks, tackles, or even (gasp!) intentionally dirty plays.
So you may have heard by now that earlier this week a major drug bust occured on or around the campus of Texas Christian University resulting in the arrests of 17 students. You probably also heard that some of those 17 people happened to be members of the TCU football team (four, if you’re counting). And if you’re really special, you probably heard all the juicy details like, for example, how one of the four players claimed 82 people failed a random drug test administered by head coach Gary Patterson two weeks ago. These things happened. I’d like to comment on them.
Full disclosure: I’m an alum of TCU. I graduated from the school back in 2009 and have remained close in both proximity and relationship since receiving my diploma. I’ve had a couple of days to get my head wrapped around everything and so hopefully this doesn’t come across like I’m calling into Paul Finebaum to defend TCU to all the haterzzz. Go god damn Frogs, Pawwwwwll.
When an event like this hits close to home, it’s a very natural reaction to go into full on Baltimore Ravens defense mode. Symptoms include concerned facial gestures, irrational facebook rants, mass texts to fellow fans, speculation, rumor spreading, invention of conspiracy theories, frantic internet message board scanning, and long phone conversations that try to make any sense of what just happened. I participated in all but one of those things when the word hit Twitter that day (and I’m proud to say it was that I didn’t unleash an inner monologue on facebook that all of seven people would have read). I’m also willing to admit that my dad still has me about 65% convinced that UT is behind all of this and that this was our “welcome to the Big 12” moment.
To say that shock rushed through the TCU community when the details started leaking out is the biggest understatement of the year. Here is a small sampling of the posts from my facebook feed, all identities will remain anonymous to protect the victims:
“To those of you that aren’t Horned Frogs … please show some respect. I don’t appreciate the collective druggie comments and stabs at our football program. This could’ve happened to any school and the media is taking advantage of the situation because it involves football players. 17 students do not define a University nor four define a football program.”
“Others do not define me. My faith, values and morals define who I am. TCU has and will always be an integral part of my life, and I am blessed to have been able to call myself a Horned Frog! “
“Last time I checked, there’s a slight difference between 5 and 80… Maybe people should wait for facts before believing the statements of a drug dealer.”
“Thrilled that the students were arrested and discharged from TCU for participating in drug deals. Drugs are an issue on EVERY university campus, and I think it speaks very highly of TCU to get to the bottom of this problem and terminate the students instead of turning a blind eye, as most universities do. Proud to be a Horned Frog, and proud that those who were partaking in illegal activity will not be able to graduate as a Horned Frog!”
“TCU isn’t hiding the drug bust– they’re showing that TCU doesn’t tolerate that behavior. TCU police partnered with Fort Worth Police in a 6-Month sting to catch these students. I’m so glad they made an example out of this. It only elevates the ethical caliber of the university.”
“U can’t deny TCU had a huge drug bust but you also can’t pretend every other school doesn’t have the same problem….atleast TCU has enough courage and class to do something about it. Proud to be a horned frog….STILL”
So i think you pretty much get the message that most fans believe by now, it’s something along the lines of “this was an isolated incident, these kids obviously weren’t true TCU students, we should actually be applauding TCU” and blah blah blah.
Complete honesty here, my initial response was actually anger at the TCU Police Department and the University administration for not catching wind of this investigation months ago. It’s not ridiculous to claim that this type of situation would have NEVER happened at a UT, an Ohio State, or an Alabama. Drug arrests? Sure. But there is simply no way the police departments of those universities would ever conduct an undercover investigation going after football players. Star-Telegram columnist and ESPN 103.3 host Randy Galloway brought up this point too. Being the irrational fan that I am, I naturally made the connection about TCU being in the Big 12 and all now and wondered why in the hell we weren’t following suit. Get in line officers, damnit.
While I’ve (sort of) come to realize the foolishness of that rationale, I still do feel a bit of resentment towards both the TCU and Fort Worth Police Departments for conducting such a long investigation for what I will defend to the death as a completely victimless crime. The reasoning isn’t totally based in a Ron Paul decriminalization stance as it is with a personal history with those particular departments.
During my four years at TCU, I was personally a witness to the aftermath of dozens, if not hundreds of personal property and car thefts that took place on that campus. If you went a week without one of your friends automobiles getting broken into, it was a cause for celebration. I’m actually surprised there wasn’t a theme party along the way referencing this bizarre aspect of attending TCU. For those unfamiliar with the campus, TCU sits in a very unique spot in the city of Fort Worth. It serves as a sort of dividing line between the extremely wealthy and extremely poor. You can go a half mile east of campus and be in the ghetto, or you can go a half mile northwest and be at the world famous Colonial Country Club.
My anger stems from both departments’ unwillingness and indifference towards preventing those crimes. It got to the point where you just stopped reporting them and accepted it as part of life at school. Those brazen souls who did dare to file a police report were told that there was nothing that could be done and that insurance would probably cover it anyway. Never mind that these lazy bastards could have patrolled the lots or set up undercover stings in the parking lots at any time. TCU isn’t exactly like patrolling the streets of Baltimore.
To think that these same people then spent the last six months pulling off a raid that would have left Commissioner Burrel pleased absolutely threw me for a loop. My fondest memory of these guys is the defiant way they drove their newly purchased, custom painted segways across campus my junior year while my friends and I ripped of jokes like we were at a Flavor Flav roast. It blew my mind.
When you throw in the whole “I am a huge fan of The Wire and completely agree with many of the sentiments of David Simon” aspect, well I hope you can begin to understand the anxiety in my head this week. For those unfamiliar with the show, the point I’m trying to make is that these arrests don’t solve any kind of problems at all. They put a temporary stop to the drug traffic on campus at TCU, sure. But someone else is going to move in and that person will likely be smarter, more cutthroat, and possibly more dangerous than the kids who were arrested. In the meantime the courts and possibly jails of Fort Worth are filled with more backlog from crimes that really didn’t hurt anybody.
One of the better revelations I found this week was an editorial in the Star-Telegram which echoed this sentiment. The gist of the piece is to ask TCU why they’re being so hard on immature college kids making dumb decisions. Seriously, go read it now. It brings up a completely uncovered aspect of the sitatuion in that one of the officers swore an affidavit about a man who lives in Dallas and never attended TCU who was arrested this week by accident. This was mostly because the officer made some gross assumptions and didn’t do his homework. I’m not lying when I tell you these guys suck.
The other big thing that enraged me was the quick-to-judgement covering of the event, you know it as the “82 TCU Football Players Failed A Drug Test” headline that provided absolutely no context for the comments that were made. This of course was what ran across ESPN tickers all week and highlighted website story titles. I guess I never realized the impact those type of news-grabbing tricks had until I felt like I was on the wrong end of it all. Lesson learned.
Among the other lessons I learned was that TCU probably did handle it in the best way possible. The story is basically a non-entity now, especially after it was leaked that only five players failed the drug test. The decision by the administration to own the story from the get-go and issue very public declarations decrying the offenders is absolutely the way it should have been handled. Compare that with Penn State’s huge miscalculation with the Jerry Sandusky situation and, well, Victor Boschini deserves a pat on the back for that.
I still can’t shake this dark and dirty feeling though that the NCAA is going to make an example of us because we’re not a program along the lines of Ohio State or USC. I think my greatest fear is that they’re going to come down to Texas, preaching the holier-than-thou gospel about the dangers of drug addiction and hammer TCU with the death penalty. And I’m being completely serious about that. This is the same organization that makes absolutely zero money off of its best product in college football and refuses to take a position on the Penn State scandal. If you think making an example of little old TCU is beyond the realm of possibility, than you are more naive than Joe Paterno.
Alas, TCU is out of the public eye and everybody has moved on and hey! baseball season starts today. I’ll reserve more judgement until Mark Emmert comes down and tries to mess with Gary Patterson, and God help him if he does.
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.
He’s an alumn.