The Cult of Penn State Football

Amidst all of the controversy surrounding the Penn State football program, longtime head coach Joe Paterno plans on retiring at the end of the season.  The luxury of Paterno being able to go out on his own terms is not one which he should have.  It’s astonishing at the level of ineptitude that has been going on in not only the Penn State athletic department, but within the University as a whole.  It seems that every single move they make is the wrong one.  The silence, the lack of accountability, the blind loyalty.  We are Penn State.  Quite simply put, Joe Paterno should have been fired yesterday and it would be an embarrassment if he was allowed to step on a football field this weekend.

Throngs of students and fans lined up outside Paterno’s home last night in a show of support for their longtime coach.  Paterno even came out and thanked them for their support and how much it meant to him.  He ended it by saying two words.  Beat Nebraska.  Those two words can really sum up the bizarre outlook that is going on at Penn State.  A University and Athletic department being charged with covering up systemic child abuse and child rape conducted by its former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, and he has the nerve to say “Beat Nebraska”?

Over the past few years, we’ve grown accustomed to the misdeeds and unethical behavior of college football programs.  Auburn, USC, Miami, Ohio State….the list goes on.  However, what is going on at Penn State goes far beyond football.  The NCAA rules broken by those other schools seem like petty theft compared to what is going on here.  This concerns the well being of children.  The fact that a University would rather protect its football program rather than the safety and livelihood of young children is disgusting.  This isn’t a NCAA issue, this is a criminal one.  And despite all of this, you’ve got the main figurehead himself, Joe Pa, addressing supporters with “Beat Nebraska”.  And there lies the problem.  You’ve got a man who’s entire reputation built throughout decades is being destroyed by allegations that he knowingly didn’t take the proper action to help prevent further abuse of young children.  A man who had the power and responsibility to stop this.  All these accusations being made against him and his University and he only seems concerned about a damn football game.  Not a peep of his remorse for the lives of young children that were ruined.

And that is the culture at Penn State.  I give credit to the rational Penn State students, fans, and alumni who are able to look at this from a rational perspective.  To idolize a program and coach for so long, only to have this news be broken to you this week. It must be heartbreaking.  To the others, the ones who are showing their blind support, how about realizing that there is more to life than football.  I advise them to take a step back here.  Think about this.  This isn’t just about football.   Read the grand jury reports on the behavior of Jerry Sandusky.  Read about the knowledge Paterno had of such behavior.  About the inaction of men in positions of great power.  Yet, somehow they won’t.  They’ll defend Saint Joe Pa no matter what.  They’ll say things like “one event like this shouldn’t tarnish all the good the man did in his career.”  And Joe Paterno will likely finish the season coaching.  He will probably be carried of the field.  The fans will give him a standing ovation.  The cult of Penn State football.

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10 Responses to The Cult of Penn State Football

  1. klownboy says:

    All I have to ask those students and supporters are this” what if it was YOUR child being molested? Absolutely pitiful…

  2. tad says:

    it makes me sad to see him go but he put himself in the situation. one of the worst moral decisions i have ever heard of. He should not be allowed to finish the season. The whole situation is horrible. However one thing that makes it worse for me is hearing a bunch of talking heads on tv acting as if they have no idea how this could have happened. It happens due to an overall lack of accountability when it comes to big division I sports teams (especially football and basketball) These programs have one goal. Not to develop the individuals into men, but to produce the best athlete possible so they can try to make money off of them, be it through ticket sales or athletic boosters. The culture is that the number one focus is the game, anything else is only worth the minimum effort. It showed. JoePa did the minimum effort was enough, when it obviously was not. When priorities aren’t in line things like this are allowed to happen. Sad to see a coach I liked torn apart in what will most likely destroy his legacy (and it should)

  3. Erik G. says:

    Good post. I am not a huge follower of college football at all but watching the events unfold at PSU, especially yesterday, just made me realize that PSU and its blind devotion to Paterno is very much like a cult, and as history has shown, cults are very adept at hiding nasty things within their walls. What has amazed me is how Paterno stayed on as coach for so long despite his advanced age and that speaks to how PSU as an institution totally lost its way in allowing one athletic program, a big one, yes, but still an athletic program, to dominate and overwhelm its core mission and values. I feel truly sad for the victims but feel nothing but contempt for those at PSU who covered up the crimes for the sake, basically, of keeping an old man in a job.

  4. Ross says:

    Taken from a “friend’s” facebook status:

    “Whatever side you are on [in the Joe Pa argument], these jokes are just unnecessary and cruel!”

    Hunny, there shouldn’t be any “sides” in this “argument”. The only “side” should be the one that’s against the molestation of children. Period. The fact that you think the argument here is about Joe Pa keeping is job is a microcosm of what is wrong with society today. The argument (and it shouldn’t even really be an argument) is about putting away a disgusting sexual predator for as long as our courts allow. Your infatuation with Joe Pa is ridiculous and embarassing.

    But again, this just underscores everything that is wrong with athletics in general today (specifically college athletics). People would rather sweep things like this under the rug and keep the W’s rolling in for their favorite team. They’d blindly sacrifice their integrity (and that of the program) for another bowl win, another conference championship or another NCAA tournament bid. I guarantee you one thing, if Roy Williams ever got caught in this kind of scandal (heck even if he paid a recruit or something), I would be the first one to call for his head. No one man is bigger than an institution or a program. If that individual is embarassing the University/Program, the supporters of that University or Program should be the first ones calling for his head. Instead, they want him retained and they want to “beat Nebraska”. Pitiful.

    • kevinjfisher says:

      my favorite ones:
      but…but…but….he built a 10 million dollar library and gave so much to charity
      OR
      He spent decades building the program and he shouldn’t be fired because of one mistake. we all make mistakes
      OR
      yeah he could’ve done more, but hindsight is 20/20

      • tad says:

        yep. he did lots of good things, and for the most of his tenure his program was admirable. Still made a terrible mistake. Nobody is above paying for a mistake like that

      • Ross says:

        I put a little too much mustard on my sandwich today. Joe Pa didn’t report his assistant molesting children by the bushel. I’d say there are different levels of mistakes.

      • kevinjfisher says:

        if you were using dijon mustard, that is almost on the same level of mistake.

  5. gcm says:

    Just fyi, this ran last weekend in the Los Angeles Times on the cult of penn state.
    http://articles.latimes.com/2011/nov/13/opinion/la-oe-1113-hubler-pennstate-20111113

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