Cavalcade: Penn State's Rough Week
Posted Nov 15, 2011

Penn State is trying to move on, but is this a sports story? This and plenty more in the latest Cavalcade of Whimsy.

Cavalcade of Whimsy

Nov. 15, 2011

Past Cavalcades
- 2008 Season | 2009 Season | 2010 Season 
2011 Sept. 6 | Sept. 13 | Sept. 20 | Sept. 27 | Oct. 4 | Oct. 11 | Oct. 18 
- Oct. 25 |  Nov. 8 

- Part 2 - Ten Players Who Deserve Heisman Hype

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229 days since Stanley McClover's claims against Auburn, Ohio State, Michigan State, and LSU with no repercussions. But if the allegations have nothing to do with showers, children, and "horsing around," I'm good.

Sorry if this column sucks, it's not my fault … bowing to media and public pressure, the Penn State Board of Trustees decided to let it go. There wasn't any student protest, though.

Someone has to be making all this up. Please. … Really? His name has to be McQueary, Sandusky had to be spotted in a Dick's Sporting Goods, and Saturday's game had to be played in Beaver Stadium? It's been an interesting week to try to talk with non-sports fans about this story.

Iffffffff I were not a barrister, an engine driver me, with a chig-chig-chig and a chig-chig-chig … If the men kneeling outside of Joe Paterno's house were simply showcasing their high-level Tebowing skills, all would've been fine – and brilliant. Unfortunately, they appeared to be praying, or paying their respects, because a guy lost his job.

This is where the feds need to step in. Anyone hanging outside of the Paterno house praying, crying, or placing mementos on the lawn – but not Mentos, an always fresh and appropriate tribute – for a man who didn't die, needs to be captured in a big butterfly net, put in a protective room, and be forced to read the grand jury report over, and over, and over, and over again until he or she can explain exactly why it was okay for Paterno to not have done more.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett must use any and all emergency powers to ensure that every local TV crew has the Monty Python raw chicken knight at the ready every time another dopey Penn State student mixes 11 conflicting ideas into a ten second sound bite.

"Oh NO WAY … give me a break … what should I do, what should I do … the police, the police! … I should phone the police and tell them about the sorrowful image I've just seen through the window, you know … hello, police? … yes, I'll hold … I've just witnessed the most gruesome thing through my window, I must say, so if you could get over here as quickly as possible that would be decent." … Corbett also needs to act quickly and issue an official stance on when he plans to issue the all-clear on letting fly with the dark and tasteless snarky-bad jokes currently in circulation about Penn State football. The statute of limitations needs to fall sometime between 2056 and never, and that includes the suddenly-different use of the P in PSU.

Suddenly, Free Shoes University doesn't seem so bad … How bad is this scandal? Coaches are popping off, and coaches never say anything bad about another coach - ever. In this case, though, the controversy goes beyond the normal coaches' code and beyond the normal couched phrases. Barry Switzer firing on Paterno for not doing more is about as hypocritical as it gets, and for Bobby Bowden to question how Paterno couldn't have known is like getting nailed with false credit card charges from Miss Prissy's Cat Emporium.

"All right, now here's the lowdown. From a certain connection, I've been able to locate some black market shower heads. They're all made in the former Yugoslavia, and from what I hear the Serbs are fanatic about their showers." … The super-deluxe, environment-killing, rain shower head is everything that can and should be right about the world. It was the best Christmas gift my wife ever gave me, and it's what I tell everyone to put it on their holiday wish list. After a workout, a cold blast instantly takes away all aches and pains, and after a long day, five minutes in the steam washes away any and all stress. After dealing with the Penn State story, and with the grand jury report forever burned in my brain, I demand an extra 250 years be tacked on to Sandusky's sentence for the don't-think-of-a-purple-cow aspect of every ruined shower I've taken over the last week.

Jerome Brown and the fatigues in 1986 don't seem so bad now … Considering tight end Mike McCloskey was out of bounds on the key catch to keep alive the game-winning drive, Penn State would've lost to Nebraska and it wouldn't have won the national championship had there been instant replay back in 1982. The Huskers would've finished 13-0, capped off with a win over LSU in the Orange Bowl. The world would've wanted to see an unbeaten Nebraska play Herschel Walker and an unbeaten Georgia, but instead, it still would've been Penn State against the Dawgs in the Sugar Bowl. Remember, this was before the BCS, and the Big 8 champion had to go to the Orange and the SEC champion had to go to the Sugar.

"Hello, we'd like you to have this flower from the Church of Consciousness. Would you like to make a donation?" … Protecting and caring for homeless children – it's been done. Saving sick kids – whatever. Helping exploited and missing children – what's the point? Wait a second, what's this? Like Sam Stellatella, I'm going to donate to the Jerry Sandusky defense fund! Obviously. And .... done. It's all about giving back.

By the way, if you didn't already, click on the links to look at worthwhile charities and make a difference.

"Self-realization. I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, who said, ‘... I drank what?'" … Nothing against Oregon, but after the ickiness of last week, I wanted Stanford to win. Andrew Luck and the Cardinal could've been the Cal Ripken story to pull college football out of the doldrums and give the sport the feel-good story it so desperately needs. However, hoping Stanford would do well is like rooting for a program that's one part Winklevii, one part Gilbert Lowe, and one part Chris Knight.

Nothing to see here … hey look, Elvis! … Oh, by the way, in case you didn't notice, and you didn't, Ohio State got tagged again with more NCAA sanctions. In any other week, the moral outrage from the media would've been about how the program is still standing after yet another charge, but Penn State has taken the bar to a whole other level. At the immediate moment, "failure to monitor" sort of sounds like a positive.

Ohio State has taken away five scholarships over the next three years after the athletic department failed to keep the wraps on booster Robert DiGeronimo (again, you can't make up these names), who supposedly gave a few hundred bucks to a slew of football players along with payments for some no-show jobs. However, this week, if the raping of children isn't a part of the equation, you're good.

"And I thought, my God... the genius of that! The genius! The will to do that! Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we, because they could stand that these were not monsters, these were men... trained cadres." … That sound you heard ws America's collective "Eeeeeeeeeew" while listening to Sandusky's Colonel Kurtz-sounding phone interview with Bob Costas.

"What in my hometown are you talking about? I'm out … Evil just isn't what it used to be." … Most of the sports journalists understood the Penn State scandal from the start, and the ones that didn't quickly changed their tune once they read the grand jury report and after more of the onion was peeled away.

Meanwhile, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and 100 other normal news types all continue to figure out how and why college football can be so influential, all the while trying to say the same thing 100 different ways: BREAKING NEWS … child molestation, still bad.

Inevitably, the question comes up about how something like this could happen at Penn State, and then, eventually, the focus turns to college football and the cultish nature that allowed a coach to be the most powerful man in the university, and maybe the state.

So the culture that led to the fiasco was a Penn State problem, right?

Name any top college football program that's ever had any sort of a scandal and you'll quickly find a segment of the fan base that blindly and unfailingly rallied around the accused coach or player. Every college football head coach has a skeleton or five hidden away in the closet, and while the Penn State disaster was a particular brand of ugly, this could've easily have happened in a lot of other places, too.

So the hero worship and the oversized overemphasis on winning at all costs, and the money and unwavering fan loyalty that follows, is a college football problem, right?

How well did the Indiana fan base handle the end of the Bobby Knight era? Mention to a UCLA fan that Sam Gilbert played a big role in John Wooden's success and you'll get socked in the ear. The cesspool that is college basketball recruiting, and the junior circuit pipeline that feeds the children to the various programs, is out there in the open for all to see, but find the fan that cares as long as his school is getting its share of star talents.

So it's a problem with collegiate athletics and the sheltered atmosphere, right?

Go to an Atlanta Falcon game and count the number of Michael Vick jerseys. Ask Aaron Rodgers what life was like not being Brett Favre. Ask anyone in the Chicago sports media what it was like to say an ill word about Mike Ditka in the late 1980s. Talk to Jerry Jones about how much fun it was dealing with the backlash of dumping Tom Landry.

Depending on the year, roughly 20% of NFL players have been charged with a crime of some sort, but do fans care a lick about who's wearing the uniforms on Sunday?

Outside of the collegiate problems, and other than the violent world of football, American sports fans have a proper perspective and use sound judgment, right?

Uh huh.

San Francisco is one of the most progressive-thinking cities in the world, but the place went full-blown meatball when anyone dared to question the legitimacy of the Barry Bonds home run record chases.

Flashback a few years ago and try to tell any of the cycling-heads that it seemed a tad askew that everyone but Lance Armstrong could be cheating.

How many people ignored the facts when it came to O.J., Mike Tyson, and Pete Rose, because they were heroes who couldn't possibly do such ugly things?

So it's America that has the problem taking sports too seriously, right?

Good luck trying to ask Andrés Escobar what it's like to screw up in the World Cup, and sit back and let Thierry Henry describe how much fun he had dealing with the fallout from the Ireland "handball" incident.

Fans outside of the U.S. don't take sports to an insane level? Monica Seles might beg to differ after her meeting with Günter Parche, and point to any country on the globe and there's probably some sort of a soccer riot in its recent news cycle.

Try to find the performance enhancing drug the old Soviet and satellite Eastern bloc Olympians didn't take, and good luck finding a decent perspective on the importance of sports after diving into the inner workings of the Chinese Olympic machine.

And after all that, check up north to the Canadian Junior Hockey world that's been dealing with Sandusky-like issues for far too long, and worse yet, to out-Sandusky Sandusky, brush up on your history and knowledge of camel racing.

Of course, the idea of morals being set aside in the name of winning isn't a Penn State problem. It's not a college problem, it's not a football problem, and it's not sports problem. It's a problem. Period.

Much of human history revolves around turning a blind eye to atrocities in the name of a conquest, because people love to be a part of a winning side no matter what.

And we expected Penn State students and fans to act differently when their identity and their winning was taken away in a snap? Sadly, for those of us in the college sports world, and for anyone who's interested in sports in general, the reaction could've been predicted from ten miles away.

However, the raw nerve reaction still doesn't excuse the misguided anger. There wasn't a protest in the streets over the molestation of children, along with the alleged cover-up. There was a flash mob riot because a football coach got fired, and for that, Penn State has a ton of work to do to show that the Penn State culture is about to do a 180-degree change.

Unfortunately, violent images make better news stories than quiet respect … Despite how it's been played in the media, most of the Penn State students, alumni, and fans really do seem to get it, and the shouted-down majority are starting to be heard voicing the same sadness, disgust, and anger that the rest of the world feels. Unfortunately, that's not going to matter much considering the post-Paterno firing riot got non-stop coverage and the candlelight vigil in honor of the victims barely got a mention.

Like any major scandal and like any case of institutional corruption, it turns out that a few bad and weak people are going to represent the masses that have nothing to do with the controversy. But that's how it works, and that's the hand Penn State has now been dealt.

In terms of public relations, like it or not, for every good thing being done to take a step in the right direction, every time a group of two or more people voice support in any way for the football program or Paterno, the school's public perception takes a giant leap backwards. For every, "We Are (clap, clap) Penn State," to many, it sounds like, "We Are (clap clap) Once Again Showing The Blind Loyalty That Led To This Problem In The First Place."

In the heat of the moment, it could be argued that everything happened so fast and with such ferocity that there wasn't time to properly process what was going on. Fine, but that was last week, and now the time for arguing is over.

Penn State, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, has to be all about acting contrite in every way, shape, and form. That means doing something bold, like changing the uniform colors to baby blue for the rest of the season. That means demanding a full house cleaning of everyone and everything that had to do with the football program. That means not fighting the process in any way, not hiding behind a statute of limitations or some technicality, and that means understanding that outside of the Happy Valley bubble, things aren't looking so hot. So that means showing that you're just as angry at the men who caused this all to happen as everyone else is.

Penn State, this is no longer just about a coach getting fired and it isn't about a football program. You've made Arne Duncan mad. The Governor of Pennsylvania, the Attorney General, and all the state's top lawmakers are going to keep thundering away.

This is going to be a long process, and Penn State has to be pitch-perfect at every step. It hasn't been remotely close so far.

And I'm pushing for GameDay to come broadcast from my breakfast nook, but ESPN will strangely be without any cameras whatsoever to record it. Sort of like its bizarre coverage of the Penn State "riots." … To fill the empty void in the column and in my life, each week I'll unearth a wacky fun-stat worthy of being used on the GameDay broadcast. How stifling is the Alabama defense? It's allowing teams to come up with just 10.3 first downs per game. The No. 2 team in the category – Georgia – is allowing 14.3 per game. Wisconsin is allowing 14.6 and LSU 14.8. How's this for run defense? On the year, teams have gotten a first down against Alabama on the ground 33 times. Second on the list of fewest first downs allowed on the ground is Stanford, giving up 47 on the year. No one else has allowed fewer than 50.

- Part 2 - Ten Players Who Deserve Heisman Hype