Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hey, Joe

  I’ll be the first to admit that I like watching college football on Saturdays, but I’ll also be the first to admit that I don’t get the pride people take in their favorite college teams. Take the Iowa Hawkeyes, for example. I see their logo on cars, apparel, notebooks, and even tattoos. State pride is wonderful, but if you look at their roster, you would see that over half of their players come from other states. It is the same with the Iowa State Cyclones football team. The basketball teams are in a similar situation with just 7 of 16 Hawkeyes and 2 of 15 Cyclones hailing from Iowa. I ask Hawkeye and Cyclone fans about this and they tell me that Iowa simply doesn’t produce enough big time college level athletes to compete with schools from Florida, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, etc..... and must import players from other states to be competitive. I can accept this argument as long as we can agree that the premise of the Iowa and Iowa State athletic programs are not to provide athletic opportunities for Iowans, but rather to compete with other schools for victories, glory, bowl money, etc...

  This attitude of victory by import is also found at small time college athletics. The Iowa Community College Athletic Conference is group of Iowan 2 year colleges who compete in all different sports. Looking at the soccer rosters, you will get a major case of eye strain looking for players from Iowa. The Marshalltown Community College soccer team is much better than most in terms of Iowans on the roster but even they only have 2 players from Marshall County.
Most of these teams have a majority of players from outside the country, much less the state. It’s even worse in Men’s basketball. The Marshalltown Community College basketball team has exactly zero players from Marshalltown, Marshall County, or even Iowa on their team. Zero! That is the same number of Iowans as the Indian Hills team and 1 behind the Iowa Western team. The women’s basketball situation is much better with 2 Iowans in the roster (both from Waterloo) to go along with the 6 players from Wisconsin. Sports like cross country and volleyball are more representative of the local population, but I’m mystified at why community colleges have so many out of state and out of country participants in so many sports. Is it so important to be competitive even at the community college level? Where would an Iowa soccer player have to go to play at the community college level? Wyoming? Estonia? Western Estonia?

  It’s clear to me that the emphasis on college sports at all levels is on winning more than providing athletic opportunities for the local population and that made it hard for me to understand the firing last week of Joe Paterno
, the winningest coach in college football history. It’s been all over the news how Paterno’s longtime assistant Jerry Sandusky has been accused of 40 counts of child molestation. Penn State graduate assistant Mike McQueary found Sandusky in the Penn State shower assaulting a 10 young boy in 2002, reporting it to Paterno on the advice of his father. Paterno then reported it to the athletic director and school vice president after waiting a day. McQueary and Paterno defended their actions by claiming they were merely reporting the incident to the people they were supposed to report it to.

  Even if Sandusky is not convicted of any crimes, any man who takes showers with young boys and looks for situations to be alone with them or wrestle with them or lather them up needs help badly. I don’t know what McQueary saw or what he told Paterno, but it seems that both men followed their department policies. The fact that Paterno is not being charged with any crimes while the men he reported the incident to are charged with perjury seems to make it clear to me that Paterno did what he was supposed to do. Now, did Paterno do ALL HE COULD DO? Of course not! Have I always done everything I could do to help people in every situation I’ve ever been in? No, and I can’t imagine many have. I probably haven’t done everything I could do to help people in ANY situation I’ve ever been involved in. We’re talking about a man who worked for Paterno for 3 decades and played a large part in his considerable success. I can see where it would be hard for Paterno to believe the allegations even as I find it hard to believe he wouldn’t have known about Sandusky’s proclivities. I’m in the distinct minority, but I don’t think Paterno should have lost his job for not turning his longtime assistant in to the police unless he saw the incident. He did what he needed to do, which was turn the incident over to the proscribed authorities. I think letting him retire at the end of the season as he attempted to do would have been appropriate. I have no problem with the President of the University being fired since he is the ultimate authority of the incident and had the responsibility to have Sandusky removed from the campus.

  I think the Penn State University trustees threw Paterno under the bus in the cause of damage control. It looks very much like Sandusky is a child molester but he hasn’t been found guilty of anything and no money for confidentiality agreements have turned up like Herman Cain’s alleged abuse victims have been found to have signed. Paterno was judged guilty by association and fired, and now even his former players can only defend him at the peril of their own jobs, like when Franco Harris lost his spokesperson role as an ‘ambassador’ for a racetrack/casino.

  Paterno had 4 losing seasons in 5 years
from 2000-2004 when he was in his mid-70’s and he didn’t lose his job. Why didn’t the same goodwill that allowed him to keep his job then apply to this new situation even though his sin of omission occurred in the same time period? I think the big difference is that 10 years ago, the Penn State administration could look forward to Paterno setting his coaching records and bringing favorable publicity to Penn State and that he was also still actively coaching the team. Now he is a figurehead that sits in a press box during the games, mumbles half-incoherent platitudes during interviews, hasn’t recruited off campus in at least 4 years. He has already set all the records he is going to and his days of bringing favorable publicity to his university are now over. Paterno has learned the lesson that most working people have to learn at some point in their lives: Employees serve at the whim of their employer and when they have served their purpose can expect no more loyalty than a bug that gets splattered on the windshield while driving.