Irradiated by LabRat
…Or, what should be the completely and utterly bleeding obvious to anyone with the moral compass imparted to the average five-year-old, but somehow apparently isn’t to some people.
Via Jennifer, apparently some people are upset that the NCAA decided to penalize Penn State’s football program for its role in the Sandusky scandal. These outrageous penalties include stripping the football program of some scholarships, and barring them from bowl games for four years. I regard these sanctions as amounting to some vigorous tickling of the wrist, with perhaps a whispered threat to slap if they continue being naughty, but apparently they are cause for sackcloth and ashes for some.
I suppose I should put my biases up front: I have a very low opinion of college sports programs in general. While I can appreciate the notion of a healthy mind in a healthy body, I think it’s completely ludicrous to set up our higher education institutions as feeder systems for professional sports leagues, or to encourage any student to prioritize sports when there is only a miniscule chance that that will be his or career, and even if he is riotously successful at that career, it will certainly be over well before their working life is. I think it makes about as much sense as tacking a poker league onto CERN, and it would not dampen my spirits in the slightest to see football (and basketball, and baseball) programs in general vanish from the American academic landscape.
That said, even if my heartbeat ran in tune with my alma mater’s sporting fortunes, I’m pretty sure I would not regard football as greater in importance to whether or not small children are raped. Sainted JoPa apparently stressed in a letter before his death that it was “not a football scandal”, on the grounds that whether a football coach rapes children on a recreational basis in no way reflects on the football program, if it happens in their locker rooms and showers and their games are used to lure the children in the first place.
But, according to the independent report, concern for the football program and an utter lack of concern for Sandusky’s victims dominated the discourse between basically all of Penn State’s leadership when discussing the delicate situation that was one of their coaches maybe having child rape as a sideline hobby. It wasn’t that they thought child rape was OK, it was that the possibility simply wasn’t foremost in their minds as compared to the pressing issues that were potential bad publicity for the football program and the much greater issue that was in any way upsetting Joe Paterno, who insisted on treating the football program and the students involved in it as his personal fiefdom, above and outside accountability to normal university rules. If you have lots of free time and no chronic high blood pressure problems, I recommend reading or at least skimming the full report; it’s a meticulously documented and lavishly illustrated ethnography of an institution subverted to the pure purpose of continuing a comfortable existence.
The NCAA apparently considered the possibility of imposing a four year “death penalty” on the Penn State football program, then backed off upon deciding it was too harsh. I disagree. If football has attained an importance within your institution such that the question of whether or not a child or children was raped on your premises by one of your coaches, and the identity of the child, is so uninteresting to you that the possibility only attains importance in the question of liability, you need to take a fucking break from football. This is like asking yourself if you need to step away from alcohol in the wake of driving the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile through the middle of your sister’s wedding after six bottles of Goldschlager; the answer should not be equivocal.
I am pleased Penn State had sufficient self-awareness to tear down Paterno’s statue. I would regard tearing down the stadium as well and salting the earth to be a proportionate response. And I think anyone who regards the ding in reputation the football program took, as well as the short break from bowl games, to be Penn State’s “darkest day” should consider the possibility of aversive therapy until the glory of the game shrinks to something like the level of importance that is the not-being-raped status of any given child.