Tag Archives: opinion

The Backout Bowl

I was going to opt out on writing a preview blog, you know–worried about a typing injury that might interfere with my ability to perform surgery–but then I felt a certain sense of duty to do what you have come to expect me to do. And to that end, I will do my best to provide you with an insightful (perhaps even inciteful) but ultimately worthless piece of prose that means absolutely nothing. You get what you pay for.

You can probably predict where I am going with this based on the blog’s title and opening paragraph. And if you are a regular reader, then you know that I am a FAN. That is short for fanatic. And I put the TIC in FANATIC.

As with anything in life, any argument has to look at the reality of the situation if it is going to be credible on any level.

So what is the reality of the situation? Dang it! I just broke a nail!

Well, first and foremost, there is nothing to prevent a player from opting out.

A potential injury to a player projected to go high in the draft, could conceivably be a multi-million dollar loss. I strongly considered skipping finals in college–I just didn’t think it was worth risking a brain sprain that might keep me from going on to medical school and costing me a lot of potential income down the road–but reconsidered when I realized that passing those finals and courses was kind of required to get into medical school. It’s way different for athletes. And a lot more money is involved.

Life is not fair.

So those are the facts, ma’am. Read ’em and weep.

Does that mean we can’t discuss this issue further?

Abso-positively-lutely NOT!

This is the freaking Internet! We don’t need silly facts to get in the way of seeking TRUTH!

I did try for maybe a couple minutes, a few clicks here and there, to find some hard data regarding how often a high NFL draft prospect gets injured in a bowl game. Unfortunately, it is not a well studied area of science and most of what I found was anecdotal.

There was an interesting Sports Illustrated article (in the Swimsuit Issue–I spent way too much time looking for data there which is probably a contributing factor to why I have no data to present to you here, but there was one model who dared to eat a donut even though she knew it might keep her from making the big bucks smiling in front of a camera with dental floss for a bikini–she survived and still made money!) Where was I? Maldives? Jamaica. Oh, wrong issue.

Anyway, Jaylon Smith and Jake Butt chime in with their thoughts on players opting out of bowl games to preserve NFL draft status. Both of these players ended up with injuries that adversely affected their draft statuses and their future NFL careers. Opting out was not an “in” thing before this. As the article quotes: “My situation has affected college football forever,” Smith says. “I’m going in the history books.”

Still, even though he lost out on significant money, his rookie season, and risked the longevity of his career with such a serious injury, Smith says he doesn’t regret playing in the Fiesta Bowl. “Being a competitor and a captain of my Notre Dame team, it was important for me to go out the right way,” he says.

The right way. Remember that. I will come back to that later. What about Butt? Here is his response:

Butt knew of Smith’s story, but says he hadn’t considered sitting out from the Orange Bowl until some of his teammates asked him about it after they saw the news that Fournette and McCaffrey would not be playing in their bowl games. Butt figured the reason he’d committed to Michigan in the first place was to play in big, nationally televised games like the Orange Bowl. “I know it sounds a little bit crazy,” he says, “but I would make the same exact choice again. That was one of the biggest games I was going to play in in Michigan my career.”

He would make the same choice again. Very interesting.

College football is unfortunately a business. A very big business. In the Big Ten it is BIG business.

But as a fan who has followed this pastime for many decades–the thrills of victories and the agonies of defeats–I do not like where any of this is heading.

Students who at one time couldn’t even accept a free burger from a coach on a recruiting visit, can now parlay the use of their image into real money. They have always had the opportunity to get scholarships–free rides at schools where that could be worth anywhere from $50-200K.

But it’s no longer about the education. Maybe it never was. But I do recall many of the great Paterno teams being senior laden–many with FIFTH YEAR seniors. You don’t see these kids stick around that long anymore. They don’t even stick around at one school anymore. I remember when you used to have to sit out a year if you transferred. Now, you can use the portal like Captain Kirk travelling around Uranus looking for Klingons. Beam me to a school that will play me, Scotty!

And now, they don’t even have to play their last game.

It’s interesting how this argument would change drastically if you could remove the money factor from the equation.

Seriously. I think you could strongly argue that all these kids would take their free trips to bowl venues and play these games for fame if there were no risk to their fortunes.

But wouldn’t they still risk injury? Adam Taliaferro is a lucky guy. Ryan Shazier likewise. They will never play the game again, for money or not, but they have healed from their severe injuries incurred while PLAYING A GAME.

Football is a rough sport. A quick Google of “which sport has the highest injuries” shows various results. Many of the first page articles claim that basketball has the highest rate of injuries, but there is an NIH article from the Journal of Athletic Training that affirms that football is the highest injury prone collegiate sport. I think we can safely say that for better or worse, football players take a risk of injury every time they walk onto a playing field be it for practice or competition.

Yet, if there was no money involved, I don’t think you would see the number of star players opting out of their bowl games. Think of it like this–if there was a way to insure that any potential future NFL player could be fully compensated for any potential lost revenue even if there was an injury and they were never able to play again–would they play?

The point I’m trying to make here is that these kids aren’t afraid of getting hurt–perhaps never walking again depending on the injury–they are afraid of losing money.

But on the flip side, colleges are just as concerned with the money. Show them the Money!

I found this rather interesting article on the finances of college athletics–which also shows a picture of Penn State and Ohio State playing at the top. The data cited is from the 2018-19 time frame so it is pre-COVID. Private institutions (such as Notre Dame) are not listed because they are not required to divulge their financial data as a public university must do.

Yet these figures tell only part of the story. Most casual observers might be shocked to learn that despite the huge sums of cash seen here, only a handful of schools actually make money through college athletics.

If you didn’t click on the link, Penn State is #6 with a revenue of $164,529,326.

Insane amounts of money. But as a business owner myself, there are also insane amounts of overhead. Facilities, stadiums, advertising, recruiting, coaches salaries, assistants, secretaries and on and on.

When a kid commits to Penn State, Penn State is also committing a lot to that kid. Dotson was given a venue to showcase his talents. Every dollar that Penn State spent on their sports program either directly or indirectly helped Dotson get to the point where he is now.

But Dotson has talent. He could showcase it at any other school.

The schools benefit from the athletes. The athletes benefit from what the schools can provide them with.

It would be rather low class for a school, heading to a bowl game where they will make MONEY to tell one of their players, ‘sorry, Mr. Dotson. We don’t need your services anymore. You won’t be travelling with us, and we won’t be issuing you a diploma. Oh, and by the way, you owe us for the course hours you completed already.’

Can a school even do that? Probably not.

The level of commitment is really one-sided. The University provides. The athletes–and head coaches–take as much advantage as they can, and often move on.

And “the University” is more than just a building and a name. It is alumni. It is fans. As a Pennsylvania citizen, I am personally responsible for one fan’s share of all that money Penn State makes–I buy tickets, I donate, I pay taxes and some of that money goes back to PSU, not to mention parking fees, concessions, and Penn State licensed apparel. I watch the advertisements during their games. I buy some of those products. Some of that goes back to Penn State.

We fans are the reason any of this happens.

If no one goes to games, buys tickets, or watches them on TV, there is no money.

And comically, we fans have the LEAST say in all this business.

Recall earlier I said I would come back to that comment about the right thing to do?

If a player commits to Penn State, and Penn State gives them every opportunity to improve and increase their NFL status, then I think the player owes some commitment back to the school, and by extension the fans and patrons that make all this possible.

I agree with Jaylon Smith. Playing in your final Bowl Game is the right thing to do.

It just might not be the wisest decision if money is what is important to you. I don’t like it, but I do get it.

And that’s the way it is. Players have the option. It is up to them.

So how about that bowl game? Who’s going to win?

ESPN. Penn State–the University–win or lose. And I might even get some entertainment value out of the deal.

But I have no idea who is going to win. I’m not even sure who is playing! The only sure thing is Clifford will play. He’s like death and taxes. And he’ll be a sixth year senior next year!

Come New Year’s Day, I will be rooting for whoever we put on the field in blue and white. Even if we have to put some cheerleaders in on defense! It’s going to be more like a Blue-White scrimmage than a real game, but it is what it is, and I will always be a fan!

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On Second Thought

As I reflect on the nightmare that was the Northwestern game this past Saturday, I realize that perhaps my recap was a bit harsh.  At one point I even said something like, “There are no bowls for that kind of effort, unless you count your own toilet bowl.”  A bit melodramatic.  It’s true . . . I haven’t seen that much sucking since I toured the Hoover Vacuum Factory.

The game of football often comes down to a few inches or a couple of plays (or in some cases a couple of freaking seconds on the clock!)  Even as crappy as we played most of the day, we were only down 8 points before the Hackenberg’s pick six, that was then followed by his fumble.  That was a nine point swing on basically two plays.  You change two plays against Rutgers or UCF and this team is 2-3.  Unfortunately, for whatever reason, we couldn’t make those plays on Saturday.

But the end of the season it is not.  There are a lot of games left to be played, a lot of opponents who have their own issues and struggles, and an exciting group of players who will entertain us later, even if they failed to make us happy in Happy Valley last weekend.

But while it is not the end of the season, it is the end of a perfect season.

Granted, no one expected Penn State to go undefeated.  But be honest.  Didn’t the thought cross your mind?  Didn’t you start to think that this team could just find a way?  Even down 20-6, didn’t you expect Hackenberg to suddenly ignite, do that thing he does with his arm and just start scoring?

Didn’t you start to look ahead . . .oh, the wolverines are struggling . . . we could go into the Ohio State game undefeated.  Don’t you look away from me.  Look me in the eyes and say you didn’t start thinking about it!  Didn’t you want it to happen so badly, that your brain started thinking it could happen?  Didn’t you want to see Penn State crash the final four party in their first post-sanction season?  Can you imagine the look on Emmert’s face when that happened?  Or even some members of our own BOT?

Damn it!  You wanted that to happen!  I know you wanted it.  We all did.  We all wanted to see James Franklin do a Terry Bowden at Auburn impersonation, but actually compete for the mythical national championship instead of a perfect season with an asterisk.

And when it didn’t happen, not only were we disappointed that we didn’t beat Northwestern, but we were disappointed that we didn’t see our dreams come true.  It’s only natural to over react and panic.

And then I wonder . . .

Did the players start thinking it?  Coaches talk a great talk about one game at a time.  James Franklin went out of his way to make that point.  Doth the coach protest too much?  Maybe the kids were trying too hard, instead of playing loose and free.  Lifting the sanctions freed this team in one way, but bound us to how important winning each game is now.  They knew they were 4-0.  They saw tape of Northwestern.  You have to live under a rock and have never heard of Geico not to know about the troubles Brady Hoke is having in Ann Arbor.  Those players knew the score!  Yet, they couldn’t play hard enough to win.

Multiple people have discussed the game with me, and almost everyone asks why our players weren’t playing with the intensity of the Northwestern players?  I can’t answer that, but our team enthusiasm did seem to be muted.  We played tight, uncomfortable and tried too hard.  And how can that be with over 100,000 fans, beautiful weather, and the best atmosphere in college football to play a game?  It’s almost unfathomable.

One player having a bad day?  Maybe he’s catching the flu.  Maybe he had a rough week in classes.  Maybe his girlfriend is giving him crap about something.  Maybe his mom is sick.  Just a usual athletes slump.  Who knows?  But the whole team???  How is that possible?

We all know our offensive line is having troubles, but at what point do these guys get tired of getting pushed around and start pushing back?  Every time your quarterback is hurried, that’s your fault.  Don’t you want to get up the next play and just hammer the enemy back?   Franklin talks about getting off the bus and going after them.  He talks about determination and playing with a chip on their shoulders. The word swagger was thrown out there.

So where was the swagger last Saturday?  What happened to attacking them as soon as they got off the bus?

I don’t know.  But whatever cosmic alignment of forces brought about the complete team failure we saw is unlikely to occur again in this season.  That is not to say they won’t lose more games–there are teams that are playing better with full scholarship complements that are simply going to be better than we are, no matter how well we play.  But I still think that Maryland, Illinois, Indiana, and Temple are still winnable games, as well as the trip to Ann Arbor.

It does seem that every team has their best game against us.  The wolverines were 7-5 in 2005 yet were the only team to beat PSU.  Iowa in 2008 couldn’t beat Pitt, but managed to knock us out of #3 in the nation.  But if those same cosmic forces that aligned against us last week choose to align against the buckeyes or the Spartans, then watch out.

Silly me.  We have no chance of winning those games.  The bandwagon fans are already dusting off their 5-7 and 6-6 predictions they hid away after we started 4-0.  Smug they are, now.

But you know and I know that those little doomsday bastards were thinking undefeated season somewhere deep in their puny little gray matters.  They’ll never admit it.  They never said it.  They staunchly stand by their dismal predictions.  But deep down, they were just as disappointed as the rest of us.  The difference is they will now revel in being so smart at predicting a bad season.  They are football gurus.  We should bow down and lick their shoes clean.

Personally, I’d rather be disappointed with high expectations, than satisfied with lower ones.  And I don’t think I’d like the taste of shoes.

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Weekly Game Guide: Us versus THEM Edition

For those who have followed this blog, THEM refers to the Wolverines.  That “team Up North” was already taken by Woody Hayes, and from a Penn State point of view, Ann Arbor is Up Northwestern.  And there’s already a Northwestern, so that didn’t make any sense.

Hence, THEM.  As in, THE M.  You know–that big block “M” that marches to the fight song that makes 110,000 idiots pump their fists in the air while yelling about concrete heroes and liters of the best.  They are too sexy for their helmets.  Their helmets have wings.  Like a maxipad.  Whatever.

THEM is favored by 2 over the Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium.  Two weeks ago, I thought this was a pretty sure win.  We seemed to be improving each week.  Our defense seemed capable.  THEM was struggling to beat the likes of Akron and UConn.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to that sure thing.  We played one of our worst games top to bottom of the Bill O’Brien era.  Nothing seemed to go right in Bloomingdale.  I racked my brain to come up with a positive and this is the best I could do:  We didn’t have any serious injuries in a TWENTY point loss to a team that had never beaten us in the history of college football.

Now, I’m not so sure how we’ll handle THEM.  But with a few beers and watching Louisville struggle a bit against Rutgers, I’m confident that we are not in Indiana anymore Toto.

I’m not sure where we’re at, but I do know this . . . WE ARE . . . PENN STATE!

In the Big Ten (favorite noted in parentheses with points):

Michigan State (9 pts.) is favored over the Hoosiers.  Was last week a fluke, or is Indiana that capable?  The Spartans may have a better defense than PSU, but MSU is averaging 21.5 points per game against FBS schools (they scored 55 against Youngstown State that I didn’t include because they are FCS and it didn’t help my argument here.)  I’m leaning toward the Hoosiers on this one.  GO INDIANA!

Nebraska (14.5 pts) is favored over the Boilermakers.  GO BIG RED!

Wisconsin (10 pts.) is favored over Northwestern at Camp Randall.  ON WISCONSIN!

The Illini, Iowa, Minnesota, and the Buckeyes are off this week.

In Games from around the country:

Alabama (27 pts) returns to their old Kentucky home.  ROLL TIDE ROLL.

Can Rutgers beat Louisville tonight?  They’re down by 10 heading into the fourth quarter.  Looks like Papa’s in the house tonight.  The Rutgers QB–Nova?  Shouldn’t he be playing for Villanova?  And doesn’t Nova mean “it doesn’t go” in Spanish?  Hopefully the Cardinals don’t speak Spanish.  I hope Rutgers pulls this out.  After watching the Pirates, I’ve seen way too many happy Cardinals recently.

Maryland take son Virginia (no line.) GO TWERPS!

Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain, takes on Mack Brown’s Texans in Dallas.  GO SOONERS!

LSU (7pts.) plays Florida.  GO GATORS!

Temple (0-5) is playing worse than the Steelers (0-4) at least to this point.  They are 21.5 point dogs to Cincinnati on Friday.  I guess the Owls are hoping for a #1 draft pick next year.

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Weekly Game Day: Hoosier Rooting For Edition?

We’re a little late here this week with the game guide edition.  Pirates are in the play-offs–> 1-1 now

Indiana believes in truth in advertising.

with the St. Louis Cards.  Pens opened with a 3-0 win last night.  But the last I checked, the Stillers still suck.

Which reminds me about the game last night . . .Iowa State screwed and Texass walks away with a one point win.  This indisputable video evidence crap is for the birds.  Indisputable by whom?  A knowledgeable football analyst or a brain dead moron?  It was a fumble.  If the damned play in question was so indisputable on video, then how the hell did all the refs get it wrong on the field?  If it looks like a fumble on replay–it’s a fumble.  Let’s just have a panel of five guys review the play simultaneously and without talking to each other.  Each votes whether to let the play stand as called or over-rule it.  Majority wins.  Probably won’t change the game much, but I could have found 5 out of 5 people anywhere that could have told you Penn State scored a touchdown against Nebraska last year.  Indisputable?  More like indefensible.  But I digress.

Sorry about the impromptu rant.  Obamacare has me seeing red right now.  If shutting down the whole damn government will help, then Katie bar the door.  Lock ’em all out.  But I have done digressed again.

So this weekend, the Indiana Hosers, sporting a magnificent 2-2 record, host the Penn State Nittany Lions in Bloomingdales Bloomington.

The Hosers are looking for some hidden vigorish.   (Bob Prince coined the term “hidden vigorish” to hilariously tautologically describe the allegedly mystical force that makes a hitter who has been hitless closer to his next hit every time he makes an out.)  Indiana has NEVER beaten Penn State on the football field, unless you count a cheap shot at Michael Mauti that ended his season.

The Red I’s have pasted Indiana State 73-35, and struck out Bowling Green 42-10.  But when playing teams with a pulse, they lost 41-35 to Navy and 45-28 to Missouri.  They can score points.  They have a bad defense.  Penn State can score points.  And while we might not have the best defense in the country, we’ve been holding our own.

Sometimes winless teams are like a blind squirrel finding an acorn.  But this is not their acorn.  Penn State wins.  At least a couple of scores.  Pirates making me think we are family.  We are invincible.  We are . . .PENN STATE!

In the Big Ten:

Michigan State hosts the Iowa Hawkeyes (1.5 points).  Gotta root for Sparty here.

Nebraska (10.5 points) hosts the Illini.  Easy call here.  GO HUSKERS!

Minnesota travels to the Big OutHouse to take on THEM (21 points.)  GO GOPHERS!

Northwestern hosts the Buckeyes (5.5).  GO WILDCATS!

Wisconsin, and Purdue have a bye.  The bye is favored by three touchdowns over the Boilers.

In other games:

Alabama is a 56 point favorite over Georgia . . . . State.  ROLL TIDE ROLL.

Arizona State is a 5.5 point favorite over the Irish.  GO SUNDEVILS!

Future Big Ten team Maryland is a 15 point underdog to the Seminoles.  GO TERPS!

And the other future Big Ten team, Rutgers, is favored by a touchdown over SMU.  GO BIG R!

UCF is favored by 10 over Memphis.  GO KNIGHTS!

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Can You Hear Me Now?

WARNING:  This is a rant.  If that is not your thing, please scroll down to the next entry, or try another web site.  Perhaps this one that shows every plane that is currently flying.  Or this one which shows a random cat picture and plays a random song.  Or you can find out if your computer is on or off at this site.

The stadium experience has certainly changed over the years.  Of course, what hasn’t changed over the years?  Have these changes been positive?

I like the Jumbo-Tron picture.  That’s a plus.

But how about showing more scores continuously on the scroll bar under each of the upper decks?  Yeah, I know we have to sell some Berks Hot Dogs and the like to pay the bills, but can’t we run a crawl like ESPN and most sports networks do continuously?  You already have us here.  In the seats.  Who cares if we’re interested in how well Sacramento State is doing against Podunk U?  Shows us the scores!

I don’t like the nearly continuous stream of background music that won’t stay in the background.  It’s like we’re living in a movie soundtrack.  Every play, emotion or pause has to be highlighted with a sound clip.  This is not a plus.

Now I fully understand that the University is trying (or maybe not) to cater to the students and the “younger” crowd.  And if you are in that category, I’m sorry that I don’t understand your constant need for external auditory stimulation.  In case you haven’t noticed, and you probably haven’t if it isn’t posted on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Vine, but those of us that are more bald fat wrinkled mature don’t walk around with ear buds in our ears 24/7.

I liked Sweet Caroline. I’m sorry, but BOM BOM BOM I do.  I liked the crowd singing and the guy on the video screen swaying and directing with his arms.  Oh, like you don’t have a guilty pleasure!

I like Zombie Nation.  I like some of the music played to pump up the crowd.

I just don’t need it continuously.  Even when the stadium announcer was talking, the music was trying to overcome his voice.  It’s not that I need to hear him announce that it is third down (when it was really fourth down, although you can’t be sure because YOU CAN’T ACTUALLY HEAR HIM!), because I can see the scoreboard through my early cataracts and I can even see the marker on the sideline.  But why do we have to play music while he’s talking?  Maybe he should just stop.

When you watch a game on TV at home, there isn’t a constant soundtrack.  Do you blare your stereo while watching the game?  If you do, WHY?

This year, the University has been sending me emails to choose a song for the Blue Band to play during the game from a pre-arranged list.  Okay.  That’s nice, I suppose.  For 60 seconds, we have control over what is played.  Woo Hoo!  (Did we even hear a woo hoo! last week after a big play?)  The other 3 and a half hours we are deafened by noise that makes waterboarding seem humane.

No Sweet Caroline!  BOM BOM BOM!

And what is with the new bag policy?  I can’t bring my stadium cushion with the pocket that holds a poncho and my game program into the game?  It has a Penn State logo on it (someone paid for a license the cost of which was passed on to me) and yet Penn State won’t allow it in their stadium?  Because of security?  Give me a break!

Raise your hands . . . who feels more secure at the game knowing that little old ladies have to keep their pills and extra depends in a clear plastic bag?  Like you couldn’t bring a handgun or some C4 explosives in your pocket?  I’m sorry.  It doesn’t make me feel safer, and in fact, it annoys the living shit out of me.  When did I start living in Russia?  If you feel you have to infringe on my rights to be safe, then stay at home and watch it on TV.  I guess I could do that too, but then my rant wouldn’t be much of a rant.  I’d be waving the white flag alongside Rodney Erickson.

The University appears, at a time when stadium attendance across the nation in general is declining, to be trying to turn fans away; to discourage people from coming.  Fancy videos and pleas by O’Brien to fill the stadium aren’t going to bring people to watch Penn State beat EMU 45-7.  There is no fan loyalty anymore because the University threw loyalty out the window like a baby with the bathwater when it adopted the STEP program.

I’m sorry Mr. Fan who has sat on the 50-yard line for half a century at ticket face value.  You now owe us $600.  Per year.  And oh, by the way, you still have to buy the ticket.  What did they think would happen to their fan base when they treated people like that?

Our marketing gurus apparently think loud music and obnoxious stadium policies are more attractive than making the fan happy.

There has been a steady erosion of the stadium experience over the years.  No re-entry after half-time.  Brilliant!  No alcohol at the tailgates during the games.  Brilliant!  No bags!  No silence!  No fun!  No soup for us!

I had five extra tickets this past weekend that I couldn’t GIVE AWAY for free.  Apparently the stadium experience just doesn’t beat an HDTV and the comforts of home, where you can control the sound and take a bag in the house if you want to because this is America dammit!

As an aside, I can’t fathom not being able to give away a ticket.  Had someone called me Sunday morning and said they had an extra ticket to the Steeler game, I would have been there.  (I’m glad I wasn’t after the way they played, but that’s another rant altogether!)  Seriously?  I would go to a game with appendicitis if I had the chance at a free seat.  I have skipped weddings and numerous family functions over the years to be at Penn State games.  I don’t understand how any plans are so set in stone you couldn’t be there.  Okay–if you are on a beach in Hawaii, then I’ll forgive you for declining.  But you wanted to get some yard work done?  You have to visit your niece?  That’s about as transparent as the girl who turns you down for a date Saturday night because she has to wash her hair!

And maybe that is the big problem.  The stadium experience isn’t attractive.  Why wash your hair and get all dolled up for that?

I’m not arguing to worm hole our way back to the seventies with ONLY the band playing and no replay or entertainment whatsoever.  But I think it needs to be done in moderation.  If you want to have alumni/ticket holders vote, let’s ask some real questions . . .

Do we want all this security bullshit?

Do we want to be able to re-enter the stadium at halftime with a hand stamp and ticket stub?

Do we want to have bottled beer at tailgates?

Do we want to bring our own stadium cushions WITH or WITHOUT pockets?

And then, change your policy accordingly.

Until then, I guess we have to just be happy picking a song.  Unless it’s Sweet Caroline.


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The Tragedy of Premature Conclusions

The parallels of Joe’s fall (to be honest though, he was PUSHED) to the Greek tragedies that he often quoted are remarkable.  Every hero in a Greek tragedy has a fatal flaw.  I think for Paterno, it was his loyalty–not only to colleagues like Jerry Sandusky, but to Spanier, Curley and Schultz as well, not to mention his loyalty to the University.  You can blame Paterno all you want for the tragedies that befell those victims, but he was but a cross roads for the passage of information.  If McQueary had never contacted him, his legacy would be intact.  Had Schultz/Spanier/Curley handled the matter differently, his legacy would probably still be intact.  But by putting his faith in those people–believing whatever version of the story that McQueary told him and then having faith that his superiors would handle it properly,  Joe inadvertently sacrificed his legacy.

Dr. JC posted this on the BWI McAndrew Board.  The literary references of Dr. JC (below) are stunning as well.  I thought it was worth reposting here, and with his blessing, here it is.


Sometimes it is painfully difficult to hold onto something that in your soul you believe is true, particularly when that very belief has faced an onslaught by those parties and individuals who control the dialogue: Maybe that is what faith is all about. Penn State students, alumni, and fans who have followed the tragic situation at their university have had to sit tight and endure the anger, incriminations, and vitriol that were the manifestation of the Louis Freeh Report, a presentment that went without challenge or vetting: The fact is, that this it was literally accepted in its entirety on face value. However, in recent months we have had the opportunity to experience new and revealing reports commissioned by the Paterno family. These presentments offered cogent, well constructed, comprehensive counterpoints and challenging findings by individuals with truly impressive credentials. Finally, we have the opportunity to experience the long overdue vetting and rebuttal to what some considered the questionable findings of the Louis Freeh Report. Yet for the most part, these new presentations have been ignored by the media or discredited for a host of what seem ill-considered reasons. It feels as if there is a dedicated unwillingness to countenance the possibility that the Freeh Report was flawed and overstated in its conclusions.

Let us not forget the response to the findings and pronouncements contained in the Louis Freeh Report. The popular hosts of television and radio talk shows, sports commentators, columnists, private citizens, fans, the Penn State Board of Trustees (BOT), and of course the NCAA all reacted almost instantly, ruthlessly castigating in particular the legendary coach Joe Paterno for allegedly being an accomplice in a disgraceful cabal to hide what happened at Penn State. In my opinion, Mr. Freeh presented his findings in a manner filled with hyperbole and overstatement, a theatrical, dramatic style clearly designed to “raise the ire” of the audience. Of course, the media picked up the “drum beat” and opined in a similar style, the airwaves and editorial pages filled with commentaries couched in indignation and outrage. To be incensed with Jerry Sandusky after the trial revealed his guilt is totally understandable and maybe even welcome. But regarding the “Penn State Four”  (Spanier, Schultz, Curley and Paterno), it quickly became apparent that for far too many there was neither the time nor the desire to be patient until a more complete picture could emerge – a picture wherein other sources of factual evidence could be put on the table and considered before reaching conclusions regarding any alleged cover-up. And, regardless of the Paterno presentments, I fear that the particularly loathsome nature of sexual predation and victimization has permitted and justified in the minds of many a sweeping attack upon and sterilization of everything Penn State-related. A predator hurt young children; hysteria and the lack of due process damaged a great university and an iconic figure.

I believe it is incumbent upon us to at least wonder why so many individuals were willing to almost blindly accept one presentment and not at least wonder if there should not have been a public vetting of a document that was filled with such damning conclusions, particularly since the conclusions were based upon a suspect methodology of investigation. To me, that was unconscionable! It should not have been permitted to happen. Were those who based their opinions strictly on the Freeh Report not aware of his investigative record? It is both important and revealing to note the fact that Louis Freeh completed a report for FIFA, the governing body of the International Soccer Association, pertaining to corruption charges against Bin Hamman, a candidate for president. Upon review by the Court of Arbitration of Sport, many of the charges were dismissed as they found the investigative report by Freeh to be incomplete and lacking in the necessary comprehensiveness. Should that not at least be a flag that suggests proceeding with caution before taking his findings at Penn State as irrefutable, rock-solid truths? I would think so.

Apparently in what has been termed a “rush to injustice,” there was neither tolerance nor time for another narrative to develop. Due process and in particular one of the most honored pillars of American jurisprudence – the notion of prosecution and defense, were cast to the wind. It seemed everyone knew who the guilty parties were – so let’s not waste time: Might as well just throw the rope over the limb and have a good old-fashioned media lynching! It would have been helpful if someone had reminded those individuals who were so quick to convict and punish of that famous novel that so dramatically depicted the consequences of callous injustice – The Ox-Bow Incident.

Unfortunately, like many media-generated stories, the Penn State saga has a “media life” wherein other more recent narratives and information no longer pique the interest of the media and general public; the once irresistible sensationalism of Paterno and Penn State has quickly lost consumer interest. In essence, the damage has been done and the thinking of many has been set almost irretrievably in concrete.

As a psychoanalyst, I believe that what we are currently experiencing (as evidenced by the recent Piers Morgan and Matt Lauer interviews) is technically what we call resistance. Particularly, individuals are often rigidly resistant to facing the reality of their actions and misperceptions. Simply – they would rather not know and remain attached to their false notions, delusions, and dysfunctional behavior. When these individuals are confronted, they often become agitated and highly defensive. A perfect example of this was the manner in which Piers Morgan attacked Ziegler and tried to dismiss his information as bogus and ridiculous. Unfortunately, Ziegler’s natural manner is not conducive to having a reasonable conversation with someone as defended as Morgan.

Resistance must be tactfully addressed and removed before an individual can engage in a conversation that might raise their anxiety and promote a degree of self-examination. Few have the capacity of a Bob Costas to entertain the notion that he was premature in his opinions and consequently found the capacity and strength to revise his conclusions. For most of those who publicly denounced Paterno, they must either flee from or discredit the new revelations in order to save face and to sidestep the damage to a great university, its alumni, and a legendary iconic man, which in part they are responsible for. Sadly, it seems to be a characteristic of our still immature and often tabloid-minded society.

I am particularly confused by the actions of the NCAA regarding the draconic sanctions imposed upon Penn State. To me, they seem a little “psychotic;” that is, not in touch with the reality of what transpired at Penn State.  And, it is important to understand that what happened at Penn State has likely happened at other universities and institutions across our country. This is a national problem, not just a Penn State problem.

In my opinion, the NCAA wandered far out of bounds from their designated role; that is, to monitor and assure the fairness of competition and safety of college athletics. And, it is important to keep in mind that the true scope of these sanctions or more to the point – punishments, intentionally or unintentionally has caused substantial distress to the entirety of the Penn State : the reputation of a great university; the alumni of Penn State; the current student body; present and past football teams (wins vacated from 1998 through 2011); and of course the residents and businesses of central Pennsylvania that are reliant upon the revenues generated by football at Beaver Stadium. Of course, it is particularly frustrating, as the justifications for these sanctions have now been challenged with some well-considered opinions that are rather convincing in their dismissal of the assumptions and poorly substantiated conclusions contained in the Freeh Report.

Again, I believe that the NCAA is in the same situation regarding resistance. It would be rather anxiety provoking for them to change their position, as it might suggest that they were at least extreme in their actions regarding PSU, if not downright wrong. Attacking or confronting them simply will strengthen their resistance and resolve to keep the sanctions in effect. However, an empathic non-confrontational strategy that helps reduce their resistance to considering the Paterno presentment might at least provide a stepping-stone to reducing or eliminating the sanctions.

When considering what happened at Penn State, we need to promote a rational perspective. Jim Clemente, a highly recognized expert on child sexual abuse and a former FBI profiler clearly points out in his report that the failure on the part of individuals and institutions to quickly recognize the identity of sexual predators and the scope of their actions is both well documented and unfortunately all too common. Psychologists and sociologists have long elaborated upon how incredibly masterful predators are in covering up or obscuring the reality of their behavior with children – the so-called “grooming” process: familiarity with family members, a high level of regard within the community, and a revered image all work in the service of cleverly concealing that which is actually happening and can cause hesitation within the minds of those who might entertain suspicions. In his report, Jim Clemente uses the expression “nice guy acquaintance” victimizer in referring to the pattern and style of predation that Jerry had mastered. Under an elaborately constructed disguise as a pillar of the community, legendary defensive coach,and the force behind the Second Mile program, he was able to satisfy his sexual needs with children with no suspiciousness by anyone. In essence, he was a masterful and cunning “groomer;” but it was not strictly the children who were groomed for his needs. Over a long period of time, the entire Penn State University – State College community was successfully groomed to cover up his deeds and provide for his special needs.  It is well within reason to at least consider that the situation at Penn State was one in which anyone who may have had some questions regarding Jerry Sandusky’s behavior with children may unfortunately have cavalierly dismissed them as just “Jerry being Jerry.” And of course, his development of and commitment to the Second Mile Program put him high in the regard of the entire State College community.

I believe that we need to communicate to our detractors and doubters how incredibly difficult it was to even contemplate, let alone believe, that someone who maintained such high esteem within the community – an individual who had been the source of accolades and admiration could be guilty of abusing those very children he purported to assist and protect. And, in Jim Clemente’s opinion, that is what happened at Penn State and that is why in fact there was no cabal – no sinister intent to cover-up of Sandusky’s actions. It is just those thoughts – those very misperceptions regarding “acquaintance victimizers” that enable masterful predators like Jerry Sandusky in particular, to go without revelation until the tragedy that has befallen the victims is finally recognized and confronted. Finally, there now is a reasonable, plausible narrative presented by an acknowledged expert in the field of child sexual abuse and victimization that makes sense out of how things went down at Penn State in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. I suggest that it is relatively impossible to use 2011 eyes to see and understand actions in 1998 or 2001. And that was Freeh’s critical fault and the failing of his report; that is, the inability to grasp the true nature of what was happening at Penn State circa 1998-2001.

In my opinion, the Penn State board of trustees should have defended, not defiled Joe Paterno’s reputation until due process or at least further sworn testimony showed that he was a knowing participant in any alleged cover-up: The dedication of his life’s energy as well as much of his personal wealth to Penn State should at least have warranted that consideration. You do not permit a great university, its alumni, and an iconic figure to be trashed on a singular, unchallenged, and suspect piece of so-called evidence. Had the media and the board of trustees waited until the truth came forward, hysteria would have succumbed to the quieting light of due process and honest revelation – and that is the way it should be!

For reasons that are rather apparent, the assault on the legacy of Joe Paterno reminded me of the infamous “Dreyfus Affair.” In 1894, Alfred Dreyfus, a French army artillery officer, was tried and found guilty of treason by a court martial on the basis of false and misleading evidence – evidence that was contrived and corrupted in order to reach a predetermined desired outcome. It was later revealed that testimony on the treasonous actions of Dreyfus was perjured -filled with outrageous insinuations and assumptions. However, thanks in part to the relentless efforts of the fiery writer Emile Zola (J’accuse) and a few dedicated individuals, the truth was finally revealed and the conspiracy against Dreyfus was shown for what it really was – -anti-Semitism and the corruption of due process by entrenched powers. After spending years banished to the infamous Devil’s Island in French Guyana, he was found innocent and his rank restored. But the similarities are disturbing: When initially found guilty, Dreyfus was paraded in front of a jeering public, stripped of his rank and insignia medals, and his sword broken in half. In his disgraced and torn uniform, he was paraded through the crowd and spat upon. Think about it! Joe’s statue being removed, his placards torn down, his record from 1998 through 2011 erased, and his legacy being dragged through the media to be spat upon and his name a source of disgrace. Again, are the parallels not compelling at least and frightening at worst? All this predicated on assumptions and “must have knowns.” J’accuse the American media of a mass hysteria. J’accuse the media of creating a man of mythical proportions, only then to revel in destroying him.

It is rather ironic to note that the NCAA chastised Penn State for permitting the culture of football to dominate and corrupt the affairs of the university. What? Did I hear that correctly? Are they joking? Is the NCAA suffering from delusions? For decades, Penn State has been the absolute model for the student-athlete, with the annual graduation rates for football players consistently amongst the highest in the country – and often the highest. Particularly, the graduation rate for African-American athletes surpasses almost all other institutions. Penn State is noted for producing academic all-Americans at an unprecedented rate; yet; the NCAA warns them about the culture of football – a culture largely created by the NCAA itself, as it has negotiated massive financial contracts with the media for bowl games, play-offs, etc. J’accuse the NCAA of blatant hypocrisy – of pointing an accusatory finger at Penn State when that very finger should be pointed at themselves. And, J’accuse the board of trustees for cowering to bullies by not demanding due process to provide a more reasonable and factual understanding of what really transpired and illuminating any role that JoePa and others might have had in this tragedy. J’accuse the board of trustees of derogation of the responsibility of debunking the attacks regarding the “culture of football” at Penn State and demonstrating with facts what we have accomplished in the last forty years. J’accuse the board of trustees for not properly and openly vetting the Freeh report, before accepting it as fact and justification for their actions. In fact, I now must wonder if the board of trustees had an agenda regarding Joe – maybe even the rare opportunity for a few to act-out some bizarre vendetta regarding Joe Paterno. It surely begs the question: Was the Sandusky situation an ideal time to get some payback and destroy the legacy of Joe Paterno? Maybe not to others, but to me that is the only way I can understand the impulsivity of the board in firing Joe and their refusal to stand behind a man who had done so much for Penn State. There seems to be a play within a play within a play.

In closing, if due process should reveal culpability on the part of Joe Paterno and other members of the administration for the tragedy that occurred at Penn State, I will accept it and slowly, painfully work through it – always remembering that children were hurt. But until that is established, although cantankerous in nature and imperfect as a man, I will continue to embrace the notion of Joe Paterno as a brilliant and dedicated coach, teacher, and philanthropist at a great university. He was steadfastly committed to an idealized notion of what college athletics should be and never veered far from that vision. Unlike the falsified, aggrandized media image that made Joe Paterno a man for all seasons – the reality is that he was but a man made for the football season.

Joseph A. Cattano, Ph.D., PSU 1971

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