Sports

Eric Thomas: Let’s Turn Down The Rhetoric On Penn State

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STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 9: Students and those in the community fill the streets and react after football head coach Joe Paterno was fired during the Penn State Board of Trustees Press Conference, in downtown Penn State, November 9, 2011 in State College, Pennsylvania. (credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

STATE COLLEGE, PA – NOVEMBER 9: Students and those in the community fill the streets and react after football head coach Joe Paterno was fired during the Penn State Board of Trustees Press Conference, in downtown Penn State, November 9, 2011 in State College, Pennsylvania. (credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Mike McQueary, the Jerry Sandusky whistleblower, won’t be in Happy Valley on Saturday. Is it because the university decided his presence was a distraction — or maybe because there are swirling accusations that he was involved in the Penn State cover up? Of course not. The university reports McQueary has recieved multiple threats on his life.

These situations are Miracle Gro for unintellectual hysteria, and it’s growing like the proverbial weeds. The new competition is who can be more outraged. The joiners have picked their sides, polished their battle cries, and engaged in hyperbolic bellowing (IF YOU DISAGREE, THEN YOU ARE AS BAD AS SANDUSKY!!!!!!) designed to do nothing but attract more attention to the person who is shrieking.

Even poor Ashton Kutcher was publicly flogged because he had something better to do than ensconce himself in the 24 hour coverage. Did that seem a little drastic to anyone but me?

We will start with the Penn State students who rioted after Paterno’s ouster. Their rallying cry was that “Paterno didn’t do anything illegal!” You don’t know that for sure. I wrote yesterday warning against certitudes, and trust me that goes both ways. The latest is Paterno sought legal counsel from a criminal attorney, according to NBC news.  Paterno knows, more than anyone else, the extent to which he was involved, and based on that information he sought counsel. Granted, he didn’t actually retain the attorney, but it doesn’t seem like firm ground to turn over a van.

Buzz Bissinger, famous for writing the book “Friday Night Lights,” wrote a column that was probably the most overwrought I have ever read on any subject. First he made the journalistic decision (one I do not have a problem with at all) to employ the most coarse language available when describing Sandusky’s crimes. But then he wraps himself in a cape, congratulating himself as a paragon of truth because he elected to use four letter words to describe Sandusky’s trespasses.

Then Bissinger makes a leap into the total absurd, comparing college sports to a mafia omerta, except “even the mafia had higher moral standards.” Since writing this, he has gotten in front of every camera he can saying that college sports should be banned altogether and turned into minor league teams. Yes, never mind that there are over 5,700 universities and colleges in the United states and Jerry Sandusky was a coach at of ONE of them.

There are 14 million college students in America, and lets punish all of them because of the actions of maybe 5 people. This is part of the problem when arguments become this histrionic, some critics say that we shouldn’t like sports anymore because of the scandal. 

Some demonstrations are smaller. Amazon’s page for Jerry Sandusky’s book is entertaining. Jon Stewart’s segment on the Daily Show didn’t really go anywhere, and seemed to target general football fans. The Senate has withdrawn its nomination for the Medal of Freedom (why was he offered it in the first place?) for Paterno.

Let’s call this what it is. The Penn State story has offered a lot of people the opportunity to call attention to themselves. When a crime is this heinous, it gives pundits an opportunity to unleash a bloodthirsty diatribe, where some will applaud them if their rants are especially violent. When the angry mob is formed, the most loud and violent gets to lead it, and we have had dozens of candidates in the past week raising their hands.

It doesn’t seem to matter to anyone that Sandusky is already in jail, and two other Penn State “higher-ups” have already been indicted. The Ochlocracy demands more. How long until we start tossing random members of the Penn State coaching staff into the river, just to see if they float?

I have not been immune to this, as I was so caught up in the coverage last night I forgot there was an actual football game I could have been watching. Phillip Rivers forgot, too. Perhaps it is time to turn down the rhetoric and relax a bit. Remember, this is just one school and its one coach.

It does not mean football is evil now, nor does it mean college sports is full of pedophiles. This is a isolated incident involving one despicable piece of garbage, and he is in jail. People have been screaming they wanted the authorities involved. They are involved now, so let them work. We get get this mob back together when they tell us what they found.

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