Joe Paterno: Historic Night in Sports

I have to admit, as I sit down to write this post I am wound up. I really can’t focus as much as I would like to on the development of this post just because my mind is racing so fast and 75% of my attention is glued to Steve Levy and Stuart Scott bringing us up to date information on the story.

So with my disclaimer that this contribution to “Don’t Blink” might be a little scattered and the writing subpar (well, when is it not?) I want to add some thoughts to this situation that really jump out to me. Let me say this: I will not write about whether I agree or disagree with the firing of Joe Paterno. I am not comfortable with taking a stance on this. Rather, I would like to speak on some of the many other plots and issues that have emerged from this scandal.

First off, it is hard for me to wrap my mind around the reality that within two days, Penn State’s athletic director, head football coach, and president all lost their jobs. That is a complete cleaning of house. As someone who works in a university athletic department, I can’t even begin to imagine leaving work one night and then coming back the next morning and having to come to grips with the fact that basically the three most visible and prominent people on campus are no longer working for the university. I mean, do you have any idea how much work and transitioning is required when someone in just one of these positions leaves their post under normal, cordial terms? It is a long process that takes an immense amount of time and energy. Try replacing three positions like that on a whim. Totally mind-blowing. I could not imagine the pressure and stress that must be on the interim replacements of these positions. They have to go right in and pick up the broken pieces and basically just get right to work. No transition period. No training seminars. No time to breathe.

I feel ESPN has done a great job covering this scandal. They have reported the facts and have focused on the scandal itself. You have heard very little about the football team and the effect this scandal has had on them. I believe this to be very commendable. However, after I finish discussing ESPN I will get to the football team.  Much of the commentary from ESPN talent has been superb. Matt Millen’s breakdown yesterday was genuine and touching. Kirk Herbstreit came on tonight and gave a great perspective that had me nodding my head throughout the whole conversation. John Barr’s reporting from right in the middle of the student demonstrations took me right into all of the craziness occurring in Happy Valley. Reece Davis and Chris Fowler also provided great commentary.  I liked it how these solid play-by-play people who are very credible were brought in and given the chance to offer their own personal opinion. They did very well. My co-worker said to me that ESPN is reporting on this in the same way that news stations report when we are in the middle of war. What I replied back to him was that this is ESPN’s war. This is their major story. This is to ESPN what Bin Laden’s death was to CNN. For sports fans this really is a “Where were you when Kennedy was shot” type moment and they are reporting on it accordingly.

I feel awful for the victims. There is a place in hell for anyone who touches a child in a sexual way. Again though, I am going to stay away from this sensitive subject. To a much lesser degree than the victims, I feel bad for the Penn State football team. They are 8-1 and in first place in their conference. In two days they play Nebraska. How much must it suck for this monkey wrench to be thrown right at them? No one on the team participated in the hideous actions or the cover up. Yet they will suffer from the fall out. Look, I don’t know how active Joe Paterno actually was in running that football team but his mere presence and iconic status meant a lot to every player. He has now been uprooted, another coach has been thrown in, and their campus has turned into a complete circus.  These are 18-22 year olds. The fact that they have to go through this forty-eight hours before their biggest game of the season thus far is a travesty.

Some of the images and video from tonight will live on for a long time. How about that press conference? I don’t know who was more unlikeable…the Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees or some of those idiot reporters. That presser was a cluster. The Vice Chair was arrogant and short with his answers. While I do recognize that he was being asked questions by people who had no business in that room, he could have gone above their level and conducted himself with class. I am probably guessing that there is some regulation that allows for anyone from the general public the option to attend these press conferences because there is no way that some of the bafoons asking questions tonight had any serious journalism aspirations. I loved Michelle Beadles tweet:  Are these “actual” reporters asking questions?!? Holy cow…feels like a bad SNL skit. Kids were abused folks. Ruined. U sound like fools.” Or what about the video shots of Paterno’s wife coming to the doorstep and waving to the crowd while picking up flowers? Yes, she looked confused but I live for impromptu stuff like that. I tweeted about this but isn’t it funny how longtime married couples start to look like each other? You can’t tell me that Paterno and his wife don’t share a striking resemblance. My favorite image from the night came from when Joe Paterno came out to the doorstep himself. Accompanied by his wife the whole scene was nothing short of awkward. His sentences were choppy and he seemed out of it. I loved it how he explained that when he said “you guys” he was not trying to snub the females at the rally…totally not needed but really, really funny. Also funny when he told the students to go study. I am pretty sure majority of the crowd left immediately at that point to go home and hit the books.
Just a couple more thoughts:
*ESPN made the correct decision in interrupting the Miami-Ohio vs. Temple game for the breaking news story of Joe Paterno’s firing. Like I said earlier, this was ESPN’s war…you break from regularly scheduled programming when something of that magnitude hits. I do wonder if the ESPN stayed with the game coverage in the Miami-Ohio and Temple markets though. By the way, Temple won.
*As is pretty much everyone is predicting, we have not heard the last of this story. It will probably get much worse and there will probably be more people losing jobs and getting charged over this.
*I complimented ESPN’s overall coverage of the scandal but I felt Stuart Scott was too biased (anti-Paterno). Scott of course was pulling anchor duty with Steve Levy the whole night. When you are in the role as anchor, stick with that role. I don’t want to hear your opinion. Even though Fowler and Davis got to deviate from their normal neutral roles, they were brought on to do just that…offer their opinion. Your job was to anchor the coverage and provide balance and neutrality.
*The amount of responsibility and power NCAA football coaches have is absolutely crazy. I don’t have any qualms about the salaries they make. At a university, everything falls on the head football coach. It takes a very special person to hold a football head coaching job. I will devote a whole blog post to this topic in the near future.
Tonight was a sad, yet monumental, night. Seeing a legend fall from grace on live television sure generates conversation and severely backs up Twitter. On Saturday, Penn State will play their first football game without Joe Paterno involved with the team in some way since 1950. Although it will be hard for Paterno supporters, and even Paterno non-supporters, to get used to this, everyone will eventually. The time was going to come. I just wish it would have come under better circumstances. Pray for the victims. Don’t Blink.