Friday, July 13, 2012

On Penn State and the Death Penalty

So the same media that venerated Joe Paterno as a hero and a god for almost 50 years have now decided that he was one of the worst human beings who ever lived. And in the wake of that decision, we now have media types calling on Penn State to shut down its football program. I suppose that this feeding frenzy will go on for a few more weeks -- at least until the talk radio shows move on to the opening of NFL training camps -- and that the Penn State program will survive. But I just couldn't help being annoyed by the ruthlessness of those writers who find it so easy to ask Penn State's players and fans to do without their beloved football program.

The arguments in favor of Penn State shutting down its football program are absurd on their face. Supposedly the success of Penn State football, and its enthusiastic fans, are responsible for the crimes committed by Jerry Sandusky and for the decisions made by Penn State administrators to cover up those crimes. That is ludicrous. The problems that occurred at Penn State are the responsibility of those who caused them -- not the millions of decent, law-abiding Penn State players and fans who were horrified by them.

Any organization can have bad people in positions of power -- but we have a long tradition in America of punishing the guilty, not the innocent. The guilty at Penn State are being punished. Sandusky is in jail. Paterno is dead, but his reputation is in tatters. To the extent other prosecutions are warranted, those prosecutions should take place. At this point shutting down Penn State's football program would cause great harm to lots and lots of innocent people -- and do absolutely no good for any of Sandusky's victims.

It's all very easy for media types who dislike college sports -- and those of us who watch them -- to scream about the "death penalty" for this or that school. It's even easier when the media realizes that they were the primary enablers of Joe Paterno -- that it was their continued insistence on building Paterno into an angel that they could use to bash the rest of college football that made him largely untouchable. But that doesn't make it right. The media should concentrate on doing a better job in the future, and leave the rest of us alone.


  1. Because of what happened I think this decision is a decision to be made by the people of the state of Pennsylvania and if they feel no need to do this then I'm OK with that. If the state government said we're shutting down all Penn State sports for 10 years, I'd be OK with that as well.

    1. I agree with that. Obviously, if the Penn State fans themselves decided they wanted to shut down football, I wouldn't object.

  2. I think though it's a mistake to just talk about football. This was bigger than the football program. This corruption was systematic. If people really want to see this cleaned up correctly, then you'd dump all athletics for 10 years. You'd dump the entire board of trustees, the entire university administration, and you would essentially rebuild the school from scratch. Of course that will never happen, but if you ever need to clean out bureaucratic corruption, which is what we are talking about, then you have to gut everything.