Penn State is dealing with one of the worst scandals in the history of college athletics. They find themselves reeling from the news of the Freeh Report and how the late Joe Paterno knew more involving the Jerry Sandusky scandal. For as terrible as this has been on so many different levels, other universities can learn from the events of the past several months.
We as a nation love college sports. Although sometimes, we idolize those in athletics too much. Penn State and Joe Paterno are now the prime example of what happens when a coach gains power beyond their expected roles. Paterno was the head coach at Penn State for 46 seasons. As time went on, he became powerful. Being the face of a state university brought him a brighter spotlight. His work as a humanitarian made him more than a coach. For those who followed him like a religious leader, he was Penn State. After kicking Graham Spanier and Tim Curley out of his house when they asked him to step down a decade ago, Paterno's power reached a level where there was no going back.
Paternoville, now called "Nittanyville," the statue, his face on the Heister Street mural, and the other symbols of Paterno displayed his presence at the university. After his death when Penn State alumni made the pilgrimage to Happy Valley, like a Catholic did after Pope John Paul II passed away, you saw even amongst a scandal, how people saw him as something other than a human.
Penn State is an example of how a head coach in college athletics can gain uncontrollable power and how an institution can find itself powerless with a figure like Paterno is a lesson for any school in the country.
For example, most people could tell you who the head coach of Duke's basketball team is, but not the President. Penn State's downfall makes you wonder what it's like at a place like Duke, or when Bobby Bowden was coaching at Florida State. How about other up and comers like Nick Saban at Alabama, a football program that defines a state, or even Les Miles at LSU? What do their institution's currently look like?
I might be getting ahead of myself here. But think about it. Athletics define a lot of colleges and their image. How universities conduct themselves with their athletic programs keep them from turning into a Paterno-like regime. The money and the attention are great, and those assets can speak louder than anything else. When you have a situation like the Jerry Sandusky scandal and Paterno advising the higher-ups not go to Sandusky and child services, you should know you are spiraling out of control.
It is a tragedy what happened at Penn State. The victims of Jerry Sandusky whose lives will never be the same, and for the students who attend the university who look to receive a higher education at an institution that is regarded as a "public ivy." For those who only went there for the football and Joe Paterno, I pity you.
Athletics are an add-on for the college experience. It brings excitement and pride for students and an opportunity for student athletes to take their skills to the next level and excel. When a program begins to dictate the day-to-day functions of a university, you have gone too far. Paterno used his power to protect a child molester, just because he didn't want any "bad publicity" for his program.
Sometimes too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Paterno did a lot of good in his time at Penn State, but his ignorance and thinking of only himself lead to his downfall. A half-century of work means nothing now after a 14 year cover-up. Penn State football will most likely see sanctions from the NCAA and every aspect of the university is in shambles.
Take it as a lesson everybody. I, like any other football fan love Saturday's in the fall. But no school should ever let its program reach the level Penn State let Joe Paterno reach. Every major athletic program has done something to exceed their power at some point, but Penn State shows the consequences when a total abuse of power occurs.
We're a month away from camps opening up for college football. Penn State is still planning currently to have a 2012 football season. In reality, it shouldn't happen. If new head coach Bill O'Brien can make an early positive impact on Penn State, he should request that football be shut down for the year.
Currently, the program is tainted and crumbling each and every day. Playing football as normally scheduled won't help fix it. This is a program that still has an image of Joe Paterno, a man who was seen as a saint in a college setting, who turned out to be a bigger sinner. Most people in the country will not be able to watch Penn State football without getting a sick feeling in their stomach in 2012.
You would be playing football around a collapsing university that will keep falling apart piece by piece if you continue to play.
If you call off football for 2012, you have a chance to fix a small portion of the damage done to this university.
After calling off the football season, begin to "De-Paterno" the campus. Take his statue down, remove his name from the library, spiritual center and every trace of his legacy.
It may lighten the blow from the NCAA. For those who feel they won't get the death penalty, the organization will still do something to respond. Public outcry is large. It's the fuel that ignites the NCAA.
No football gives not only the program time to rebuild, but the administration at Penn State needs it too. The state and the NCAA need to oversee both.
Pretty simple thinking too. If you are a student or a student athlete at Penn State, do you want to look selfish, and just play football like nothing happened, or do you look to give back to the victims of Jerry Sandusky and take that season of no football to repair the reputation of your University?
Right now, a lot of people outside of Penn State have a very negative view of the University. To them, there is no order or proper control in Happy Valley. So why go on like nothing happened? Do the right thing Bill O'Brien, unlike your predecessor who didn't.
AJ, Cutch, JMac, Zoltan. There's been a lot to take away from the first half of the Pittsburgh Pirates season. I'll break it down for you in my own words.
HOW MANY GAMES OVER .500?
The answer is 11. This team that many were just hoping at the beginning of the year to be at around the .500 mark, is looking like a contender for the National League Central. Pennant talk is still on hold as we enter the break.
BURNETT, JMAC AND COMPANY
The Pirates starting pitching staff is deeper this season. With the addition of veteran A.J. Burnett, a cast-off from the high-rolling Yankess, Burnett fits in well with the Pirates. Ten straight wins since dropping his first two decisions, Burnett has been a leader for this squad. James McDonald is another. A pitcher that had potential last year, has improved in almost every area of his game. 10 strikeouts on Saturday against the Giants and posting a 9-3 record and an ERA of 2.37. Kevin Correia has shown improvement over his past few starts, Karstens' outing against Houston in his second game back from the DL makes everyone more optimistic. Erik Bedard has struggled as of late. Be thankful the Pirates have a good bullpen. They seem to get a lot of work when Bedard is on the mound.
There's nothing like a little Grilled Cheese late in the game. Jason Grilli, a fan favorite and a guy who will follow you back on Twitter, is posting an ERA of 1.87 this season. Juan Cruz is another good reliever, and we learned that Brad Lincoln is a better reliever than a starter, after he stepped in to replace an injured Jeff Karstens. Joel "The Hammer" Hanrahan gets the job done as a closer, even if it's not pretty, and rarely blows a save opportunity.
CUTCH IS CLUTCH
The baseball world will focus on Andrew McCutchen in Kansas City this week. McCutchen deserves a lot of recognition. The Pirates were depending on him for a majority of the offense early in the year. The game has become simple for him over the past month. Two home runs the day before he takes part in the Home Run Derby just makes it even more amazing. McCutchen leads the majors in batting average (.362) and has 60 RBI's. The chants of "MVP" this week at PNC Park should not fall on deaf ears. He's a candidate, and if he continues on this path, he will be the winner.
This homestand before the All Star Break saw the Zoltan hand gesture reach an all-time high with the popularity with the fans. The players were doing it as a team building thing after having a "Bad Movie Night" with "Dude, Where's My Car?" Now the fans are doing it. But many are still making an "S" and not a "Z." Folks, take the next four days to practice doing the Zoltan correctly. Remember it's left hand on top.
HOW DIFFERENT ARE THEY FROM 2011?
We all came down with Bucco fever last summer. Sadly, it ended as quickly as it begin. But this year is different. The doubters and skeptics are starting to come around, much like the offense as of late. The schedule is in their favor in the second half. If you look at July, you have to be optimistic that this team could be 15 games or more above .500 by August. The pitching is a lot better, including the bullpen, and overall, it is a team with good chemistry, and they're enjoying it. Fans should enjoy it too.
With the Pirates still ten games over .500 and in first place, people are expressing their teams success with the Zoltan, the simple "Let's Go Bucs" chant and a few restaurants, gas station marquees posting "GO BUCS" or "GO PIRATES."
One establishment, which has been in the news as of late for their interesting, and sometimes controversial messages on their sign, is professing their love for the Pirates in a different way.
Domenico's in Cranberry Township's Piazza Plaza on Route 19 showed how much they love the work of second year skipper Clint Hurdle, with a marquee that read "CLINT HURDLE, I WANT TO HAVE YOUR BABIES." A message that could stop Route 19 traffic. It stopped me anyway.
If you have been following the Pittsburgh Pirates all season, you have noticed the hand gesture the players give each other after a big offensive play. When I saw Greg Brown and Steve Blass doing it, draped poorly in bubble-wrap over a month ago, I understood the point they were trying to make, even though Brown and Blass probably didn't.
For those of you who are into bad movies, like myself, we all remember the Ashton Kutcher, Seann William Scott classic "Dude, Where's My Car." The movie had memorable moments of the "Dude" and "Sweet" tattoo monologue that tries to duplicate the "Who's On First" classic of Abbott and Costello, the "and then..." Chinese drive-thru worker and the Continuum Transfunctioner. But the one scene most may forget is the space cult of the Zoltan. The bubble-wrapped jumpsuit loons following their leader Zoltan, played by Hal Sparks, caught the eye of the Pirate players, and has lead us to the hand "Z" everyone is doing at PNC Park now.
Almost 12 years since its release, the movie makes its appearance on Sunday afternoon theater on local television stations, but the Pirates have taken a scene from the comedy and made the Zoltan into a team-building gesture that has spilled over into the fanbase. Many still can't do it properly, (folks, its left hand on top, OK?!), but the signs, the shirts and the stupidity of it to outsiders creates a fun movement in what has been a magical season up until now in Pittsburgh, with the Pirates now ten game above .500 and currently in first place.
It's a good thing the Pirates are playing great baseball this season. If the team fell off and went back to its losing ways back in June, after the start of the "Zoltan movement," many of the people now flocking to games would laugh and say, "Hey, remember when those bums were doing that stupid hand thing? Yeah, the worked out well." They're not saying it this year. Instead, they are the ones making the same gesture in the stands. How long until we see someone come to the game wearing the green tang-top and shorts with a bubble-wrap jumpsuit? Zoltan night anyone? Either way, have fun with it, and may the power of Zoltan be with you and the Pirates for the rest of the season. ZOLTAN!
Update 12:16 a.m.
Greg Mercer teaches you how to do the Zoltan properly in the YouTube video below.