By Adam Harris-
(CBS) Joe Paterno’s drawn out funeral services this past week opened my eyes to the blind and ignorant support fans have for their college football programs across America.
Penn State fans lined up by the thousands to pay respect to a man that simply coached college football players, and more importantly, students. While I agree that Paterno’s legacy will live on the field, his off the field legacy is tarnished because of his decision to ignore the moral book and only report to his immediate supervisors his knowledge of his one time defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky’s, alleged child-sex scandal.
I have witnessed, listened to, and tried to understand the Penn State faithful, and Joe Paterno supporters, who continue to say that Paterno is unfairly criticized for how he handled this scandal. This belief is wrong, and it leads me to believe that college athletics have a lot more problems than money laundering, bribing players, and illegal recruiting.
The people who continue to ignore Paterno’s major lack of moral judgment are my “exhibit A” in what is wrong in college athletics. These people were brainwashed, either as kids growing up, or when they became fans of their favorite college team later on.
College is thought of as a “pure” idea. Students go there to learn and become adults and have some fun during their journey. The players play for the “love of the game” and the head coaches not only teach them how to win on the field, but also how to win in life.
All this tells me is that a college campus is a perfect hiding spot for scandal and law breaking. The Penn State child-sex abuse scandal wouldn’t last one day on the professional level, but on a college
campus there is blind support for the people who have the power to make successful programs.
In some cities, following a certain college team is like being a part of a cult. These followings can be found in college towns where the university is the reason the town survives. From birth, kids are
raised in these “University Towns” to love their university no matter what. Loyalty to the school is the end-all, be-all.
A cult is defined as: an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers.
That definition describes college athletics in many places, and Penn State is the extreme of this. Joe Paterno followed the correct legal action when dealing with the allegations he heard against Jerry Sandusky, and that was enough for most of the Penn State/Joe Paterno fans out there.
The reason these people feel that Paterno owed no more to those kids than simply alerting his supervisors, is because these fans in Happy Valley are brainwashed. They are brainwashed by the image of “Penn State” and what Joe Paterno did for the school.
“He gave full disclosure to his superiors,” Nike Chairman Phil Knight said at Joe Paterno’s memorial service Thursday. “The matter was in the hands of a world class university, and by a president with an outstanding reputation. Whatever the details in the investigation are, this much is clear to me: if there is a villain in this tragedy, it lies in that investigation, not in Joe Paterno’s response to it.”
After this statement, the twelve thousand on hand applauded in support. The reason for this applause is because these people feel a “cult like” connection to “their” Penn State.
This blind and completely loyal following is seen at many other colleges across the country: Alabama Football, Auburn Football, Kentucky Basketball, Kansas Basketball, Oklahoma Football, and Notre Dame, just to name a few. Some of these fans think loyalty to their school is bigger than the law itself.
The small town image of all these places, where the univeristy is what the state and area relies on, worries me. It creeps me out.
Penn State was an extreme situation that I hope isn’t duplicated in these other places I named, but the way it was covered up, and the way the fans of Penn State reacted lead me to question: where else could lives be in danger? Where else in the country can a scandal this big be hidden for years?
Where else is Penn State?
Adam Harris is the Update Anchor and Executive Producer for The Les Grobstein Show 12am-5am Monday through Friday. You can follow Adam @AHARRIS670