By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Hey, remember the Jerry Sandusky scandal? Yeah, me, too.
Anyhoo, whatcha think a fiasco like that costs a school as far as those annoying pieces of mail you hate getting from your alma mater asking you to help make the school a better place for irresponsible drinking and makeshift petting zoos?
“Overall donations [to the Penn State Athletic Department] fell to $25.5 million from $34.2 million.” Well, that’s understandable. Even the most supportive of alums had to look at Penn State’s handling of Sandusky and be shy to dig in their– “But football-specific giving went way up. Contributions totaled nearly $9.7 million, compared to about $2.1 million the previous year.”
Uh, come again?
So, a fan base that has been criticized for putting football ahead of more important things went and put football ahead of more important things. Those pieces of mail featuring the diversely-chosen smiling students and pastoral and/or architecturally aesthetic campus shots were filled out by fewer people than in the past—which shows the majority of the Penn State alumni probably get it—but those who did get out their checkbooks made sure to do so in conjunction with specifying their money go directly to ground zero of the greatest scourge on college sports maybe ever. That is extremely telling. And disturbing.
I understand wanting the team you root for to be good, even when unfortunate circumstances off the field or court happen. In no way am I calling for a single Nittany Lion football fan to abandon his or her rooting interest. The young men strapping on the pads and Bill O’Brien and his coaching staff did not make Sandusky do horrifying things, did not make Joe Paterno fail to do the right thing, and did not make Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz do the wrong thing. But at a time like this, perhaps that money earmarked specifically for the program that cast the shadow that hid what went on for so long may have been better served going to, I don’t know, actual educational purposes so that more grads walk away as rational people. Maybe Student Affairs or its rape and sexual assault resources? Maybe anything but weight room improvements or new pads for the sled.
It’s highly unlikely such a horrendous situation will ever again occur at Penn State. The place is sort of used goods for potential serial pedophiles and the apologists and conspirators that would hide them in order to save face and money. But even in the Sandusky aftermath the football equivalent of Beliebers hang on, refusing to acknowledge they are the problem and their false idols can do no wrong. What I fear the rest of us normal people are forgetting is that fostering a culture that would allow evil to perpetrate off the field or court isn’t just a Happy Valley thing. It’s swept up in “Roll Tide” and the Cameron Crazies, it’s drowned out by shaking down the echoes, or it’s hinted at by being genuinely upset about a maybe-but-probably offensive mascot not being able to dance at halftime.
And when it happens next time, maybe it won’t be a Sandusky thing or bullying a rape victim until she kills herself thing. But it will be something at some school that makes people do the shock and awe thing and wonder how such a thing could happen. But will any of this lead to acknowledging the biggest factor before the next massive scandal breaks and prevents it from even happening?
“This is not a football issue” is a mantra the PSU zealots like to respond with. University President Rodney Erickson believes “it is simplistic and wrong, therefore, to suggest […] that football is the root of the issue, and furthermore that Penn State’s culture is dominated by it.” What Erickson is implying is wrong. If Sandusky coached water polo this would not have snowballed nor proved something systemic. Wrong, too, are the crazies that have created their own conclusion about all this—particularly the staunch worshipping of Paterno aspect—and will try to bulldoze their way through all logic in order to reach it. They will staunchly worship Paterno without understanding the majority knows they’re insane, and they will look for prophets and evangelists to justify their sad, crazy cause.
Football itself between the whistles is not the root of the issue. The culture connected to it very much is. Erickson rightly spreading blame to police and administration in attempt to show “This is not a football issue” wrongly disconnects those people from the culture, a culture that is very much religious in nature. The religion that is Penn State football—much like football and basketball programs at other major universities, too—created an altar that devoted worshipers knelt before and where they refused to acknowledge anything but the Gospel according to JoePa. Anything else was and still is the work of devils who would tempt them away from the true path of football goodness, even after their god on earth had passed on. Maybe now even more so for the really crazy, I mean, faithful. It’s damn near Westboro-esque in its obtuseness.
So the collection plates at Penn State Church have become a bit emptier as more people start to question what they’re really investing in. That is, except for the plate going around the section filled with football fans who seemingly can’t wait to blindly contribute to the perpetuation of a poisonous culture.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget, but please don’t follow him in real life. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.