STATE COLLEGE, PA - JANUARY 22: Students and those in the community gather around the statue of Joe Paterno, the former Penn State football coach who died earlier in the morning, outside Beaver Stadium on the campus of Penn State on January 22, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania. Paterno, who was 85, died due to complications from lung cancer. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
I've been dancing around adding any thoughts on the whole Joe Paterno - Penn State mess. I'm not entirely sure what I can add to the malaise that isn't already out there. Especially with so much outrage from the same national columnists who deified Paterno just as much as the people of Happy Valley and ridiculous "college athletics should go back to a simpler time when men were men and etc., etc." articles from local columnists.
Plus Dan did a nice job on Friday discussing the big and small picture.
And then there's the fact that I'm a Syracuse blogger. As much as we like to think the Bernie Fine mess is behind us, I think we all know better. We're one revelation away from being right back in the thick of it, sitting here debating whether or not we should remove Jim Boeheim's name from the Carrier Dome court because of what he may have known.
I feel bad for most Penn State fans. The rational majority of them are watching the name of their university and football program get dragged down to depths than not even Miami or Ohio State ever came close to. Rightfully so, but it doesn't make it any easier to take, I'm sure.
We Syracuse fans skated the edge of this situation. We're not out of the woods yet and our details aren't nearly as bad as Penn State's, but every day when there's no shocking revelation or reveal is still a good one.
As for what's actually happened in the past week, I don't necessarily have a through-line for a full post but I do have some disjointed thoughts I wanted to jot down.
This Is Why You Wait Until Someone's Dead Before Building Their Statue
Remember last year when statues became the latest craze on college campuses? It seemed like everyone was falling over themselves to erect statues for anyone who won a couple games. And not just for old-time legends. Tim Tebow, Nick Saban and Cam Newton are all now immortalized on their college campuses forever and ever.
If the Joe Paterno ordeal has reminded us, there's a reason it's a weird thing to make a statue for a guy in his twenties.
I'll get into this a little more in a second but no matter how well you think you know someone, as long as they're alive they've got an opportunity to prove that you don't.
Too many people have compared Joe Paterno to actual dictators in recent days but the comparison is unavoidable in this sense. So many of them were seemingly-fantastic men of the people in their youths only to reveal their ugly truth later in life, long after their nation was dotted with statues and busts.
Should Penn State take down Paterno's statue? Probably. Statues are not just likenesses, they're symbols. They represent not the person but an ideal. The idea of Joe Paterno has changed irrevocably forever. We will never be able to look at his life and not think about how he covered up child abuse. Never.
Thirty years later, the general population only knows Woody Hayes as the guy who punched a kid during a game (and oh by the way also won a lot of them). Imagine how Paterno's life will be summed up thirty years from now.
Where his statue stands, I imagine it should probably become something akin to Syracuse's Lockerbie monument. I'm not comparing the two as apples to apples but the idea is the same. A monument to a tragedy that provides remembrance and, hopefully, inspiration for the future.
You Never Ever Really Know A Person, Especially A Famous Person
So as I mentioned above, Tim Tebow has his own statue at the University of Florida. He is an icon of Christianity and purity and "the right way to play" and all that stuff.
How do you know Tim Tebow isn't a serial killer?
How do you know for sure?
I mean, you were pretty sure Tiger Woods was an amazing role model, until you found out he wasn't.
You used to say O.J. Simpson was a great guy who had it all and was a model citizen. Except that, you know...
And Paterno, I mean, you used to go on and on about how he was an unimpeachable man of integrity and honesty and everything that is right in America. Remember all of that?
So like I said...how do you know Tim Tebow hasn't left a trail of rotting corpses from Gainesville to Denver to East Rutherford and in all the small towns along the way?
Sounds absurd, right? So did the idea of O.J. Simpson murdering two people before 1994. And so did the idea of Joe Paterno knowingly-protecting his football program and a child molester over child abuse victims a year ago.
It's hard enough trying to truly know the people in your immediate life. Trying to truly know someone you've only ever watched on TV is impossible.
Death Penalty? No. Coma Penalty? Yes.
The public has made it's decision and that decision is, "The death penalty punishes innocent people and would not be fair to the current coaches and players, so punish Penn State another way." I get that. And I don't like the idea of a freshman at Penn State getting punished for something a guy he'd never even heard of did years ago.
However, the thing that keeps nagging at me is this... Yes, those Four Horsemen (Paterno, Spanier, Curley, Schultz) are the individuals responsible and those who will be punished, but I do think the culture has to be punished as well.
It's the culture that drove these seemingly-sane and moral men to do this. It's the culture that they protected over everything. It's the culture that they deemed more important than the lives of children.
The culture needs to be punished.
My solution? Penn State announces that they are suspending Nittany Lions football in 2013. No games, no practices, no bowl game. The school asks the NCAA to grant every player on its roster a transfer waiver for that year so that they can play right away at another school, which I bet the NCAA would happily do. The Big Ten and PSU's non-conference opponents (which include Syracuse) will have to do a work-around. So be it.
One season doesn't sound like a lot but the ramifications would be colossal. Some of Penn State's best players would leave rather than waste a year. They'd lose out of millions in football revenue, not to mention brand retention and other things Darren Rovell would love to tell you about. Four and five-star recruits would either stay away or be extremely wary.
However, some of the players would stay. The fanbase would rally around the program. The school and coaches could tout a new era of Penn State football and, in the end, I believe the program would get back on its feet within a decade.
I don't call it the Death Penalty, I call it the Come Penalty.
Sure, the NCAA could do this but I'd much rather Penn State self-inflict the punishment. It would mean more. It would hurt the fans immensely in the short-term. However, I truly think it would help to heal the fans, the school, the community, the program and the culture in the long-term.
You're drawing a line in the sand. This was the Joe Paterno Era, full of favoritism and secrets and shadiness. And this over here is the Post-Paterno Era, free of any of that negative stuff and built on actual, honest integrity.
If I had to guess...this won't happen. Even with all the terrible things that happened, Penn State won't leave all that football money on the table. And I don't think the NCAA will throw down a penalty like this because of slippery slopes and whatnot. There are other viable punishments, many of which have been shared, but I just think this is one case when an extreme stance is worth taking.
If It Were Syracuse, I'd Say The Same. I Think.
"Easy for you to say, it's not your school."
Well, it kinda almost is/was. And if this did happen at Syracuse, I'd want all of this for us as well.
"Well, again, easy for you to say."
You're right, Penn State fan. You're very right.