Friday, February 24, 2012

40 Days of Lent: Day Three

Nittany Lying

The scandal concerning Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky raping a ten year old* (the thought alone boggles the mind) has some personal resonance. I grew up in Pennsylvania where you either loved the Penn State football team or hated them. I did not love them. Fans of Penn State football seemed to exhibit a special obnoxiousness particularly when the team was doing well that made detractors and the apathetic alike wish for their ruination. In my college speech class, the most controversial entry during our "Topical Speech" assignment by far concerned the idea of IUP joining the same league as Penn State so they could play them in football. The pro-incest and "let the starving children in Africa starve" speeches didn't come close to inspiring the arguments and resentment that "let's play Penn State in football" did.

But that was over 20 years ago. IUP never did play Penn State, which is just as well, as they would have been crushed. My dislike for the Penn State program has remained, though I certainly can't find any schadenfreude in the current situation as it rests upon a number of kids being raped.* As I've gotten older, I've lost most of my taste for the grotesque, both fictitious and real. I've stockpiled enough stories of what human beings can and will do to each other. I'm full. I don't want any more. This may account for why I don't like crime novels. In striving for some ultimate crime the authors strain credibility. "Really? The entire town, from the homeless man on the corner to the minister to the chief of police was in on the conspiracy to corrupt orphans and then sell them as food? That doesn't happen."

Or so I thought. Among those who knew of the crimes at Penn State and did nothing include head coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier. Paterno's "punishment" was making Sandusky hand over his locker room key, in essence telling him to take that somewhere else. It was revealed that the judge who set Sandusky's lenient bail had volunteered for his charity organization. On and on it goes. Writing this...strike that...just thinking about this, exhausts and depresses me (as evidenced by the fact that the first draft of this post was written back in November, but I just didn't feel like re-reading it, let alone revising it).

When I was in high school, a teacher once mentioned to me how much he had enjoyed his time as an assistant coach for the football team but he knew that those days were, sadly, over for him. The head coach had been sued by a player's parents for beating up their son above and beyond a coach slapping a player around for doing wrong. My teacher had testified in court against the head coach.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because I saw him do it" was the matter of fact answer.

This teacher was one I never warmed to, and I don't think he liked me, either. But I've always respected him for is ability to recognize right from wrong and to chose the truth over any personal gain or tribal unity. He not only recognized what was right but acted upon it. He was never successful at teaching me how to structure a sentence, but he taught me something I'd like to think I've used more often.



Bob Fingerman said...

Very good piece (and nice sentence structure).

the hanged man said...

Thank you.

I realize what I meant to write was that he "was never successful at teaching me how to diagram a sentence" which I still have no idea how to do.

Erin said...

Actually, this scandal goes all the way to the Governor's office:

"Really? The entire town, from the homeless man on the corner to the minister to the chief of police was in on the conspiracy to corrupt orphans and then sell them as food? That doesn't happen."

I'm a little surprised to see this, because you're from Wilkes-Barre: City of the Corrupt. I think that's why I like mysteries so much--they remind me of home.