Ray Emmert Stands Up — Who’s With Him?

You’ve all seen the headlines by now.

Joe Paterno’s statue has been moved; to where is a mystery to me. Frankly, I don’t really care. It’s gone. Nothing else to see here.

Not so fast Penn State. You’re going to want to put this leather strap in your mouth. This will not be pleasant.

Let’s flash backwards here: NCAA President Ray Emmert had a stack of papers to read. Court documents. The Freeh report. Letters from fans and non-fans. Angry fans. Pleading fans. Worried colleagues.

The job of the NCAA is to maintain a rule book for collegiate sports both on and off the field. Over the years, the association has grown arms, grabbing collegiate sports in a deadly full-nelson of power. It issues “the only recognized championships”. It decided to use the BCS instead of the bowl games, and more recently added a mini-playoff.

The NCAA also seems to have turned into just another conglomerate, more interested in the making of money than in the good of the game. College football has turned into a multi-billion dollar industry driving television stations and advertisements to the forefront of decisions made by high school athletes, college presidents and fans alike.

Instead of protecting the student-athletes (especially in major market sports like football and men’s basketball), the NCAA seems to protect the interests of big business. It was already getting bad, even to the point of South Park satirizing the practices of the NCAA and referring to the athletes as slaves. Quite honestly, they aren’t far off. Schools and advertisers and television networks make billions of dollars every season. Coaches make upwards of five million dollars a year. Students receive nothing but their scholarship letter. No, getting a free education does NOT balance that out.

Then came Jerry Sandusky. Then came Joe Paterno and the Penn State administration. Then came potentially the most disgusting scandal in American sports history.

There were no rules of the game broken. No recruiting violations. No cheating coaches. No one sold their jerseys.

Instead, ten young boys (and who knows if there were more that couldn’t or didn’t speak up for various reasons) lost their innocence at the hands of a sexual predator. What Sandusky did was awful. He used his stature as a football coach and friend to Paterno and the football program to his advantage.

The NCAA, or more appropriately Ray Emmert, felt the urge to act, despite the fact that it would appear these criminal acts lie outside its realm. Emmert bypassed the infractions committee and claimed that Penn State was running a program with a lack of integrity and ethics. Yeah, that seemed a bit ironic to me as well.

The infractions committee gave Emmert the thumbs up to hasten the process and sanction Penn State for its immoral and criminal acts and he didn’t disappoint. You’ve probably seen the results:

  • Fined $60 million (to be spread over five years)
  • Vacation of wins from 1998 to 2011
  • Four year postseason ban
  • Four year scholarship reduction
  • Five year probation

I’m going to let the experts sort those out for you. Go to ESPN or CBSSports and just let the links fly.

What I want to talk about is the next part. Here’s a quote from Emmert at the press conference today:

 “As the individuals charged with governing college sports, we have a responsibility to act. These events should serve as a call to every single school and athletics department to take an honest look at its campus environment and eradicate the ‘sports are king’ mindset that can so dramatically cloud the judgment of educators.”

This quote embodies what I hope to see as a new trend in college sports. “A call to every single school and athletics department.” There it is. Right there. This was as much a punishment for the disgusting practices of Penn State’s most powerful people as it is a warning to every school out there: “Get your shit together now.”

What’s amazing is the decree signed by both the NCAA and Penn State (which is essentially the equivalent to a lawsuit settlement). Usually the school who committed infractions and the NCAA “negotiate” on penalties. Not here. Penn State had no say in the punishments. They weren’t involved in any of the process. They were just told to sit in the corner while the adults figured out what to do with them.

Makes you wonder if they have more to hide and just want this whole thing to go away as fast as possible.

Penn State made it very clear that they regarded the reputation of Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky and the football program with much higher esteem than the lives of these young boys. They covered up one of the most heinous crimes one can commit because the football team and the wallet of the university was just too important. In my opinion, the way they acted is just as evil, if not far more so, as what Sandusky did. Sandusky is a sick man who needs help. These men are just greedy, disgusting people.

The fans were shocked to see this play out. We were appalled to see that kids would be treated this way. Honestly we’re just as foolish as Paterno and his friends. Major college sports is an industry full of greed, deception and lies. Penn State wasn’t doing anything different, they just got caught.

Hopefully we as the consumer show them that we will not purchase a product made in the sweatshops of universities nationwide. That our children are not pawns. That our morals are not for sale.

Emmert is giving the universities a warning that this sort of behavior will not be tolerated.

America needs to back him up.

 

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Joe Paterno, Penn State Deserve Worse than Admonishment

The highly anticipated Freeh report on Penn State’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky case is finally out, and it’s worse than I thought.

Not only that, but Joe Paterno and his ridiculous arrogance wrote his own letter to friends and players of his program.

I’m just so sick to my stomach to think that Paterno and the Penn State administration could be so cold-hearted, arrogant, greedy and downright evil.

Okay, the report first, and you can read it here. Not only did it confirm what we all thought (in regards to the administration going all “hear no evil, see no evil” on us, but it showed that they literally swept this under the rug back in 1998. They postured that they had no proof of any incident regarding Sandusky and his alleged behavior, and decided not to alert the police of the allegations. They also blatantly hid the incident from the Board of Trustees.

They also made no effort whatsoever to find out who this kid was that Sandusky allegedly molested. This tells me that they knew it was likely true and cared nothing for how it affected the victim, but only the public relations of the school and its football program. But what did they do? They told Sandusky about the allegations. Sandusky, the only man who knew the identity of this victim, then had the power to do anything he could to scare, blackmail, intimidate or who knows what other god-awful thing to this kid.

We all know that Sandusky resigned in 1999, just a year after all of this happened. I always thought maybe they asked him to resign so it would all “go away.” Apparently not. This independent investigation found no connection between the molestation and the resignation.

Disgusting.

Now we also recently found out that Paterno wrote a letter to some of his former players and coaches just a month before his death. In this letter he had the audacity to say that this doesn’t affect the football program. He brings up the fact that the university is “great” already and separate from the football team.

But you know what Joe? If the Dean of Arts and Letters was accused of child molestation that man would have been out of a job faster than you can say “vomit”.

This IS a football issue because you ARE the football coach and Sandusky WAS your employee. His charity WAS based on your football prowess and your team WAS used to bait this kids into dream-like worlds where Sandusky DID ruin their lives.

You, Joe (and likewise your superiors), were in charge of a group of men. Some of those men made terrible choices that put the lives of innocent young boys in serious peril.

Joe, you do not deserve the “Papa Joe” moniker. You don’t deserve the statue on that campus. You don’t deserve to be in the College Football Hall of Fame. You used your football status to ruin the lives of children. You and your superiors used the money football brings into the university as an excuse to hide one of the most heinous crimes one person can do to another, and you did it over and over and over again.

Shame on you. Shame on your superiors. Shame on your employees.

You cannot put a price tag on the innocence of those children, but you did anyway.

So yes, Joe, it IS about football. It IS about how you ran your program.

But more importantly it’s about the lives you let become ruined under your charge.

That goes for you, too, Penn State.

I don’t feel sorry for your alumni. I don’t feel sorry for your football team or fans. I don’t feel sorry for any of you.

I feel sorry for the lives that were ruined by your arrogance and villainy.

My Heavy Chest and the Little Things That Weigh It Down

I’m gonna kind of cheat this whole blogging thing by starting a fairly regular piece (weekly maybe?) of little stuff I want to get off my chest without giving each thing it’s own article. This is obviously a working title, and any suggestions will be much appreciated.

So without further ado, here some shallow thoughts about some heavy things:

Just walk slow, act dumb and look stupid!

Playing Taps to General Worden

Ernest Borgnine died today and it’s sad to think we won’t see that gap-toothed grin or bushy eyebrows anymore. He wasn’t the best or funniest actor. He didn’t do a lot of great movies (was All Dogs Go To Heaven the best?). The Dirty Dozen, however, is one of my all-time favorites.

He was also a doorman in some television show. I don’t remember the show at all, but I remember him in the purple outfit. And those bushy eyebrows.

I really will miss those things.

Dear Vicente Padilla: Go Play Lacrosse

The Boston Red Sox reliever recently told New York Yankee Mark Texeira to go play “a women’s sport” due to Texeira’s apparent aversion to getting hit in the head with a baseball. I also do not like getting hit in the head with a baseball just because the pitcher is a whiny little douchenozzle who didn’t like giving up a home run. These two have a history together and if you want to learn more about it, click the link. It’s kind of funny in a “haha- you guys are kinda childish” sort of way.

It’s comments like these that our society finds acceptable and harmless and that’s just not right. I have the feeling I could list off quite a few women athletes who are far superior to Padilla’s Krispy Kreme-sponsored physical ability. I found his comments to be sexist, inflammatory and completely unnecessary.

So if you want to be a complete asshole, Padilla? Go play lacrosse. You’ll fit in nicely.

Let Them Give Blood

In what is slowly turning into a national need for blood donors, finally politicians are looking into a thirty year old ban on gay men giving blood based on fairy tale-like fears that gay men all had AIDS and therefore could not give blood.

It’s not GRID, people, let’s put on a brave face. There’s a notion that a promiscuous straight man refusing to wear condoms for multiple partners (and I imagine there’s just as many as these men giving blood as gay men wanting to give blood) is somehow safe but a gay man’s blood is automatically tainted. That’s just simply naive and unhealthy. I think we can all big kids here and realize that this is a very antiquated and poorly backed belief.

On a similar note…

I Legally Love Google

Follow the rainbow…

The largest search engine on the net has always tried to be a breath of fresh air, giving us themed homepages with secret hyperlinks and (for some of us) a platform to be social without silly duck-faced kids and privacy issues. Recently, they took huge steps forward in my book. 

“Legalize Love” is Google’s new campaign to better the lives of LGBT workers in the workplace and in the world. They’ve already picked up partners in Citigroup and Ernst & Young, among others, and are focusing their efforts on Europe and Asia. 

I’d like to see them get behind the Democratic Party in the upcoming elections here in the good ol’ US of A and help our nation get back to the path of social equality in which we once took pride.

—————–

I feel like there’s much, much more to say, but I can’t remember. I’ll be back next weekend.

Now back to my wine.

Is America Joining the 20th Century?

There’s exciting news out of California today.

State legislatures have approved the building of the first large scale high-speed railway system in the United States, according to CNN.

My reaction? It’s about ****ing time.

Sometimes Republicans really, truly baffle me. They want to build giant, ugly oil pipes (that I’m not even necessarily against) all over the country, but don’t want to build high speed rails throughout America’s farmland. Are you kidding me? Grow up.

High speed rail works. Flat out. You don’t believe me? Ask Europe.

I never once heard someone come back from a European vacation to say, “Well it was really beautiful, all the old architecture and stuff. But man, those ugly trains…”

It’s just silly.

These things create TONS of jobs. The California project alone is hoping to create 450,000 permanent jobs over the next twenty-five years. That’s from Los Angeles to San Francisco and from L.A. to San Diego. That’s just a small portion of what could be a huge positive to the entire nation.

They allow access to travel destinations to people who can’t afford to fly. Imagine living in Chicago and you want to go see the Bears play the Detroit Lions. The problem? The game is in Detroit and you don’t have 230 dollars for plane tickets. Would you be more likely to go if you could spend about fifty bucks each way on a high speed train that would take roughly an hour to get there? Yes. You would. We all would.

Likewise, they benefit the economy in a multitude of ways. I just listed one. “Frivolous” travel would increase, which means people are vacationing more. If it’s easier for you to hop on a train and head to Miami for a long weekend, don’t think for one second you would pass up the chance to take your talents to South Beach. Jobs increase, which means more people have more money to spend, etc. As tourism and local economies increase, those people are more like to travel and spend and so on and so forth.

And what about the fact that it requires zero gasoline to run these trains? Can you imagine how much this could impact the environment, especially in an area of the country that specializes in smog warnings.

Maybe that’s the nationwide issue? Perhaps the fact that this product reduces our nation’s dependence on oil is affecting the votes of a few certain congressmen on a certain side of the aisle?

Quite frankly, I’ve never heard a convincing argument why high-speed rail couldn’t compete with airlines for national travel other than political motivation. It creates jobs, it’s cheaper for the average consumer, it’s safer and cleaner.

It’s time to catch up to the rest of the world in regards to infrastructure.

A Little Taste of Americana

I hope you all had a safe, not-too-warm (looking at you, midwest) and explosive Fourth of July! I got to see F-16s fly over the beaches of South Carolina. How was your time with little Timmy and his Whipper-Snappers?

Anywho, the beaches were a bit busy, especially considering we were followed around by evil, human-hating jellyfish. Yeah, that many people got stung. It was really annoying, but we made due until it was time for the evening festivities.

The resort we’re at hosted a little neighborhood cookout and fireworks display. Let’s walk through the conglomeration of people from all over the country coming together to pretend that they know and like each other just because we’re all eating the same pulled pork.

Gathering on the lawn.

There were over four hundred people gathered together on a little area of land and pier on the intracoastal waterway for some barbecue and games and good times. It was a lot of fun, especially when there’s a solo singer/musician pretending to be Jimmy Buffet while singing songs by summer music stars Johnny Cash and Joe Jackson and the Talking Heads. You heard me. Poor man’s Jimmy Buffet singing “Ring of Fire” at a July Fourth dinner party.

Classy.

Shuffleboard and bocce ball right next to each other? Yes. Please.

Bocce ball is awesome. One hundred kids trying to play it their own way while one 70 year old woman takes it way too seriously so that good, patient kids and people never get to play is not awesome. I think that was a run-on sentence but I don’t care. That annoyed me.

At least I got to dance with a cute little three year old to that Talking Heads song, instead. Worth it.

Time to start finding your seats.

The sun setting over the mainland as things wound down was pretty nice. A solid, cool breeze blowing the flags and just enough clouds to make you want to photograph the sun marked the end to a nice evening.

Patriotic sunsets make me smile.

Seriously, it was an awesome sunset. And look at those flags lining the pathway! It was seriously like walking down the aisle to marry the sun god. So romantic.

No. This was not the finale.

It was pushing what seemed like midnight when I took this picture. We think they forgot to take matches out to the barge to light the wicks of the fireworks. It really felt like hours because everyone was told to take our seats, the lights were dimmed but literally nothing happened. Nothing. Until…

“Be kind to your web-footed friends…”

Okay, so there wasn’t actually any music piped in or anything, but am I the only one that always hears the same song whenever I watch fireworks? I don’t know the name of it, but the caption of that photo says it all. It’s probably something by Sousa because there’s tons of drums and trumpets.

—————-

Sorry I haven’t been around much lately, it’s been a busy couple of weeks. I hope you all celebrated your dutiful birthday full of beer, barbecue and bombs.

Go America!

It’s the Little Things

In the past week, I’ve experienced 100-plus degree heat.

This guy knows what I’m talking about.

I’ve watched hundreds of animals in the zoos of three different cities.

I’ve swam in pools in three different states and also in one ocean.

I’ve spent the night in hotels that were in the cities of three different SEC universities.

I stood on a beach with a thousand other people where the water was warmer than the sand.

Vacation isn’t even halfway over, and yet I already know my favorite part: the post walk-and-swim nap.

I see you. You’re old. You know what I’m talking about.

The kind of nap that you don’t mean to take.

The kind that you probably wouldn’t even remember taking, if not for the moist brow and sopping throw pillow.

The kind that no matter who is waiting for you when you wake, whether it’s a television set or your family or someone else’s family, you wake up with a smile.

You feel refreshed, regardless of the length. You feel lazy, regardless of the upcoming dinner.

Most of all, you just feel happy. For that one moment, you feel happy with your life and where you are.

Whatever you do next, whether a little toddler is begging to go to the pool or dinner reservations are calling, you’re ready.

Let’s do this.

 

An Average American’s Guide to Getting Into Soccer…errrr…Football

I found myself, for various reasons ranging from boredom to romantic, watching this little Euro Cup 2012 thing they have going on in (pat yourself on the back for finishing this sentence early) Europe. I don’t know why I kept watching. I could have just “followed” it without truly watching all these matches.

What I found out, is that I can actually get into international soccer. Here are some fun (but not necessarily wholesome or emotionally healthy) tips on how you can, too:

1) Root for the “motherland”

Although I’m fifty percent Belgian, I’ve always identified with the smaller Polish line in my family. Why? Maybe I like telling racist jokes about myself? Maybe Dyngus Day is just that damned fun? Who knows. The Poles are not known for their athletic prowess. Aside from a record five championships in the World’s Strongest Man competition from Mariusz Pudzianowski, Poland doesn’t get a lot of recognition in sports. In fact, the Polish athlete with the most gold medals? A race walker. That’s right. Race walker.

Anyhow, the easiest way to garner a rooting interest in international sports is to have some personal pride on the line. I was pumped up for the Poland-Russia match last week. Politically and regionally, that’s a huge match, especially with Poland being one of the two host nations of this year’s cup. And as an American that totally buys in to movies such as Red Dawn and the Olympics, it’s very easy to root against Russia. In fact this is a lovely segue into my next point:

2) Politics

Similar to hundreds of years of the Polish-Russian relationship, it’s easy to use political views for or against other teams. Like Sweden. I’m an atheist that naturally has fairly liberal ideals. Sweden is like my Valhalla, so add the Swedes to a list of teams I rooted for in the cup. (If you also followed the cup so far, you’ll realize I don’t have a very good track record of teams I rooted for making the elimination round)

Likewise, it can be fun to root against teams as easily as it is to root for them. Like England. Now I don’t hate England or the English, but for whatever reason, I like to root against them and pretend like it’s still 1776. I like to yell “Down with King George!” like I’m some revolutionary bad-ass. I’m not. I’m a dork.

3) Underdogs

Like any major sporting event when your favorite team isn’t playing, it’s natural to root for the underdogs. I liked rooting for Croatia because, let’s face it, they’ve had a rough few years recently. I pushed for Ukraine since they were the other host with Poland.

On the other hand, I also vied for the team playing against one of the big boys (Italy, Germany, Spain, etc.). Those guys always win things. Why not give Ireland something besides an American holiday upon which they can hang their little Irish flat caps?

As you can imagine, this category probably has the lowest success rate.

4) Controversy and Aneurysms 

Yesterday, Ukraine got completely jobbed on a ball that seemed to me was a clear goal, but the ref didn’t allow it alleging that the entire ball did not cross the line. I think it was a crap call. It was like the European equivalent to Armando Gallaraga’s botched perfect game call. Americans love their instant replay to go along with their instant coffee and instant porn, and this event was nothing short of controversial and potentially avoidable.

On the other end of the excitement spectrum, I don’t know why I’m such a glutton for self-punishment but I still get all sorts of worked up when I see these flops. If you’re not aware, I think the number one reason Americans don’t get into soccer more is the fact that flopping is rewarded in soccer more than any other major sport. Ease up America, if you follow the NBA, you realize that basketball is swiftly catching up (I’m looking at you, Manu Ginobli).

For whatever reason, we like to watch soccer just so we can complain about the flops and the faking of injuries. I’ll never get over the fact that a little spray can on the sideline is an instant cure to what the player obviously thought was a blown ACL.

Americans like extremes, and soccer proves them without prejudice.

Regardless of your level of affinity towards soccer, take it from a life-long football fan/player that the sport can be fun in certain circumstances. I definitely grew up hating soccer for whatever reason (although watching your football coach stab a soccer ball with a butterfly knife just because it rolled onto our practice field probably pushed me towards a certain side of the argument), but I’m starting to come around.

I’ll probably never get behind the MLS (go Chicago Fire?) and I most definitely never give a rat’s ass about the English Premier league or any of these other, far more prestigious leagues around the world. It’s just not appealing to me.

But throw in the occasional geo-political landscape and I can pretty much become a fan of any sport or activity. This method is so true, that many of us at the bar one Monday night stared at the darts equivalent to the World Cup. You heard me…darts. Why? Because it was USA vs England.

Just like 1776.