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by Greg Higgins/Sports Columnist – eParis Extra!
I’ll be the first to admit that I think the world revolves around sports. From politics to corporations, sports are a huge factor in everything. People live and die because of something that happens in the arena. I like to plan things in accordance with what game is on television at the time. For instance, if my favorite team is playing on a Sunday afternoon in the fall, my family pretty much knows where I’m going to be. Super Bowl Sunday is going to be spent at my parent’s house, along with the BCS Championship game and the Final Four Championship. Sports are a huge part of my life, to say the least.
Now that I’ve said all of that, you should know I think it’s time to change my mind. In a society, where so much emphasis is put on sports and athletics, we have somehow created a monster that thinks winning at all cost is the respectable thing to do. Winning no matter the hurt or pain that is inflicted on someone is considered the right thing to do. Innocence is traded for victories and unlawfulness is traded for prestige. We do not give second thought to those that have been trampled on because we were victorious.
This is what happened at the mighty Penn State University. The place known as “Happy Valley” has been anything but happy since last season. I don’t have to go into all the horrific details of what happened as I’m sure most of you are already aware. It’s unfathomable to me that a program could get so messed up to think that winning football games is more important than the welfare of the lives that were so tragically abused. How can human life be treated with such disregard? How can innocence be so forsaken? Is winning that important? Have we placed football on such a pedestal that we can turn the other cheek as someone is being violated? When did it become okay to sweep a crime under the rug in hopes that recruits wouldn’t be thwarted from coming to our school? When is it enough? I hope the answer to that last question is, “Now”. It doesn’t help the 100 plus boys that Jerry Sandusky has already abused and hurt, but hopefully it will prevent the hundreds more that he could have. The part of this story that is mind blowing (besides what Sandusky did) is that so many people were made aware of what was happening and nobody stood up. Joe Paterno, who many thought of as a great football coach, turned his head as did the athletic director. They were willing to sacrifice the lives and the innocence of those victims so that the football program would keep moving forward. This is the tragedy of what happened at Penn State.
The NCAA came down pretty hard on Penn State Monday morning. They fined the school 60 million dollars, which is roughly the money generated from the football program for one season. The money will be used to establish a fund for sexually abused kids and to help prevent further abuse across the country. The NCAA also reduced the amount of scholarships from 25 to 15 a year for the next four years. During this same period, the school will not be able to participate in any bowl games and they are on probation for five years. Also, the school must vacate all wins from 1998 to 2011 (111 wins). The reason for that is to take the title of “Winningest Coach” away from Paterno. A statue of Paterno was also removed from the front of the stadium.
All of these actions were taken against the school and the football program, but I wonder if it’s enough. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the NCAA stepped in, but is it enough? See, as I stated earlier, society has been programmed with the “win at all cost” mentality. So after the probation period is up and things quiet down from this, what will happen? Has a lesson been learned? Does this cause Bob Stoops to look at his staff more closely and see what’s happening? Does Nick Saban question his assistant coaches now? I wonder if the NCAA shouldn’t have sent a more important message: “Winning football games will never be placed above the value of human life.” Isn’t this the message that should have gone forth? The president of the NCAA alluded to this in his press conference but I wonder if the actions taken reflect it. I’m not sure if cancelling Penn State football or the “death penalty” would have been appropriate but it would have sent the message loud and clear. Obviously the NCAA didn’t think this action was needed. Either way, this sports fanatic thinks maybe it’s time we realize that winning isn’t everything, and the world doesn’t revolve around sports.
Greg Higgins is a sports enthusiast and has been all of his life. He loves playing and watching all kinds of sports. He is actively involved with the Paris Community Theatre, and he also serves on an Advisory Committee for PJC.