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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Football Fever

Football fever? I don’t have it. Not like many folks here in Southeast Texas where all levels of football are taken very seriously.
When I came to this area forty years back, I was surprised at the intensity of support football enjoyed. Having come from the Fort Worth area, I thought I knew something about football fandom, but SE Texas’ unbridled and enthusiastic support puts the northern metroplex to shame.
Now, I enjoy football, but as a benign observer rather than participant. Years back, I played, but as in most of my sporting endeavors, I never made first team. I was lucky to make the last team, and in fact, a couple times—well, I won’t go there.
In addition to my PN-G Indians, I watch the Cowboys and the Texans, but if I miss a game, I don’t lose any sleep over it.
My athletic shortcomings in no way reflect my enjoyment of the game so when all of the Penn State news exploded across the country, I was as stunned as the majority of readers, whether football fans or not.
I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and suffering of all involved so consequently, it is difficult to judge the appropriate steps to bring closure to all of the affected.
Last Sunday, I read where Paterno’s statue was taken down. I halfway expected demonstrations or sit-ins if the event took place, but fortunately, the removal was peaceful.

 Now, no one can deny the guy built a great well-known that produced hundreds of solid citizens. But then no one can deny that the guy also made an error in judgment many years ago, an error worsened by years of silence.
While to some, it might seem unfair to say as much, but that mistake will always be remembered instead of the 409 wins he racked up. Correction, 298 wins since 112 were vacated. Instead on the winningest football coach in the NCAA, he is now 12th on the list; 5th on the FBS list.
One of the unpleasant facets of life is there are many decent people who have a lifetime of good work destroyed by a careless or thoughtless decision.
Should life be that way? I don’t know. All I can say is each of us has a moral compass that should always point us in the right direction. Most of us at one time or another have experienced difficulty in heeding the direction the needle points, but that’s where faith comes in.
And character.
There is not a person reading this who can honestly say the Penn State/Sandusky cover-up was legitimate. Consequently, as wrenching as the problem is to the Paterno’s family, the victims and their families are given a modicum of satisfaction although the pain will be with them forever.
In addition to vacating wins, Penn State took a four year ban on postseason play, fours of year scholarship reduction, five years probation for football, and a 60 million dollar fine.
Well, at least it wasn’t the death penalty, but it comes as close to it as the actual sanction.
The death penalty was pronounced once in NCAA football history--SMU back in eighties. Sixteen players were paid over $61,000.00 over a period of time, a payout acknowledged and approved by the SMU Board of Governors on which Bill Clements served. Clements if you remember served as Texas Governor from 1979-83 and ’86-‘91.
The fallout from that death penalty led not only to the eventual dissolution of the old Southwest Conference, but the complete destruction of what had once been one of the most storied football programs in the county.
Since then, SMU has lost around seventy-five percent of its games.
SMU deserved the punishment.
They lied to the NCAA about maintaining slush funds to pay players. Bill Clements served as chairman of the SMU board of governors between his terms as Texas Governor. It was during his tenure the payments were approved, so it is obvious the practice was wide spread and well known among the school’s administration.
As horrendous as the Penn State shame might be, I can’t see destroying a program when it was the administration not the players who perpetrated the situation. At SMU, players were involved. I’ve heard nothing of player involvement in the Penn State mess.
I think the NCAA wanted to make a statement to football, but naturally, with what little wisdom the NCAA possesses, it punishes the innocent with the guilty.
Whether you like the fact or not, college football is big business. And it will always be such.
This decision will send financial difficulties surging through the university and community like a tsunami.
I wholeheartedly agree that justice must be done. So do it. Clean house of those involved; prosecute if necessary those who kept quiet so Sandusky could continue to sate his evil lust.
But don’t persecute the players, the university students, the community, or any of the attendant businesses relying on the business of football.
We all have feet of clay. That’s why none of us can walk on water. And that is also why we must always pay attention to that little moral voice in our head. Ignore it that one time too many, and like a building imploding, our life will come tumbling down about our ears.

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