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November 17, 2011

Figuring Tragedy and Stupidity

Blaine R. Young

I hate writing columns about sports. I am not one of these people who live and breathe for what the local professional sports teams do on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis.


I love watching my kids play sports, and I enjoy the occasional escape to a sporting event primarily as a way to spend time with family and friends and watch people skilled at what they do. But I don’t get all wrapped up into who wins or loses, as long as everyone gives an honest effort.


There are a couple of things in the sports world that cannot escape my notice over the last couple of weeks. First, of course, is what is going on at Penn State. Needless to say, it is more than troubling on a number of levels. But what first grabs my attention is the reaction of so many which is, essentially, “how could that happen at a place like Penn State?”


Well, it can happen there and the truth, unfortunately, is that it can happen anywhere. No gathering place or large institution is immune from these things, no matter how revered or respected it may be.


And, from what I have been reading, it looks like – at least to some extent – Penn State as an institution brought this on itself. How in the world can someone who was allegedly seen by an employee in the shower with a 10-year-old boy continue, up to last month, to have the keys to the athletic facilities? Including the locker rooms.


How can a 28-year-old graduate assistant (not to mention a football player!) witness such an act, and just walk by and leave the 10-year-old boy as he found him? You don’t need to be the college valedictorian to have figured out that the right thing to do is grab that guy by the throat and pull him out of that shower room, and call 911.


Instead, he ran to Daddy. Why didn’t he call the police immediately? If his testimony is true and accurate, what the hell were these people thinking?


And then once it was taken up the chain of command, through the head football coach to the athletic director and ultimately to a senior vice president of the university, how is it that no one picked up the phone and punch 9-1-1?


Penn State is going to be paying for a very long time and, if the accusations prove true, they should – for their acts of commission and omission in this matter. If something good comes of all this – that everyone is more attuned to and wary of these kinds of situations – then maybe it will be worth it. We will just have to wait and see.


The other thing that I couldn’t help but notice is how a professional sports league with the average salary of $5 million dollars per year (that’s right! I said $5 million) has broken off negotiations on a new contract and decided to take their chances in court. All of this despite the fact that, according to the league, the National Basketball Association was willing to sign a new contract which would have taken its average salary to over $7 million per year. I’ve got to wonder what planet these guys are living on. And at a time with record unemployment, and in a sport where age 30 is old, this decision is almost incomprehensible.


Now, I couldn’t care less if these guys ever play another game and ever again bring down their eight digit annual salaries, but I do feel for the little guys and gals who rely on these games for their modest incomes: the people who sell the beer, take the tickets, wash the towels and otherwise clean up after these guys. Are they going to be added to the list of people knocked off their feet in these current economic times? Not to mention the businesses which have sprung up around these arenas that rely on these games to bring customers through their doors.


As you can see, there are a number of things today that I just can’t quite figure out and I am not sure I ever will.


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