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Penn State, Bat…

July 26, 2012

Penn State, Batman and Me

25 July 2012

This morning we are all reminded by the scandal at Penn State and by the horrible events in Colorado.  My kids are watching Scooby Doo at the moment while my mind is preoccupied by the world. The question that runs through my mind is the one that can be answered, easily. My question is why as a society, do we focus our attention on the guilty and forget the victims?

Of course, everyone says that we have to remember the victims. That is the opening line of in the running commentary. After this statement, the talking head never mentions them again. In the case of Penn State, ESPN and the other news agencies focus on the punishment and it is universally agreed that it is too harsh. When they focus on the Colorado shooting they mention how crazy this guy is. They broadcast his antics; delve into his life story and remark about how he has changed the course of history. They speculate on his motives, publish his failings and create a larger than life personality for him. This morning, The Drudge Report has 7 links to stories about the shooting. 2 about the shooter, 3 about gun sales, 1 about an unrelated shooting and 1 blaming Hollywood, 1 about a delay of releasing the next Batman comic, and 1 about Christian Bale visiting the victims. Zero stories about the 12 victims, zero stories about how these people survived and how they died. Nothing about how they lived their lives and nothing about how they were making their way in the world. The only person we will ever glorify, is the one person we should strive to forget.

ESPN has 4 Penn State stories with 1 focusing on the victims. However that article is more about the punishment and the NCAA’s official reason is that it will allow Penn State to focus their attention on the victims and not football. The irony is that all anyone cares about is football and how the program will survive. The NCAA allowed its 85 football players to transfer immediately and now every Division 1 football program is attacking with vengeance.  Like sharks to a feeding frenzy, college coaches are swarming over all the players and the high school commitments. How can the current Penn State staff, athletic department and academic administration focus on moving forward when they will barely be able to field a team both this year and in the future?

Both Happy Valley and Aurora share an unfortunate similarity. Both towns suffered high profile, traumatic events and both are struggling to find the meaning for the victims. While good innocent people suffer, those in positions of power will use them to further their individual goals. In the case of the movie shooting, the media will focus on the tragedy and look forward to the trial of the century. From now until the shooter meets his sentence we can all look forward to constant, non-stop coverage of the event. In this coverage, the media will give this worthless individual a national celebrity and make him a hero to other maladjusted individuals.  In the case of Penn State, those who are responsible will find justice but somehow that justice will feel hollow.

Our elected officials will take the opportunity to use the event to preach to the masses about the evils of whatever. Just like Penn State sacrificed those kids on the altar of football, our Politian’s will be sure to sacrifice the victims of the movie on the altar of their favorite cause, themselves. The moral of this story is to make sure to never place yourself in a position to be sacrificed. But this isn’t an Aesop Fable, this is life. I know that I have no authority but my judgment would be the following.

 In the Colorado shootings, I wish the judge would completely close the trial to the media.  I would deny them what they most desperately crave, access. In denying them the access, we would deny the shooter his infamy. As a society, all we need to know is the final verdict. If the Judge were to do that, then we could focus on the victims and what made their lives special.

At Penn State, I am okay with the financial penalties, vacating Coach Paterno’s wins and the NCAA oversight. The current players and coaching staff have not done anything wrong and unfortunately under my punishment, they would suffer as well. I would have shut down the program for 1 year but allowed the team to practice and grant every player an extra year of eligibility. Next year, I would have let the team play but only have away games. No home games for two years would allow the community to truly focus on the victims and how to best honor them. Finally, I would place the Paterno statue in front of the county jail. His statue would remind everyone of his failure to protect those who were sacrificed on the altar of Penn State.

I don’t feel good about anything that happened in Colorado or Penn State. Both are tragic events that leave desolation in their wake. I hope and pray that we can find a way to rise above the events and find true healing and peace.

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