The Undignified Loss of Tradition
Tradition is, at times, an intangible concept that befuddles those on the outside spectrum of sports. Tradition is something “unlike any other,” if you’re watching the Masters. Tradition is the smell of burning charcoal activating the crisp aromas of barbeque on Saturday and Sunday mornings in a parking lot turned football utopia. Tradition is a father and a son and a laced ball. Tradition is family. Tradition is sports.
Which is why on Monday, with the latest blemish on an already tattered Penn State program, tradition was decimated, unequivocally transforming a culture.
Joe Paterno’s statue, which has been a cornerstone of campus since 2001, is gone. The horrific monstrosity that it signified has exited the bottled-necked lens of the public’s eye and hopefully in time, the public’s mind. The ornate bust signified a marriage that began nearly 46 years ago between JoePa and State College and was the subject of wrongful worship. The 409 college football wins is a praiseworthy figure, but the number of lies required to attain it was probably the most daunting.
The NCAA handed down unprecedented sanctions to Penn State on Monday: $60 million dollars; four-year football postseason ban; and a vacation of all wins dating back to 1998, but to what avail? While they may be a small consolation to the sporting world, they are of no significance to the emotional sanctum of society. No amount of zeroes tallied behind a positive integer will ever be a just punishment for the humanitarian crimes committed. In November 2011, Joe wasn’t fired from PSU; he was fired from humanity. Who’s got two thumbs and had no moral compass? This guy.
For a man who supposedly cared more about his athletes off-the-field success than on, and as an esteemed mentor that valued virtuous characteristics such as education, honesty and discipline, the reality is even more jolting. JoePa’s moral fibers were more decrepit than this physical stature. Of course, the image of an elderly man being hoisted in the air to rejoice is blinding. A man can do no wrong after leading a team to a high-profile victory, or to the cusp of a championship. In the eyes of the endless tiers of fans, boosters and other Penn State supporters, even James Holmes’ character is unquestionable next to newly minted gameday W in the lefthand column — at least at Penn State. It’s just the course of sports — heroes win, and beyond that nothing else matters. Paterno was the winningest.
Tradition breeds heroes and heroes have character. A man’s true character is unearthed in desperate, trying times — not after the signing of a top-100 recruit, or a victory over Michigan State. It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate situation for a supposed saint to shine in the wake of his peers, then when he learns of moral bankruptcy in the shape of Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abominations.
No, the winningest coach of all time did not do that. He lied; heroes don’t lie.
Paterno’s lack of empathy for the youth, and for society have finally shone through and for now, the entire nation is obligated to cope with that. Despite football continuing in State College, no amount of undefeated seasons and championships can alter that fate or lessen the blow. Paterno’s lies ring eternal.
Rest assured, better days are coming, but for now they are laced with uncertainty and wrought with disappointment — just like the tradition of Penn State football.
The DD extends condolences to the Paterno family, the families and the victims of Sandusky’s deranged lust and the student-body that will forever be linked to the quintessential collegiate scandal of all time.