The Spread, Week Three: Perspective

We lost a football game.

Here are some other things that happened in the past week:

The NCAA lifted Penn State’s scholarship sanctions and bowl ban. You might remember that these things were part of a massive package of punishments for covering up (or failing to properly investigate) serial child sexual abuser and former PSU defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Most of the complaints about the harsh sanctions were centered around unfairly punishing people who weren’t Jerry Sandusky (or the people who failed to bring him to justice earlier.) Keep in mind that it is entirely impossible to punish a school without punishing people who had nothing to do with the thing being punished.

Now, former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden thinks Paterno’s vacated wins should be reinstated as well, because after all, it wasn’t JoePa doing unspeakable things to innocent children. This, of course, misses the point of the sanctions altogether, which was to jolt PSU and its community into rethinking the value they place on football over other things (not destroying children, for example.) Oh, and by the way, Bowden wouldn’t mind his wins back too, since you’re already over there.

As if that wasn’t enough, a large amount of Penn State students also would apparently like the Paterno statue back–although its removal was completely an institutional decision. It’s also worth noting that since the sanctions were imposed, PSU has managed to attract two pretty darn good coaches to what was supposed to be a smoldering crater of a football program.

So much for re-evaluating priorities.

Elsewhere, Rutgers decided to remove Ray Rice’s image from its stadium. You might think that this is related to the disgusting video of Rice knocking out his then-girlfriend in an elevator, but Rutgers says it’s just part of a routine weekly update of exhibits that are intended for current NFL players, which Ray Rice currently is not. (One has to wonder if they would add Rice back in should some team be dumb enough to pick him up in the future.)

The most amazing thing about this story is that Rice still had a job to lose after the initial video of the incident surfaced earlier this year–that version only showing the former Ravens RB dragging the unconscious woman out of the elevator. Somehow, that only warranted a two-game suspension. And spare me the defense of Goodell just following the rules, because my problem is with the fact that could ever become “the rules” in the first place.

On a lighter note, Eric Dickerson went ballistic on his alma mater, ranting about the current state of SMU football and longing for the dominant teams of his day, completely ignoring the fact that it was his and his teammates’ actions back then that crippled the program in the first place. Not to mention the fact that if it hadn’t been for the illicit wads of cash, none of those dominant players would have even gone to SMU. Oh, and Dickerson also mentioned that he and other former players decided that if “they” (read: SMU) didn’t want to “do anything” (read: win football games) then they should “kill the program.” Because winning is the only thing that matters, right?

So there’s three examples of the power of football in our society (what, you thought I wasn’t going anywhere with this?) The desire to win can lead people to openly break rules designed to achieve fairness, to set rules that devalue an entire group of human beings that isn’t even represented in the process, and to turn a blind eye to the most subhuman behavior imaginable.

You may think that Mark Emmert is a bumbling fool or that the NCAA is an antiquated, broken institution. You may think that vacating wins is a pointless punishment or that the so-called “Death Penalty” is too harsh of one. But these things are exactly what they were trying to fight with that monumental penalty against PSU. They saw a sports culture that had spiraled out of control and tried to take a stand against it.

But they failed. Lifting Penn State’s sanctions is essentially an admission of defeat. Has anything changed?

We lost a football game.

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