Posts Tagged ‘ JoPa ’

WE ARE… PENITENTIARY STATE!

OK, that title was too easy, but I have resisted reacting in a knee-jerk manner to the breaking Penn State scandal.  In full disclosure, I grew up in a Penn State family; my dad is an alum and it was a birthright – no, make that a birth-DUTY – to root for the blue and white on fall Saturdays.  In our home, Sunday may have been the day of worship for that other child-molesting organization (i.e. the Catholic Church); but Saturdays were reserved for JoPa and Linebacker U

A lot has been revealed of the sordid activities allegedly perpetrated by Jerry Sandusky… a Sports Illustrated expose in the Nov 21 edition does an excellent job explaining the key characters, timelines, etc.  I have been fighting like hell to avoid ‘piling on’ but the following cannot be denied:

  • Sandusky is a creep and deserves to spend the rest of his days picking up the soap in the showers at Graterford prison where all of his fellow inmates are certainly attuned to his transgressions and will be more than happy to ‘slide around the showers’ with him like he mastered with 10 year old boys.  His actions are despicable by any measure and the punishment cannot be severe enough.  He is public enemy number one in this story but won’t get much more attention beyond this bullet as it’s obvious that he is at fault and his actions are universally condemned.
  • Mike McQueary just confirmed for me why he sucked so bad as a QB at PSU.  McQueary played QB for the ‘Nits in the mid-90’s and I recall having an otherworldy disgust for his play at that time to the point of questioning my allegiance at all to the ‘Nits.  His decision-making was horrific as was a perceived lack of toughness/guts in crunch time.  Has such an opinion ever been more validated when he stared down the scene of a 60-year-old man sodomizing a young boy in a shower room and decided to do… NOTHING???!!!  Are you kidding me McQueary???  You’re 6’5″, I’m guessing 250 lbs (packing on at least 10-20 lbs since you stopped turtling from LBers rushing who you should have been tough enough to withstand a hit from) and you don’t confront that monster and save the boy???  And then you have the gall to send an email to your ‘boys’ after you go in hiding saying “I did do something – I stopped him from doing it again.”  And, “… you have no idea how it feels to witness something like that… hope that you never do.”  Sorry Mike, I would actually HOPE to walk upon an old dude banging a young boy because I know I WOULD STOP HIM!  It’s not as if you happened upon Mike Tyson on a ‘roid rage… he WAS A 60 YEAR OLD MAN!  Now in fairness, I must allow for the other side of this argument… check out this link from Jane Leavy regarding the “Plight of the Whistleblower” – well done but I obviously don’t agree.
  • The PSU Administration.  Included here are the University President (Graham Spanier) and the others who were in charge of keeping order at the University.  They clearly covered up past instances and they will have their day in court.  The gut feeling here is that this thing is rotten to the core and if these people knew of Sandusky’s transgressions so did NCAA officials.  This is just the start of the avalanche, friends.  Expect many more heads to roll.  (For more on the inconceivable malfeasance of how the investigation has been handled, check out the bullets from this week’s SI story).

Of course missing from the key players was one of my all time favorite octogenarians, Joe Paterno.  It’s still seems unreal to me that the keeper of all things good and wholesome could have known even rumors about his top lieutenant Sandusky and decide to simply say a few words to his superiors???  Perhaps his greatest attribute was Joe’s grandfatherly presence in Happy Valley especially on the recruiting trail when assuring moms and dads across the nation that their kids would play for a premier football program AND would graduate AND would keep their noses out of the sorts of scandals that continually plague other top flight programs (see Florida St “Sneaker Gate“, USC “Bush Gardens“, Ohio St. “Tattoo U.”, etc.).  These pale in comparison to the allegations in Happy Valley… unrivaled except for what’s unraveling at Syracuse (to be continued…).

My initial sympathy for Joe, heightened by the media coverage of a man obviously not able to even comprehend such a travesty at his age (e.g. his offer to retire at the end of the season, “say a prayer for the kids”, etc.) quickly turned into a boiling rage:  How could a man who is easily the most powerful icon in the state of Pennsylvania allow these unfathomable crimes to occur under his watch?  How did he not have the fortitude to sit his friend down and tell him that beyond never coaching again, the authorities are being called because beyond stealing the innocence of the child-victims, etc. – YOU Mr. Sandusky have just destroyed everything we stand for at this university in your actions of cruelty and selfishness.  In those fleeting moments of self-gratification not only did you destroy the lives of the boys you abused but you have also tarnished the reputation of EVERY student that has ever walked through these doors… those recent grads struggling to find jobs and those already out in society who now face public ridicule whenever their alma mater is revealed.  And the future?  Forget about it.  Try fundraising now:  PSU would find it easier soliciting funds for the Sandusky prosecution than they would for facilities, scholarship endowment, etc.

Joe fell victim to the insulation afforded those who rise to meteoric heights where the daily goings-on become secondary to the overall mission.  In his case, securing the all-time NCAA victory record and protecting his teams from outside influences that would prevent that accomplishment.  Stories are now emerging of other cover-ups that pale in comparison to the Sandusky affair but are troublesome nonetheless.  They follow a common theme; players break rules (or possibly laws), PSU administration approaches Paterno, Joe intimidates the officers into letting him handle it internally or else risk his removal from the fundraising process.  Classy Joe…

And here’s my personal beef:  Joe,  you stole my loyalty and a seemingly infinite amount of Saturdays rooting for your ‘wholesome’ principles.  I held off the detractors who said you were too old and the game has passed you by.  I defended the run-run-pass-punt offensive malaise (before you allowed Galen Hall to implement the spread) while allowing the defense to win games because I thought it was a throwback to the days where football was a metaphor for life; that hard work and a conservative mindset would ultimately lead to victory as you kept focus straight ahead at the ultimate prize…  that short-term failures only made you stronger.  Little did I know that this approach included ‘looking the other way’ when things didn’t quite mesh with your goal.  And perhaps if you ignore things long enough that they’ll just go away.   And those boring-ass uniforms… I accepted the brainwashing that they were actually ‘cool’.  They’re not… they suck and now I can admit it.

Lastly, a word on institutional culture and why these crimes were able to continue in the manner they did.  I wrote my master’s thesis on “Organizational Culture and it’s Effect as Business Strategy”.  (Yep… MBA from where else… PSU!).   The basic tenet is that successful organizations either purposely or tacitly craft the culture of their employees/members – everything from control vs. autonomy to office decor to the ‘norms’ of the daily work day – to align with their goals.  Forward-looking companies that have at their core innovation and advancement typically are characterized by autonomy where employees are given vast freedoms to try new approaches and where failure is almost expected in exchange for finding that one ‘eureka’ idea that can launch a business for decades (see Apple Computer).  Compare this to the rules-laiden, risk-averse, conservative/staid surroundings of the financial services – or legal – profession and you get my point.  Universities have a culture that is very insular… an ‘us vs. the world’ mindset where students rally around alums and their sports teams to show that they are ‘better than the rest’.  This can typically be chalked up to youthful exuberance that is outgrown when the students move on to other walks of life.  But those who are left behind (and don’t get me started on ‘tenure’) only naturally fall into the ‘spell’ that such rallying cries become reality… that there really IS something different about ‘us’ compared to those outside the quad.  Layer on top a figurehead that is larger than life (literally in JoPa’s case) and you have the makings of a sub-culture that exists to protect the figurehead… where the figurehead and the University becomes one, making it near impossible to separate one from the other.

This is what happened to PSU and JoPa.  His is the face associated with the acronym… with statues adorned throughout the campus… with fundraising letters ending with his signature.  It comes at no surprise then that his is the reputation that was continually protected and whose words were followed and who ultimately controlled the actions of the school.  So 1% of me actually feels sorry for Joe as he fell under his own spell.  It must be tough receiving nothing but accolades for 5 decades where all transgressions are swept under the rug.  But as for the rest of me… if Joe in fact did know… even JUST what McQueary told him, then I can’t see how anyone can exalt even the great philanthropic work he unquestionably has done.  Because when Joe had a chance to address the eye of the storm, when the most powerful man at the University and maybe the state was faced with the chance to save the innocence of youth, when a mere conversation with police would have started the beginning of the end for Sandusky… what did Joe do???? 

He punted.

Is it a headache or is my hat just too tight?

Man, realizing how hard it is to keep this thing current!  I made the masochistic decision to run for – and ultimately win – a board position for my 8 year-old’s Little League (suffice to say it’s a full-time job with the meetings, emails, planning, etc.).  In an effort to remain current, allow me to cover off on events since my last post.  Enjoy the musings:

  • Steve Jobs postscript:  Of all my previous posts, the last one stirred the pot most.  Had a few who misunderstood my point of questioning the herd mentality of his ‘disciples’ and thought I was bashing the man.  I certainly wasn’t – but do feel a bit vindicated by his biography that paints him as a world-class A-hole (at least early in his career).  I have become a ‘ends don’t justify the means’ sort of guy.  I realize the guy created a better mousetrap but the way you treat people is bigger in my book – regardless of the level of ‘success’ the world determines you have achieved.  But I have to admit that those Toy Story movies are pretty great – long live Pixar!
  • Hank Williams Jr. fired from MNF:  Torn on this one… on one hand I really hated that G*d damn song from the first minute I heard it and couldn’t be happier that it’s now forbidden to be on my TV screen.  On the other hand, he was wrongly fired.  Hear me out (and I did consult a prominent DC attorney who happens to be of the Jewish faith to make sure my position wasn’t unreasonably insensitive)  For those living under a rock, ESPN took umbrage (and a barrage of negative publicity) when Williams mentioned in an interview that ‘Obama and Boehner hanging out was akin to Hitler doing the same with Netanyahu’.   Hanky-boy was summarily pummeled and branded an anti-Semite for bringing up Hitler in his analogy.  I for one don’t see the issue:  It’s not as if he was comparing one of our leaders to “Hitler” but rather that to point out the diametrically opposed ideologies that the two men share.  He easily could have used ‘Jesus and Pontius Pilate’ or ‘Bin Laden and Bush’…would he have gotten the ax if so???  I think not.  I know the Holocaust is an extremely sensitive subject, but still don’t see the issue with the analogy… but psyched I don’t have to hear that stupid a*s song anymore; maybe the folks at ESPN agree with me and just needed a reason to fire that dummy!
  • Herman Cain emerges as a viable Republican nominee:  OK, originally a big fan of the 9-9-9 plan due to its simplicity and seemingly fairness upon first glance.  Is the beauty in its simplicity or impossible that something which makes sense to the masses can actually work???  I missed the debates since Cain has emerged but he must be a realistic candidate because the accusations of sexual harassment are now coming out of the woodwork… which means he’s likely going to be our next President!  Welcome to the spotlight Herm!  (sorry, wrong Herm, but couldn’t resist an image of the original hero of the Miracle in the Meadowlands!).
  • American Horror Story: Generally not a fan of the horror genre – I mean who LIKES being scared???  But this show is fast-moving up the ranks of must-see-TV for yours truly!  The macabre is amazing.  And the fact that the ancient, decrepid maid appears as a hot piece to the main character summons a similar experience in my life:  I’m the only fan who liked the Ray Rhodes era in Eagles football history.
  • Eagles beat the sh*t out of the Cowboys on national TV:  I mean is there anything greater to a true sports fan?  This will be my rallying cry when I run for President — we can all come together in hatred of the putrid Cowboys.  A collective welcome of Tony Romo to the ‘never lived up to the hype’ list.  Move over Reggie Bush, Mike Mamula, JaMarcus Russel, Ryan Leaf, and Mike Williams (first one… don’t know where the second one came from… I’m talking about the dope from USC who had to sit out his senior year before being allowed into the draft… played for the Lions, Cowboys, and maybe Seattle or something now???  I think he’s eyeing a spot with Franklin & Marshall next season).
  • More Hank Williams…:  While on the topic of Hank Williams and his lousy song, can we PLEASE do something about the even MORE annoying Faith Hill rendition of Joan Jett’s “I Hate Myself for Loving You”, lyrically altered to squeeze in Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth???  I don’t get it… Isn’t Miss Hill a multi-Grammy award winning recording artist?  Can’t she write a song herself to be retro-fitted with “Al and Chris in the booth’???  And what about Jett? She wasn’t available to sing her own damn song?  Too many gigs lined up at Wolf Trap to spend the 2 hours re-recording the one song?
  • Peyton Manning out for the year:  Amazing I’m going to write this, but has there ever been a more obvious choice for MVP?  Wouldn’t that be something if Manning won the award without playing a game?  I have never seen a team be more dependant upon one player than the Colts.
  • Scandal in Happy Valley:  Wow, longtime defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky accused of sexually assaulting 10-year-old boys… and JoPa knew about it???  What a horrific end to a pristine program… while I type this, there are certainly more facts to come… none of which are going to be good…
  • NBA Lockout continues….: … and just about nobody cares.  I was supportive of the players in the NFL lockout considering the short shelf-life of the typical NFL player (3.5 years) and the physical damage they endure.  AND the fact that the median salary of $770,000 for those numbers of years means there’s a lot of guys putting their bodies at extreme risk for a relatively small amount of money. Seems like a lot, but see how long $1.3MM lasts when you don’t have much of anything else to fall back on.  (For you math majors, $1.3MM equals $770k x 3.5 x 50% thanks to Uncle Sam!).  The NBA Players are a joke by comparison – the fact they were getting 57% of league revenues is absurd when Spencer Hawes makes over $2MM PER YEAR for an un-Michael-Jordan-like avg. of 8 points per game.  What a joke…

Lastly, a tip of the hat to the Gansevoort Miami.  The wife surprised me with a long weekend in South Beach last week and we had an amazing time, in spite of gale force winds and a bit of tropical storm the last day.  The only issue was an incredibly poor wireless internet connection.  And for someone whose job never stops, this is akin to rusty nail stuck in the bottom of your foot while trying to run a marathon.  The Gansevoort has a very efficient survey process for guests upon check out… a brief survey awaits via email, waiting in your inbox when you return to the ‘real world’.  Being in the marketing industry, I tend to answer these things perhaps more than most.  But this time, I had legitimate reason to inform them of the internet issue — something that would definitely deter my future business.

What happened next was flat-out text-book with respect to CRM communications.  3 or 4 hours following my submission, I received a personal communication from the GM informing me of the steps they are taking to improve their internet service and as a goodwill gesture of thanks for not only my business but for helping them improve, have extended a free upgrade when I book my next visit.  It blows me away why more businesses don’t operate like this; it’s FAR easier to satisfy the customers you have than trying to acquire new, so why not do all in your power (within reason) to keep ’em coming back?!  Kudos to you Gansevoort… I will return, gladly taking that free upgrade, and will continue my perma-grin that appears every time I step foot at the Saturday pool party at Plunge!

And then the next day I’ll be left wondering, “do I have a headache, or is my hat just too tight?”