Posts Tagged ‘ LaVar Arrington ’

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.

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What the F?

So this past weekend I was immersed in pure euphoria otherwise known as the Philadelphia Phillies and the Philadelphia Eagles… perhaps the only combo better in my book than vanilla milkshakes and sex.  And don’t you know, they both completely sh*t the bed Sunday night.  Now let’s give the Phightin’ Phils a break; the night prior they clinched a playoff berth (first of any MLB team) and rightfully celebrated by chugging goblets of Veuve Clicquot.  And for our beloved Iggles, well, they gave it the ole’ college try vs. a predicted Super Bowl contending Atlanta Falcons but our favorite reclamation project – and key to our season – Michael Vick went down to injury late in the 2nd half where had he stayed upright, the ‘Birds would have certainly beaten the Pigeons.

But the rest of the trip is what has me up typing with one eye on the Rachel Zoe Project.  That would be, in order, the ride back from Philly to DC, my 8 year old’s little League baseball game, and then my TV viewing for the evening.  Interestingly enough this concept started a full week prior watching Monday Night Football.  Now I have a general disdain for NFL commentators as the number of ‘goods’ max out at two:  Al “Do you believe in miracles” Michaels and Troy “is that you LaVar Arrington hiding under my bed” Aikman.  The rest of the bunch are toss-ups between the voice-over guy for the old Monster Truck rallies and Michael Buffer.  But one of the 3 Stooges from the MNF booth, Philly’s own Ron Jaworski, had a minor slip of the tongue.  It’s so damn funny that I can only implore you to view/listen; I’ll wait…

Funny as sh*t, right??? I really can’t stand Jaws; as much of a homer Philly fan that I am, I’m sure you think I would/should love him, but no.  I didn’t even like him when he led the Birds to their first super bowl appearance in 1980 (disclaimer: I turn 40 in about a month.  It’s widely believed that prepubescent boys begin their life of sports fandom – and by extension, a constant barrage of beer ads, truck commercials and cut-aways featuring practically naked cheerleaders… and we like Halloween parties in our middle-age featuring the same elements, why??? – around 8 or 9 years old…  the ’80 Super Bowl hit when I was 9… I was hooked on the Birds!  But bearded wonder Jaws was NOT for me… he looked like a dope.  And then I heard him speak and his ‘dopiness’ was cemented.  One of my favorite phrases is ‘tis better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.’…  Apropos for Jaws.   And it’s not what he says but rather the over-inflection of his voice pattern that’s like nails on a chalkboard for me.  But my position was/is “give the guy a break.”  We’re talking cable TV (ESPN) after 10PM people… if we can’t say sh*t there, where can we???  And the fact that the poor guy had to castigate himself and actually apologize during the broadcast was flat embarrassing (but also very funny!).   Didn’t we learn during that whole wardrobe malfunction thing a few Super Bowls ago that the NFL needs some sort of delay on their broadcasts?

But here’s the rub… one week later during my post Philly sports malaise day, I went the OTHER way with this profanity opinion!  Now I played a collegiate sport and know full well the locker room mentality to the point where the F word is merely an adjective in my daily lexicon (“can you believe that f’ing client still hasn’t paid?”  “Honey, throw a chicken pot pie in the f’ing microwave?”  “Our f’ing neighbor is banging on our door again because we’re too loud?  What the f?!”).

So I’m listening to 2 hours of the Howard Stern show (huge fan… don’t judge me) on my drive back to DC and, not having had much chance to listen since his shift to satellite radio about a decade ago, I was pretty amused by the casual dropping of our favorite 4 letter words.  But I have to tell you, it was EXTREMELY conversational and literally a non-factor in terms of frequency but in terms of effect, A+.  My next profane-laced experience (now that I’m somewhat super-sensitive thanks to Jaws) was my 8 year-old’s little league game!  No, none of the kids were dropping f-bombs, but merely EVERY parent conversation (whispered of course) WAS!  Then, the Coup d’Etat … the Charlie Sheen f’ing roast!  This was extremely funny… but forced if you know what I mean.  While Howard’s use of profanity was pretty casual, this profanity mixed with an occasional respite of the King’s English was, how shall I say, too f’ing much?  I’m no prude, but it made me think…

Every company wants to be ‘edgy’ and ‘push the envelope’ these days when it comes to strategy and stockholder meetings but what do they actually do??? The same old safe creative used for the last 20 years.  Not that this is always a bad thing… if you’re Allstate, the last thing you need is a Snooki driving around Italy touting the responsiveness of her agent.  Or if you’re Charles Schwab utilizing a scene from “Wall Street” touting “greed is good”.  But let’s take a lesson from DirecTV:  Disclaimer, I’m a customer – and they are NOT a client – and I generally hate the choke hold they have on me due to my addiction to the NFL (i.e. the ONLY reason I use their service).  But those Deion Sanders spots are priceless.  And how about the balls they have to brazenly announce the “free NFL ticket”???  It took me all of 2.2 seconds to call and discover that it’s for new customers only and complain why a customer of 10+ years has to pay $350… when I learned that my call was 95% of their total.  But it didn’t matter… I threatened to cancel but never did.  That’s some balls.  Juxtapose to Netflix who thought they had a stranglehold on their customers and forced them to choose between streaming  movies OR DVD delivery and subsequently saw a 30% drop in stock price.  That was foolish.  There are a plethora of other options for movies… namely HBO and their answer to ‘movies on demand’, HBO-GO.

So the lesson here, before you show a set of f’ing b*alls, better make sure your f’ing product/service can’t be replaced!