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yolland 11-13-2011 01:19 PM

^^ I found this one of the better op-eds I've seen (from a PSU alumnus and journalist) attempting to explain "the cult of Penn State" as she puts it.

Los Angeles Times, Nov. 13

I grew up in central Pennsylvania, steeped in the myth of Penn State football. I was 4 when I learned the alma mater. By the time I was 10, I knew every player's number and name. Every Saturday that there was a home game, we'd drive an hour from our tiny town "over the mountain," as my father called it, and sit high in the stands, in rain, snow or autumn sunshine. We'd do this cheer: "We are! Penn State!" The stadium would thunder. My parents had not even gone to college, but they'd yell it until their throats ached. Often, my mother would bring along her rosary beads.

"Worship" is not a strong enough word for the way we felt about Joe Paterno. Our regard for him was unquestioning. For one thing, he was Italian, like my mother. But the main thing, in our eyes, was that he was "classy." That was the word my parents used, always. The coach never bragged. He never gloated. He didn't put up with undignified antics. He made sure his players got a good education, like his, and were set for a life beyond football. This was no small thing. That part of the country was, even then, nobody's job magnet, and as the years passed, the university only became more dominant as an economic engine. Penn State was the way to success, and, we felt, there was no greater success than to end up like Paterno—good family, good work ethic, accomplishment in something of value. And Penn State football was very much "of value." It could lift a young man up and out from a place like ours to a finer life and destination, and turn him into the kind of person we each wanted to be.

So I went to Penn State when I graduated from my small, rural high school. My parents were overjoyed. When I brought home a football player my freshman year, they were so thrilled that they took him on vacation with us. He was a second stringer who knew he'd never play professional sports, but he nonetheless felt that Paterno had changed his life forever. My parents treated him with a deference that didn't surprise me. That was how it was—the Nittany Lions were royalty.

Then, the year I turned 20, I started asking questions. One night, my roommate—a wisecracking scholarship kid from Philadelphia—asked me why the "white people around here" were so hung up on some game played by "no-neck blockheads." I tried to explain about Paterno and class and character in sports and what it all meant. She just rolled her eyes. I tried to shake off the conversation, but her words vexed me. Who did she think she was, anyway? This was an institution. How dare she disrespect it? There were good guys and bad guys. A right way and a wrong way. And if you could question the rightness of this one excellent thing we had all believed in forever, what else might you question? Where else might true colors shade to gray?

But the seed had been planted. Suddenly I couldn't stop noticing my own deference to athletes—the way I'd overlook the superior attitude they took around my male friends who weren't athletic, the way they got dibs on the easy classes while the rest of us pulled all-nighters and never complained. The way I'd listen, rapt, to their sports homilies, like a geisha. I began to distance myself from football. I started hanging around with pre-med students, pot smokers, Young Republicans, kids who majored in economics, kids of other ethnicities, foreign kids. It dawned on me that Penn State had whole other facets, that maybe I had been missing out on what it really meant to be part of a university. One day, a new friend—an artistic kid whose parents lived, of all places, in California—casually questioned the community's reverence for sports, and something snapped in me. I told my parents I wouldn't be needing my season tickets. We got into a blistering argument, and I think I said something about no longer believing in "the cult of football." I remember feeling, as I spoke up, that this was an act of betrayal, not to football, exactly, but to a worldview that was dear to people who had lifted me up to a possibility of a finer life and finer destinations. For years afterward, I couldn't hear the voice of a sports announcer without feeling that I had rejected something I could never get back, that I had gone over the mountain and returned, classless, to despise my loved ones' ideals.

More than three decades have passed since I left Pennsylvania. I live, of all places, in California now. I have tried, this week, to explain to friends here how good people could be so blinded by loyalty that unspeakable acts might transpire, right before them, and still feel unable to ask the obvious questions. I've tried to explain my own mixed feelings to myself. Yes, I have told them, Paterno really was a great coach. Yes, he really did force kids to study for hours every night in the library, where he and his assistants could track them down. Yes, he really did change the lives of his players. And yes, as the decades passed, the belief in the essential superiority of the man and his program really did grow to the point that it ceased to be a good thing, to the point that maybe even he was afraid to wonder about it, lest the gray areas take on a life of their own.

Back home, my friends and relatives are heartsick. Those poor children, they say. That poor old Italian man, so frail now in his doorway, so seemingly betrayed by the sick underling that everyone suddenly seems to have forgotten. How could this have happened? Did they not know good guys from bad guys? What became of that excellent thing we had all believed in forever?

So many questions. It's hard to ask questions. But that's what happens when something forces you to see clearly. You open your eyes, and there you are—over the mountain, where nothing will ever look the same.

LJT 11-13-2011 05:56 PM

Thanks Yolland that does help to put it into a bit more context. It's amazing how much faith we can place in something so arbitrary. Just a wonder but are their other universities in the US which have Paterno like figures? Is the emphasis on sports only present in some universities or is it something common across them all?

yolland 11-13-2011 10:42 PM

I'm not a huge college sports aficionado nor have I ever lived in PA, so I'm not the best person to ask. I guess I'd say in some ways what she describes is definitely representative of "the college experience" at a significant minority of major US universities, while in other ways PSU is probably pretty unique. I don't think there's anyone else in college sports quite like Paterno, both because of his unprecedentedly long tenure as PSU's coach (46 years, plus 16 years as assistant coach prior) and because of the central role he played in PSU's transformation from a sleepy agricultural school to a highly-regarded major university (football success = big $$$ from rich alums and other donors, plus Paterno himself donated large sums of money to PSU over the decades, including for academic facilities). I'd also be hard-pressed to name many other colleges where the football program "made" the school *to the degree* it has PSU ("made" meaning that without it, it'd probably today be "just" a decent liberal arts college, but nothing locally, let alone nationally, highly regarded, or imparting any special cachet to its graduates)...Notre Dame perhaps?, and probably a few others. Nevertheless, there are, I dunno, maybe a couple dozen current and/or recent "football powerhouse" schools--usually, but not always, large public colleges--whose teams enjoy an exceptionally large and fanatical following regionally and (through alumni) nationally, as well as the benefits to the university associated with that--a nice fat endowment, and an aura of success and "community" ("We are Penn State!") that makes them especially attractive to many prospective college students. And even schools whose football programs have historically been quite mediocre--which usually makes them money-losers for the school--often feel they have to keep investing a lot in maintaining a competitive football program anyway, because rich alumni/donors basically demand it.

I don't know how many US colleges have football teams--a few hundred through to, maximum, several hundred maybe?, if you count up all the divisions--whereas we have roughly 4500 colleges total. So "the emphasis on sports," including football, is definitely not "common across them all." That said, the fact that US colleges vary hugely in size (enrollment) and type makes it difficult to be precise about how representative "the emphasis on sports" is--for example, 40% of our college students are enrolled in community colleges, which are mostly 2-year schools emphasizing vocational education and rarely have any sports programs; while meanwhile 4-year colleges (55% of our college students) run the gamut from tiny private schools with no more than a few hundred students to behemoth public campuses with more than 50,000.

Also keep in mind that college football is the feeder system for pro football here; there's no NFL minor league, and little reason for them to bother investing in one when colleges are willing for their own reasons to do the job for them.

BonosSaint 11-13-2011 11:17 PM

Paterno's iconic status goes well beyond Penn State campus--among people who've never attended Penn State, perhaps never even visited it. Certainly, it was the football. But it was more than that. It was St. Joe, the character builder. the man who would bench a star player if he was caught at an underage drinking party etc. It was the "clean" program. That was the image cultivated--now whether it was true up to Sandusky, I don't know. My family was die-hard Penn State (no one went there), die-hard Paterno, but I didn't have any interest in college football so knew the myth, but never did any fact checking. I think there is a sense of mourning for what people are just starting to come to terms with--a cracking illusion--an illusion I'm sure will be splintering even more over the next few weeks.

Over the entire week, the ONLY (no exaggeration) topic on local talk radio was Penn State/Paterno.

yolland 11-14-2011 02:38 AM

^ Yeah, the mythology surrounding Paterno (and by extension the school) does seem to me fairly unique; the way "We're famously great at football" becomes "We're famously great at football in a way that shows we're made of better stuff than everyone else." To be fair, there are numerous schools where football means something decidely more than just sport, and numerous colleges where a sense of being The Elect runs especially deep, including for non-athletic reasons.

It really is striking to me how reminiscent this case is of the 'pedophile priests' on many points...there were several cases of parishioners rallying en masse around priests who'd covered up for pedophiles, or even been convicted of molesting children themselves, and stridently defending them against "the media"; I also remember reading about a case where a priest subpoenaed as a witness admitted to having at one point walked in on the accused priest molesting a child--and backed quietly out and said nothing. More obviously of course, prioritizing defending the institution's reputation above children's welfare. Closed-off, rigidly hierarchical all-male groups surrounded by communities who take their authority and iconic status for granted (and often claim to find some kind of transcendence in doing so, perversely enough...then again we all do this to some degree) really do seem to be the most opportune environment for the worst forms of rot to set in and fester. And pedophiles are often 'charming,' accomplished individuals who seem 'especially devoted to helping children,' :slant: so might be if anything particularly easy to practice denial towards, despite perpetrating quite literally the most despised acts in our culture.

I was glad to read that a PA state representative plans to introduce a bill revising PA's child abuse reporting laws. Here in IN (and 17 other states), any adult with reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or neglect is legally obligated to personally ensure it gets reported to either the police or our child protection services. This should be the standard everywhere, IMO; while in practice it'll never be fully enforced, at least you're not handing people excuses to (pardon the metaphor) pass or punt on what they might be afraid to confront.

BonosSaint 11-14-2011 05:14 AM

Very reminiscent of the pedophile priests. I think the one image I carry from all this is McQueary being passed by Sandusky and the child and being seen by them. Here is a child knowing here is another adult who is not going to help him. That horrendous resignation.

yolland 11-21-2011 04:05 PM

The Patriot-News (Harrisburg PA), Nov. 20

"Victim One," the first known alleged victim of abuse by former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky, had to leave his school in the middle of his senior year because of bullying, his counselor said Sunday. Officials at Central Mountain High School in Clinton County weren’t providing guidance for fellow students, who were reacting badly about Joe Paterno’s firing and blaming the 17-year-old, said Mike Gillum, the psychologist helping his family. Those officials were unavailable for comment this weekend.


Originally Posted by BonosSaint (Post 7409050)
I think the one image I carry from all this is McQueary being passed by Sandusky and the child and being seen by them. Here is a child knowing here is another adult who is not going to help him.

The writer and classicist Daniel Mendelsohn had an NYT op-ed last weekend considering the possible role of homophobia in the failure to protect children, from McQueary's leaving the scene to the subsequent coverup.

Does anyone believe that if a burly graduate student had walked in on a 58-year-old man raping a naked little girl in the shower, he would have left without calling the police and without trying to rescue the girl? But the victim in this case was a boy, and so Mr. McQueary left and called his dad (who didn’t seem to think that it was a matter for the police either).

Mr. McQueary’s reluctance to treat what he allegedly saw as a flagrant crime, his peculiar unwillingness to intervene “physically,” the narrative emphasis on his own trauma (“distraught”) rather than the boy’s, the impulse to keep matters secret rather than provide rescue, all suggest the presence of a particularly intense shame, one occasioned less by pedophilia than by something everyone involved apparently considered worse: homosexuality.

Mr. McQueary’s refusal to process the scene he described—his [former] coach having sex with another male—was reflected in the reaction of the university itself, which can only be called denial. You see this in the squeamish treatment of the assaults as a series of inscrutable peccadilloes best discussed—and indulged—behind closed doors. (Penn State’s athletic director subsequently characterized Mr. Sandusky’s alleged act as “horsing around,” a term you suspect he would not have used to describe the rape of a 10-year-old girl.) Denial is there in the treatment of the victims as somehow untouchable, so fully tainted they couldn’t, or shouldn’t, be rescued. For Penn State officials, disgust at the perceived gay element seems to have outweighed the horror of the crimes themselves. (“Perceived,” because psychologists generally deny that pedophiles possess adult sexuality—something that can be described as “gay” or “straight” in the first place.)

The denial is hardly surprising. In a culture that increasingly accepts gay life, organized athletics, from middle school to the professional leagues, is the last redoubt of unapologetic anti-gay sentiment. Anecdotal and public evidence for this is dismayingly overwhelming. Most recently, Sean Avery, of the New York Rangers hockey team, has been ostracized and ridiculed merely for making a short video in support of New York’s same-sex marriage act. (Anti-gay slurs are such an ingrained part of Ranger fans’ cheering that some gay fans have stopped attending games.)

What lurks behind so many male athletes’ vociferous antipathy to homosexuality seems to be deep anxiety about masculinity, the very quality that aggressive team sports showcase. After all, a guy is never so much a guy as when he’s playing a violent game or hanging with his teammates afterward in the showers and locker rooms, “horsing around.” The familiar ferocious anti-gay swagger many athletes affect is likely meant to quash even the faintest suspicion that anything tender or erotic animates naked playfulness between men.
I doubt homophobia adequately explains the coverup; I've seen (and heard about) universities covering up for serial male sexual harassers of women, for example, or dragging their feet on investigating female students' assault complaints against star male athletes, too many times for that. And if we're going to get into "what ifs..." concerning McQueary's initial reaction, it seems like the greater cultural ease with which we mentally slot girls into the "helpless victim" category (granted, in actual application that one's often shot through with hypocrisies) should also be acknowledged. But I think he's right to cite homophobia as a contributing factor.

Tiger Edge 11-23-2011 04:38 PM


Vodka Billboard: ‘Christmas Quality, Hanukkah Pricing’


An alert reader sends us this photo of a Wodka™ brand Vodka billboard located on the West side of Manhattan, overlooking Riverside Drive. "CHRISTMAS QUALITY. HANUKKAH PRICING," it says. And there's a Santa dog, representing Christian quality, and a Jew dog, representing Hanukkah pricing, because the Jews are cheap—like Wodka™!
Vodka Billboard: 'Christmas Quality, Hanukkah Pricing'

This isn't even the right stereotype. :huh:


Edit: They've taken it down:


lol. this was a nonstory. carry on!

yolland 11-23-2011 04:50 PM

Not familiar with the ad, but I could easily imagine it having been created by a Jew with the intention of targeting a Jewish audience. Not a good idea for something as public as a billboard though.

Tiger Edge 11-23-2011 04:53 PM

Yes, the second article says the creator was Jewish. I only heard about it through a Jewish cousin of mine who was disgusted.

For the record, I said: that's horrible, laughed a little, shook my head and then cackled.

MrsSpringsteen 11-25-2011 12:40 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A woman shot pepper spray to keep shoppers from merchandise she wanted during a Black Friday sale, and 20 people suffered minor injuries, authorities said.

The incident occurred shortly after 10:20 p.m. Thursday in a crowded Los Angeles-area Walmart as shoppers hungry for deals were let inside the store.

Police said the suspect shot the pepper spray when the coverings over the items she wanted were removed.

"Somehow she was trying to use it to gain an upper hand," police Lt. Abel Parga told The Associated Press early Friday.

He said she was apparently after some electronics and used the pepper spray to keep other shoppers at bay.

Officials said 20 people suffered minor injuries. Fire department spokesman Shawn Lenske said the injuries to least 10 of them were due to " rapid crowd movement."

Parga said police were still looking for the woman.

The store remained open and those not affected by the pepper spray continued shopping.

BVS 11-25-2011 08:40 PM

Every year I'm sickened by some black Friday story, and most seem to occur at Wal-Mart. When will people learn?

Pearl 11-25-2011 08:47 PM

'Tis the season to be psycho, fa la la la...

Really, all the psychos come out during the holidays. Anyone who has ever done retail can say so.

MrsSpringsteen 11-29-2011 11:00 AM

A professor at the University of Utah is allegedly an extremely careless pedophile — he's been arrested for looking at child porn on his laptop during a flight to Boston.

According to Boston.com, engineering professor Grant Smith was flying first-class from Salt Lake City to Boston when the man seated behind him saw that he was looking at images of children. He texted his son in Boston to ask him to call the police — they met Smith's flight and found on his computer images of girls as young as 6, "naked or nearly naked, engaging in simulated sex acts." He's pleaded not guilty.

Victims' advocate Wendy Murphy told WCVB that Smith's apparent willingness to watch illegal material while on an airplane in full view of other passengers was strange to say the least: "The notion that someone would be so bold as to view it in public is extraordinary, and I'm not sure what the explanation is." Did Smith want to get caught? Did he just think no one would notice? Unclear, but he's currently in deep trouble. The University of Utah has placed him on administrative leave, and he's currently in jail, with bail set at $15,000.

MrsSpringsteen 11-29-2011 07:19 PM

Three 10-and-11-year-olds turned themselves into the Philadelphia Police Special Victims Unit Tuesday, and have been each charged with attempted rape and indecent sexual assault, WPVI reports.

The victim was an 8-year-old male classmate, whom the three allegedly attacked in a bathroom at West Philadelphia's Bryant Elementary School.

Capt. John Darby told the Associated Press the three boys were charged as juveniles and have been taken into police custody.

"I felt helpless," the victim's mother told WPVI. "It took him almost 7 hours to try to tell me what happened."

During the police investigation, school officials ordered all students travel to the restroom in pairs, and a school counselor met with every class to discuss inappropriate behavior, according to Philly.com.

Since the incident, the victim has been transferred to another school.

BVS 11-29-2011 07:35 PM

Wow, makes you wonder what happened in these boys lives...

I'm disgusted and sad.

corianderstem 11-30-2011 02:57 PM


Originally Posted by BVS (Post 7419685)
Wow, makes you wonder what happened in these boys lives...

I don't think you have to wonder very hard.

BVS 11-30-2011 03:54 PM


Originally Posted by corianderstem

I don't think you have to wonder very hard.

I guess my point is that 1. This is a fairly early age for this type of manifestation, and 2. Is it normal for abuse victims to gravitate towards each other?

Does that make sense?

MrsSpringsteen 12-01-2011 09:11 PM

I think it's possible that one could be an abuse victim and that the others went along with it. I don't know if kids are capable of doing that without being any sort of victim themselves, but maybe that is possible too.

MrsSpringsteen 12-07-2011 03:05 PM


By Atia Abawi, NBC News correspondent

KABUL, Afghanistan – “I am obliged to marry him, even though I can’t look at him,” 19-year-old Gulnaz said about the man she claims raped her.

Gulnaz, who uses one name, has been in an Afghan prison cell for about two years. She says she only has one choice if she wants to bring dignity back to her family and tribe: She must marry the man who forced his way into her home, tied her up, and then raped her.

The man was Gulnaz’s cousin’s husband, and the humiliation continued a few months after the attack, when Gulnaz finally got the courage to tell Afghan police what had happened. Instead of getting justice, she was accused of adultery and sent to prison.

“I do not know why they put me in jail,” Gulnaz said when NBC News recently visited her at the women’s prison in Kabul.

Her daughter, Moskan, a result of the rape, lay sleeping on a bed nearby – she was born on the floor of Gulnaz’s prison cell.

According to Gulnaz, she was initially given a two-year prison sentence, so she appealed. The court of appeals refused to accept her accusation of rape, she said, and raised her sentence to 12 years. They didn’t believe she was raped because they told her that a woman couldn’t get pregnant after her first sexual encounter, so therefore she must have had a consensual sexual relationship with her accuser, they told her.

Justice, with a caveat
The ruling and statement outraged many, including American lawyer Kimberley Motley who has been practicing law in Afghanistan for three years and decided to take on Gulnaz’s case. Just last week Motley helped Gulnaz gain a pardon from Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

But the pardon came with a caveat. A press release from the presidential palace stated that the president had decreed her release “taking into consideration the consent of both sides for a conditional wedlock.”

In other words, she was free to go – if she agreed to marry her rapist. (Even though her rapist is already married, in Islamic societies, like Afghanistan, polygamy is allowed, with the specific limitation that men can have up to four wives).

Not the victory many were hoping for, but a small victory for women in a society who have seen few.

“I think the biggest challenge [Afghan women] face is being women in this society,” said Motley. “I mean, there is no doubt that they are second-class citizens. They just don’t have the same opportunities as men. They don’t have a voice, or their voice isn’t as respected as men.”

Motley has been appalled at how women in Afghanistan are treated, but she acknowledged that some strides have been made and hopes Gulnaz’s pardon will set a precedent for future cases.

“It definitely is putting the attorney general’s office, the supreme court and also others that are working within this justice system sort of on notice,” Motley said.

Not enough
But others are more skeptical. Heather Barr, with Human Rights Watch in Afghanistan, doesn’t believe Gulnaz’s case will change the tide on women’s rights in a country riddled with traditional cultural obstacles.

“It would be really comforting to think that Gulnaz’s case is one strange aberration where the justice system for one particular case has gone wrong,” Barr said. “Unfortunately, this is as far from the truth as could be.”

Out of the approximately 600 adult female prisoners in Afghanistan, more than half are in a similar predicament as Gulnaz, Barr said, meaning they have been charged with a “moral crime.”
So-called moral crimes are crimes that are not codified in Afghan law, but they are covered in the constitution as a crime against culture and religion. That includes everything from adultery to even running away from home.

“Not only are there hundreds of these cases, but these cases send a message to all Afghan women who are facing forced marriage, or abuse in the home, or sexual assault that there isn’t any help available to them and the consequences of seeking help are likely to be further victimization,” Barr said.

In the meantime, Gulnaz is counting down the days until her release – which is expected to be soon.

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