Thursday, November 10, 2011

Twilight of the American Idols

A couple of balloons got deflated recently:

Idol #1: Rick Perry is no longer a viable candidate for the Republican nomination. He made a fool of himself in the most recent debate, struggling to remember even his canned threat against the Department of Energy. Afterward, Perry himself remarked that "It's a good a thing I was wearing my boots, because I really stepped in it." The guy is clearly not ready for prime time.

Since Perry is sitting on a big old pot of money, it is unlikely that he will slink away in defeat. It is likely that he will stay in the race, for all the usual ego-and-2016 reasons. If you ask Herman Cain, Perry has been trying to destroy him out of sheer meanness, and such a thing is not impossible. The real question is whether Perry's schadenfreude will extend to the destruction, attempted or complete, of Mitt Romney.

Idol #2: Joe Paterno. Needless to say, this is far more important than the mere presidency of the United States -- it's football. Paterno, who is 84 and probably should have retired years ago, was fired by Penn State for failing to take sufficient action when one of his assistant coaches was discovered raping a 10-year-old boy in the locker room.

The story is appalling on every possible level. Over 15 years, assistant coach Jerry Sandusky serially molested young boys, often using the Penn State athletic facilities to do so. He was observed doing this on several occasions, and by several people.

And let's be clear, this isn't a "sex scandal" in the same way that Bill Clinton's in-office adultery or Newt Gingrich's serial infidelity are. This goes well beyond even Herman Cain's alleged groping of an employee. Sandusky is accused of at least two counts of rape, a crime of violence -- in his case, against children. And to be sure, there is an element of scapegoating here; Paterno is only one of the many links in a chain or irresponsibility. After all, he reported the allegation to the administration, thereby doing the bare minimum to salve his conscience.

But as one of our friends, himself a professional athlete, observed this morning, Paterno -- a living legend so legendary that even Fr. A. has heard of him -- was in many ways superior to the administration at Penn State. For years, he has run his program like a medieval prince. If he had wanted Sandusky gone, the guy would have been gone in a heartbeat; if he had said a word, Sandusky would have been in prison. So why didn't he?

The Paterno case begs comparison to the scandals within the Roman Catholic Church. Paterno does indeed sound like one of those bishops who took little or no action against the reported abusers on their team. Paterno is also one of those sports figures who has often pontificated on "values." If anything, though, a coach of Paterno's stature has more power than the average bishop.

9 comments:

Pastor Joelle said...

I really had no desire to pile on Joe Paterno or make him a public scapegoat. I think he should have been fired, then move on to what kind of policies they have in place to make sure this kind of "um, gee, give me the keys so you can't use our lockerroom" non-response never happens again.

But then the DISGRACEFUL response of the students. Really people? I was just appalled.

Father Anonymous said...

I was shocked by the response. I wonder whether the students are just caught between the sort of idol-worship that sports programs seem to create, and the new reality created by the revelation of their hero's shortcomings.

I can only wonder whether they will feel differently as they become better acquainted with the facts. If not, I can guarantee that they will feel differently when they grow up and have children.

Father Anonymous said...

I was shocked by the response. I wonder whether the students are just caught between the sort of idol-worship that sports programs seem to create, and the new reality created by the revelation of their hero's shortcomings.

I can only wonder whether they will feel differently as they become better acquainted with the facts. If not, I can guarantee that they will feel differently when they grow up and have children.

PrSBlake1 said...

I agree with all of the above comments. The students reaction is selfish and immature at best. As one headline I saw today put it: "ok some kids got raped - but what about our football!" Pathetic! I have mixed feelings about McQuerrie. He was a grad student and followed what is the usual procedure for grad students - report to those above you. But he was 28 years old! Hardly a child! He should have been able to make a clear moral judgment and do something. And what about that temporary janitor? This all does not add up or make sense. There was definitely a breakdown on that campus!

Pastor Joelle said...

I actually have some sympathy for McQuerrie. I think his dad should have told him to call the police. I read the Grand Jury report. (yes I'm that sick) and I was struck by how traumatized the janitor who caught Sandusky in the act of molesting a child in the shower was. He was crying. He was an older man and nothing he had even seen in the army had upset him like what he saw in the shower. So imagine some kid who maybe grew up sheltered seeing what he saw. And then when what he reported was trivialized...I think it was very confusing for him. I think the onus is still on the higher ups to have followed through.

Daniel Spigelmyer said...

Discussion with some friends today produced the idea that the current GOP field makes W look like an Einstein. That in and of itself is a Herculean feat - worthy of admiration, commendation, and vexation.

DR Dan said...

Re: "Perry has been trying to destroy" Cain. Texas Monthly interviewed Texas politicians who have lost to Perry, destroyed reputations and slander campaigns seem to be a common feature.
http://www.texasmonthly.com/2011-09-01/feature7.php

Father Anonymous said...

Lovely. Just ... lovely.

Anonymous said...

Paterno had more moral authority because sports are far more popular for males between 10 and 65 than religion, except for small and isolated religious groups.