I think it’s fair to say that whatever damage was done to Penn State University in recent days by the adults in charge, the cherry on the sundae was placed by its student body, members of which poured into the streets of State College last night to proclaim their anger that Grampa Joe was fired.
And that cherry was extracted from the bottle of maraschinos by the assembled nitwits of the media, who seemingly gasped as one when the representative of the school’s board of trustees announced last night that they’d found a shred of decency in their souls and done not just the right thing, but the only thing they could do in these circumstances. The press conference didn’t have the professional setup of a presidential one, i.e., the questioners weren’t mic’d, and there was only one camera. So I’m going on admittedly imperfect information, but I detected a challenging note to many of the questions, with such phrases as “resign with dignity” emerging from the murk.
If nothing else, this week has been instructive in many ways. You want to know how these things happen? Now you know. It also gives me a new appreciation of Myles Brand, the Indiana University president who gave the boot to Bobby Knight way back when. While
no rioting was involved,* it was hardly a popular move, especially outside the university. And when it comes to IU basketball, and Penn State football, and most other college sports, it’s mostly outside the university. Thanks again to Sherri, who found this excellent essay earlier in the week, with this key passage:
…this is why college football evokes such extreme emotion, and this is why schools work so damn hard and often take ethical shortcuts to forge themselves into football powers: If they are successful, then the game serves as the lifelong bond between alums and townspeople and the university, thereby guaranteeing the institution’s self-preservation through donations and season-ticket sales and infusions into the local economy. It is a crass calculus, when you put it that way, which is why there will always be skeptics and there will always be those of us for whom college football is (other than our own families) the purest emotional attachment of our adulthood, and there will always be some of us who bound between those two poles.
I wonder if anyone inside the Penn State bubble has a sense of how the story is playing outside, how agog the rest of the country is. Which seems as good a time as any to direct you to #1 Party School, a “This American Life” episode about the drinking culture at Penn State. Definitely worth a listen; seek out the “play” button and let it roll while you do other things. It has to be said that the behavior described therein is not confined to Penn State; the drinking culture on college campuses is similar across the country, but at its worst at big schools like Penn State, Michigan State, Ohio State, etc.
If you don’t have time for the whole hour, just listen to Act Four, in which the relationship between alcohol and college athletics is briefly examined. Graham Spanier makes an appearance, too.
So. Today is? November 10, 36 years after the cold-weather hurricane that brought down the Edmund Fitzgerald, and 35 after Gordon Lightfoot’s famous one-take recording of his song about it. Today’s cold-weather hurricane is taking place in the Bering Sea, where they’re expecting the equivalent of a Category 3 storm, only a lot colder. I wonder where Sarah Palin is spending November. Wasilla? Or Arizona?
So, conventional wisdom says Rick Perry is out of it. We’ll see. Was it over when what’s-his-name bombed that place, I can’t think of it. Oh, hell — it’s on the tip of my tongue.
So late already? Time to get moving. Happy Thursday.
EDIT: * I’ve just been handed a bulletin in the form of an email from a longtime correspondent, to wit:
There was rioting involved when Knight was fired.
I know, because I rioted, and saw Brand burned in effigy on the lawn of his presidential home….
Said correspondent is now a learned scholar working on his doctorate at a top-drawer university. There is hope for all those punks who turned over the TV truck last night. That is all.