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Things That The Sandusky Crime And Penn State Cover-Up Should Teach Us About Football

Good morning everyone. I'd like to switch gears here for this story and discuss a few things that I have thought about after having digested the Freeh report and its findings. I'm not going to go into how we should contemplate the legacy of Joe Paterno here, and I'm not going to throw rocks at Penn State. If you wish to discuss these things in the comments go ahead, but please keep one thing in mind- while the term ‘victim' is totally inappropriate when discussing the Sandusky crime (no, not ‘scandal', I hate that term now- he's been legally convicted of multiple child rape charges, it's a crime not a scandal) for anyone other than the young men who were attacked and their families, the fact remains that the majority of Penn State fans and the surviving family of Joe Paterno are innocent bystanders caught up in this, and a part of me does truly feel bad for them. Again, not on the same level as I feel for the actual victims, but I do recognize that any attempt to slander Paterno's surviving family or the Penn State fanbase for actions that they were unaware of and not complicit in is still wrong.

Now then, moving along. The truth is that this whole... thing (honestly, I can't conceive of an appropriate word to cover the entire scope of this horror) should take all of us football fans, be we Penn State fans, college ball fans, NFL fans, whatever- back a notch. And not just in terms of that step back one must take in order to simply try and wrap their minds around the implications and pure horror of it all, but in terms of how we view our beloved sport and its impact in our lives.

Please, join me after the jump. No leap of faith here- I hope everyone here reads this.

I have read and heard a few analysts and commentators discuss just how much this can reveal about the place in our lives we place this sport. And I agree. The truth is, we can all take the sport too far. Now mind you I'm now referring to some more general senses, not the... thing that happened at Penn State. I would hope and pray that everyone here at the Daily Norseman would NEVER put something as ultimately trivial as a game above the wellbeing of innocent children. But for some damn reason, that's exactly what has happened, and it happened with guys who in reality were otherwise doing better things and living better lives than most of us here (myself included). As much as one can disdain Joe Paterno for what has been revealed now, it is still confusingly undeniable that otherwise, he was a saint. This was the guy renowned for caring for his players as human beings, as young men, so much that their productivity on the field be damned, their grades had to be good in order to play. He mentored and led so many young men both in the realm of football as well as in the realm of life that he was known as Joe Pa. Many have pointed out that he donated back a good chunk of his very considerable paychecks to the very university that was paying them to him, because he considered education to be the number one priority.

And yet- when it came to choose between hurting his beloved football program and protecting innocent children, he chose the former.

Again, no, I would sincerely hope that none of us have ever even come close, nor would ever come close, to making a similar decision. But what about the far more minor stories we hear when it comes to people overreacting to football? Two years ago prior to the NFCCG, a man was fired for wearing a Packers tie at a Chicago car dealership. Sure, a lot of us kind of chuckled- after all, we hate the Packers. But after thinking about it now, in light of what has been revealed at Penn State, I question myself. Why did I chuckle? Why did I find that amusing? Wasn't the cold hard reality that a man lost his job because of a game? And in this economy, isn't that an absolute disaster? The guy was a father of two. Yes, he ended up being hired at another dealership, and supposedly the exposure earned him some business from Packers fans. But not all stories like that always have such a happy ending, and the person who chose to fire him undoubtedly did not know that was going to occur. All that individual knew was that he was firing a father of two in a tough economy for wearing a rival sports team's tie. And shouldn't we find that ridiculous, nay, reprehensible?

And of course there are a multitude of others. The woman who was going to ‘ritualistically slaughter a goat' with Brett Favre's #4 because he went to the Vikings. The violence outside of the 49er's/ Raiders preseason game a year ago. And how many bar brawls are started because of sporting rivalries?

No, firing a guy, slaughtering a goat- I would argue, even shooting a grown man- still doesn't quite compare to systematically covering up a rampant amount of child abuse. (Yes, I would argue that's worse than shooting a grown man- to me, there's just a difference between hurting an adult and a child, and having one victim compared to a multitude. I can understand if some would argue with me on this point.) But they all ultimately stem from the same idea- that football somehow holds a place in our lives that it really doesn't deserve.

Is football good? Does football create good things? Hell yes. Ted shares some wonderful stories of time spent with his father over football. That's an excellent example of just how the game can be important and should be important. It can bring us together, give us something to cheer for. It can unite communities, it can create those awesome moments of joy. It gives us our story lines- good vs. evil (see: Patriots vs. Giants 2007, Super Bowl matchup between), the wounded warrior rising or falling, the troubled youth turning his life around. It can even inspire us. Just look at the Daily Norseman: this here is a community of people that might never otherwise meet if not for the sport of football and the Minnesota Vikings. And we've done some really cool things, like raising money for certain charitable aspects and whatnot. Even just the get-togethers some of us have for a game is a good example of the good things football can do.

But there's a limit on just how far we place it in life. Football should never be an excuse to do something otherwise wrong, something we would never do without football as an excuse. If you wouldn't bar brawl with a guy without football being involved, then you shouldn't bar brawl with a guy over football. If you wouldn't fire a father of two without football being involved, then you shouldn't fire a father of two over football.

Fellow Viking fans, let's all of us take a step back for a moment and think about this. I'm not saying any of you have ever done anything wrong because of football. I haven't. (OK, I've hurt some feelings before- that's OK I guess, it's always in good fun, and as a Viking fan it always ends up coming back to haunt me.) But if this whole Penn State... thing teaches us anything, it's the levels of which otherwise good and rational men can do horrific things because of what amounts to, at the end of the day, a game. A game between people most of us have never met, many of us will never meet. We all have our friends who root for rival teams- I have some Packer and Bear friends myself. I love ribbing them whenever I can. The friendly competition, the jokes, etc. are all good.

Let's make sure we all keep football in its appropriate place in our lives- a general source of good. Let's use it as a chance to bond with family and friends, a chance to create civic pride or simple community pride in the fanbase, a chance for the soap opera-ish ups and downs it gives us.

But let's make sure we all learn from this that football should never, ever be an excuse to do something wrong, to do something in life that has no real excuse outside of a game. Let's never put it above the greater parts of life, the parts of life that we would all hold and cherish even if the Vikings had left to LA and many of us had burned our gear and swore off the sport forever.

For some damn reason better men than many of us did that. I don't get it, I know most (if not all) of you don't get it, and we probably never will. But at the end of the day now that's not important. We just need to make sure that, on any level, we don't make these same... ‘mistakes'.