Joe, and his statue, had to go.
Last fall, I was critical of the Penn State administration for firing Joe Paterno over the phone, during the crazy week when the board of trustees decided to dump the coach. I thought it was classless, given what Paterno had meant to the university and the football program.
Now, obviously, things have changed. I've thought for years that the Penn State football program, to Joe Paterno, had gotten to be more about Joe than it was about the players. There's no way Paterno was energetic and vital enough in his 80s to coach a Big Ten football team as well as a younger man, yet for years no one could oust him from the job. It was Paterno running the school, doing what he wanted, staying as long as he wanted, and it set the stage for other bad things to happen. Other very bad things.
Like an athletic director who allowed, according to the Louis Freeh report, the investigation into a sex act between Jerry Sandusky and a child to be buried. There can be no arguing how disgusting and disheartening that is. For those reasons, particularly now that the second one is out in the open, it's clear to me the university didn't owe Paterno anything at the end -- other than to take down the statue that would have been a constant reminder of the stain caused by looking the other way while young boys were sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky.
Last year, I asked Penn State student journalist Emily Kaplan to weigh in on her feelings about the case when it was at its peak. I do the same thing this morning, as the university braces for today's reported NCAA sanctions:
For as long as I can remember, my neighboring town has been known for a terrible scandal. It had to do with the football culture. Glen Ridge, N.J., is a well-manicured suburb of New York City, where the streets are lined with majestic shade trees and quaint gaslight lamps. But in 1989, three members of the high school football team sexually assaulted a developmentally disabled young woman. An idyllic community was ripped apart and lives changed forever. Twenty-three years later, Glen Ridge is still, to some, stigmatized by "Our Guys," which became the title of the New York Times best-selling book about the incident and its fallout.
As I prepare for my senior year at Penn State, I can't help but wonder if my school will forever be known for its terrible scandal.
Of course, it had to do with the football culture. Our guys failed, enabling a serial child molester to reign. Penn State's so-called leaders made a mockery of our school's motto, "Success With Honor." Innocent children suffered, and now, as men, they must still cope with the ramifications.
As we move forward, it doesn't matter what statues we take down, or what football games we don't play. Nothing can undo what has been done. So where do we go from here? Our school's in a crisis, but it's not an identity crisis. I think we can identify what allowed this to happen. Mostly, our football culture became, in essence, our university culture. We deified a flawed man and gave him too much power.
It's easy to say this in hindsight. We all fell into the trap, enamored by the brand and the promises. I owned a Joe Paterno bobblehead doll and had a poster of him in my dorm room. We can disassociate from Paterno all we want -- throw out the knick-knacks and take down his statue, which happened Sunday morning -- but what's more important is to disassociate from the culture of secrecy and prioritizing football in unhealthy doses.
We, the 500,000 living alumni and 40,000 students, need to find a way to ensure that money and football and public perception will never again take precedence over doing the right thing. Which will be a challenge. When I heard that some of my peers camped out in tents outside Paterno's statue, "protecting it from vandalism," I wish they had looked at the bigger picture. Who was protecting those children?
For years Penn State built a powerful brand, and did everything to protect it. Now our university, like the town of Glen Ridge, will be long branded by its scandal. But moving ahead, Penn State has a unique opportunity to be known for something more: as leaders in child-abuse education.
I look at a grassroots network of Penn State alumni who founded the ProudPSUforRAINN campaign, urging Penn Staters to donate money to prevent and treat victims of sexual abuse. They reached their goal of raising $500,000 in less than one month. That's a great start. What can we do in six months? One year? Ten years?
These are the people who are Penn State. We, not the football guys, have the opportunity to define our own legacy now.
"We tell the rookies, 'No two-a-days. You're welcome.' ''
-- NFL Players Association executive board member Benjamin Watson to me, concerning the fact that the one-year-old CBA prohibits two-a-day padded practices. The second practice of the day has to be a walkthrough.
"First of all, the money was too good. The money was too good, and I hate to say it's about money. But, you know, I felt the money was a lot."
-- Brett Favre, in an interview with Deion Sanders of NFL Network, on coming out of retirement to play in 2010 for Minnesota.
"We have a lot of confidence in the way we run our program, and we're always trying to make it better. And I think skeet-shooting is going to be the difference in us getting back to the Super Bowl. So there.''
-- Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy to ESPN radio in Wisconsin, defending taking his players out to skeet-shoot on what was to be a regular practice day in June. Detroit coach Jim Schwartz had zinged McCarthy for it.
Sometimes we take far too long to appreciate good football players, and we don't do it until long after they've retired. Take Gino Cappelletti, who retired last week after 32 years doing color on the Patriots radio network.
Cappelletti is one of three players to have played every week in the American Football League's 10-year history. As a sure-footed kicker and slippery and durable receiver, he scored more points than any other player in AFC history, 1,100. He kicked more field goals, 170, than any other player in AFC history.
He led the AFL in scoring five times. He was voted AFL MVP in 1964.
Lots of kickers through history did something else on the field, and many were bigger men. Lou Groza, for instance, was a standout tackle. But Cappelletti was a 6-foot, 200-pound receiving threat too. In his MVP season and 1965 season combined, he averaged 18.0 yards per catch with 16 receiving touchdowns -- more yards per catch than two of the premier wideouts in the league at the time, Charlie Hennigan and Art Powell.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft credited Cappelletti "for creating the foundation on which our franchise was built.'' Pretty good player too.
My tentative (and I stress that, because my schedule can change depending on news events) training camp schedule:
Mostly Flying Portion of Trip
July 25: Cardinals (Flagstaff, Ariz.)
July 26: Chargers (San Diego)
July 27: Saints (Metairie, La.)
July 28: Broncos (Englewood, Colo.) ... on what I think is Peyton Manning's first Denver day in pads.
July 29: Seahawks (Renton, Wash.)
July 30: 49ers (Santa Clara, Cal.)
July 31: Raiders (Napa, Cal.)
Mostly Driving Portion of Trip, I'm hoping with a van I'll discuss next Monday
Aug. 1: Dolphins (Davie, Fla.)
Aug. 2: Bucs (Tampa, Fla.)
Aug. 3: Jaguars (Jacksonville)
Aug. 4: Falcons (Flowery Branch, Ga.)
Aug. 5: TBD
Aug. 6: Redskins (Ashburn, Va.)
Aug. 7: Giants (Albany, N.Y.)
Aug. 8: Jets (Cortland, N.Y.)
Aug. 9: Redskins-Bills preseason game (Orchard Park, N.Y.)
Aug. 10: Browns-Lions preseason game (Detroit)
Aug. 11: Bears (Bourbonnais, Ill.)
Aug. 12-14: Home for three days. Writing, mostly. Vegging out, some.
Aug. 15: Chiefs (St. Joseph, Mo.)
Aug. 16: Rams (Earth City, Mo.)
Aug. 17: Colts (Anderson, Ind.)
Aug. 18: Bengals (Cincinnati)
Aug. 19: Packers (Green Bay)
Final chunk, flying mostly
Aug. 20: Texans (Houston)
Aug. 21: TBA
Aug. 22: TBA
Aug. 23: TBA, then home.
I'll try to see several other teams in the TBA categories. What I tried to do this year is make sure I hit all the teams I hadn't seen in the last year or two, which left me without trips to familiar places like the Eagles and Steelers. I hope to get to both teams, and to others, but we'll have to see how the month goes. I wish I could see all 32, but it's not very realistic.
Fun vacation. Strange coincidence.
My wife and I went to Dachau, the concentration camp outside Munich, and then moved on to Venice. We took the train over and through the Alps, a lovely ride, and switched trains in Verona for the final hour to Venice. Once in Venice, we lined up to take a water taxi to our hotel. That's right; there are no cars allowed in the busiest part of Venice. You either walk or take a boat.
In line, a man approached me and said he liked my work and was glad to meet me. We small-talked about his Ravens for a minute until a taxi-boat driver approached. "Want a ride to your hotel? Where are you staying?'' he asked.
"The Westin,'' my new acquaintance said.
"So are we,'' I said. "Want to share it?''
So we did, Randy Amon and his wife, Marlene, me and my wife. In the boat, Randy asked me where we were going from here.
"New Hampshire,'' I said. "We're going to a place called Mount Washington for a few days.''
Randy looked stunned. His wife looked stunned.
"We're going to Mount Washington too,'' he said.
We got to the hotel. Checked in side by side. "Mr. Amon, we have your reservation,'' the clerk said. "You'll be with us for three nights.''
We were staying for three nights.
On the third night, the last night, we ran into Randy and Marlene in the outdoor bar and had a drink. They were flying in the morning. Leaving at 6:15, he said.
We were flying in the morning. Planning to leave at 6:30.
"Want to share a taxi?'' he said.
So we did. Turns out they were headed home to Baltimore for a few days before going to Mount Washington. The day we left Mount Washington, they arrived.
Same hotel in Bretton Woods, N.H.
Now that's weird. Same train. Same hotel, for the same number of nights. Same end site for vacation halfway across the world in a place that I'm certain only two parties in Venice would be going to as the end of their vacations.
Five memorable vacation points:
1. Standing in the "shower room,'' which was the gas chamber, at Dachau. Much of the camp -- the barracks, in particular -- had been razed by the '60s. Though this wasn't one of the main killing camps, Dachau had plenty of the ugly history from the war. And the rock-solid building that prepped prisoners for death, gassed them, and then cremated them in ovens was still standing. And it's as chilling a spot as I've ever visited.
The grounds were full of teens the day we visited, and we asked our guide about it. "Every child in Germany must visit a concentration camp during their schooling,'' the guide said. "It is part of our history, and we must not hide from it.''
We really felt for our guide, who was from Bavaria, and whose dad died with a guilty conscience because he was a soldier for the Third Reich during World War II and thought he was doing the right and patriotic thing. The guide and his dad, who died a few years ago, were never able to have a discussion about the war and its outcome because it was just too painful for the father. When I got back to our hotel that evening, I noticed I had four pieces of the pea gravel from the Dachau grounds stuck in the treads of my sneakers. You can bet those will be kept as reminders of a day I won't forget.
2. Going to a real, honest-to-goodness beer garden in Munich. The Augustiner-Keller Biergarten is the way a beer garden should be: a couple of acres of tables -- some smaller ones, some long ones where you sit with total strangers -- with three-pound steins, filled with 36 ounces of the local lager. Dogs, kids, bikers, elderly, yuppies. Everything. Including the husky waitress who could carry six of the steins at once.
3. Being the PA announcer at Fenway Park for a game. A month ago, my buddy with the Red Sox, Corey Bowdre, texted out of the blue, "Would you be interested in doing the PA at one of our games in July?'' Come on, now. Seriously? I believe I set the American record for quickest response to a text. "I'm in."
I did it last Tuesday, and now I just have to explain to my family why I'm going to be writing Corey into my will. So the game was against the White Sox. My lifeline, sitting next to me all game high above the field, was a cool cucumber named Jack Lanzilloti, who directed my every word.
I did only one affectation. Introducing the White Sox lineup before the game, I came to the second batter and said, "Batting second, the third baseman, number 20, Kevin YOOOOOOO-kilis.'' Just had to.
The White Sox presented some interesting challenges. Ala-handro DEE-Aza batted first. Die-ann VEE-cee-aydo batted seventh. Brian O-ma-grasso pitched in relief. Luckily, I missed out on Yahn Marine-yez out of the bullpen. I did manage to get the Red Sox senior manager Rico Mocha-zooki correct as well.
All in all, a fun night -- especially with the extended family in the house, waiting to see how many different ways I could mess up VEE-cee-aydo. Luckily for me, the answer was zero.
4. Visited the Allagash Brewery in Portland, Maine. Very pleased to have spent a couple of hours touring and chatting with the folks who make my favorite beer, Allagash White. I even got to see how the brew is spiced with Curacao orange peel, coriander and a secret spice: with the spices wrapped in what looked like a white women's stocking and stuck in the huge barrel during the brewing process. I recommend the tour (it's free, as are the tastings) for the beer education and incredibly good smell.
5. Read a lot. Started with Hitless Wonder: A Life in Minor-League Rock and Roll, by Joe Oestreich. A perfect title. Imagine driving three hours to play a gig in front of five people at a dive bar in Detroit. Oestreich's band, Watershed, did it all the time. It's a very good look at a strange life I'd never want to live, but if you're passionate about music, I can see how you would.
Went straight into Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, easily one of the best biographies I've ever read. Ended up hating Jobs. Ended up admiring Jobs. Ended up wanting to model parts of my professional life after Jobs. Ended up wanting to punch Jobs in the face. In other words, Isaacson captured Jobs perfectly.
Now I'm 200 pages into The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power, by Robert Caro. Never have I read a book as well-researched as this one, a fact I know won't change even though I'm only a third of the way through it. The enmity between the Kennedys and Johnson was stunning, particularly since John Kennedy picked his arch-rival to be his vice president in 1960. I quibble a bit with the writing style, though. Caro, on page 21, uses 14 dashes, four colons and six semi-colons. I like punctuation as much as the next guy. Caro tries to set records for it. But don't let that obscure your love of what Caro does, which is highly admirable.
Oh, almost forgot: Thanks to the Lowell (Mass.) Spinners of the New York-Penn League for hosting me on Peter King Bobblehead Night, which, from what I understand, was under serious consideration for SI's "This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse'' award. Great time, great staff and a very handsome bobblehead. You know that we live in a wacky world when they're making a bobblehead of me. Of course, I do have the distinction of being the lone King who showed up on his bobblehead night. The night after mine, Stephen King was absent on his bobblehead night in Lowell.
"BBC sideline reporter flown to heaven to interview President Lincoln: 'Going to see that overrated play really didn't help, did it?' ''
-- FOXSports.com columnist Jason Whitlock, after a reporter at the British Open, with one of the worst questions in post-match or -game history, asked Adam Scott, who bogeyed the final three holes to blow the tournament, "Those three bogeys didn't help you, did they?''
"They will leave the Joe Paterno statue up but they're going to have him look the other way.''
-- @AlbertBrooks, the comedic actor.
Well, times have changed in the span of a month.
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