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On why those who want to #FireJamesFranklin need to get in the sea…

Sports. Sports. Sports. Oh how it brings joy and how it brings deep deep sorrow. It is the latter that it uppermost in my mind this Sunday as last night (or the early hours as it was here) Penn State once more found an agonising way to lose a game against a top tier opponent that in reality they should have won. The last four defeats have been by a combined eight points and in all four, the team led in the fourth quarter. It is quite simply heartbreaking.

Yet sometimes perspective is needed. I know sports and perspective are often alien concepts. Sports goes much better with an emotional response than a calm and reasoned one.

This is why I was so disheartened at some of the Penn State faithful that are calling for the head of Coach James Franklin right now. I know it is a very small minority of those who claim to support the program who want a change at the top but if we’ve learned one thing in this social media era, it is that those who are in the minority can yell enough that they’l be noticed and gain at least some traction.

Penn State football should be pretty much dead and buried. The sanctions handed down following the Jerry Sandusky scandal were meant to crush the program for a decade or more. Six years later and they are very much nationally relevant once more. Even with another gutting defeat, the playoffs aren’t completely out of reach and multiple pundits think that even with the loss, Penn State may still stay in the top ten when the AP Poll comes out later today.

The reason for this can be laid firmly at the feet of the very man some people want to run out of town. Coach Franklin has helped turn around the narrative at State College. This is a team that is clearly improving year in, year out. The coaching in general seems pretty good (although if someone can teach how to actually tackle that would be a nice bonus and how many times can wide open receivers drop passes?) I digress. In general the coaches seem to be getting players to play at a level beyond what the recruiting services believed they would. This isn’t the be all and end all but it is a good indication.

Speaking about recruiting, who five years ago could say hand on heart that top players, with their pick of pretty much any college in the country would even consider Penn State, let alone some of them end up signing? Year in, year out the evaluation of high school talent has continued to impress. Getting some of those young men to commit to play for him is a massive part of his job, one he clearly excels at. If anyone has issues with his recruiting prowess then I firmly believe they will not listen to rhyme or reason.

Some may question a play call here and there, that is part of being a fan. For example from my sofa I wanted to kick three instead of going for the 4th down yesterday. I know it would’ve been a 42 odd yard kick with a rookie kicker but I liked the percentages. In general I’m an aggressive sofa coach but I didn’t like that call. When it became a throw that was blocked and not a Trace keeper/scramble of some sort then I liked it even less. I didn’t like the attempt to force feed Tommy Stevens early in the game. As for the 4th and 5 play call that ended it, despite all I’ve seen and read since, how you take the ball out of number nine’s hands, I have no idea.

That however is part of sports. We all have our opinions and sometimes I sit on the sofa, disagree with a coaches decision and it works out because you know what, I’m not always right and nor is James Franklin. No-one is right 100% of the time. This is true for all the other angry people on social media or commenting on BlackShoeDiaries etc…

I saw someone using the hashtag in the title saying that he never wanted Coach Franklin because he had only gone 7-6, 9-4 and 9-4 at Vanderbilt. He won nine games in back-to-back years at Vandy, doesn’t this idiot understand just how impressive a feat this is? He also says he’s never run an elite program before so he doesn’t deserve the Penn State job, well he might not have noticed that Penn State hasn’t been an elite program for an awfully long time and the journey towards it is being led by Coach Franklin. Winning ten regular season games in 2016 and 2017 was fantastic. The talent gap is closing on the top programs in the nation and soon those close defeats will turn into victories.

Losing hurts and this is the one team that I still deeply care for. I enjoy a Pompey win but a loss doesn’t crush me. Same with Hampshire, same with the Jaguars, Yankees et al but I won’t sit here and throw my toys out of the pram just because my team didn’t win a game. That is a very Millennial thing to do and as much as I loathe that term, sometimes I do look at younger people (well people my age and younger in all honesty) and wonder just where did they get this sense of entitlement from?

No program is entitled to dominate sports. Any sport. Those fans that believe a change in Head Coach will mean we suddenly win the big games or don’t squander fourth quarter leads seem to think one change fixes all. In general the whole PSU football program is moving forwards. Coach Franklin is a fantastic leader and doesn’t want his players just to play school. He prioritises education and lets be honest here, for some coaches that isn’t important but we expect more.

Success with Honor (or Honour as I’d spell it, what it is with American’s and their dislike of the letter u?) is something worth fighting for. I’d prefer to lose an extra game here and there if it was because players got a better education, became better citizens and had better opportunities in life. Winning a darn football game isn’t everything.

Anyway I’ve waffled on for long enough and I’ve only had two hours sleep. The long and short of it is Coach Franklin has made it possible to be proud to support the Penn State Football program once again. Clearly the team are going in the right direction. The young talent coming through is exciting and depth is being built. Recruiting is far better than it has been in decades and fantastic young men are coming to play and get at education at Penn State.

Those that want to #FireJamesFranklin need to get in the sea and get some expletive perspective. Is he perfect? No, but who is? Will he makes mistakes? Sure, but who doesn’t? All anyone can do in life is learn and continue to move forward. That is a great life lesson for us all and changing everything because you aren’t happy with one thing is not smart. Look at those who voted Trump or voted for Brexit just to change the status quo, how many of them are truly happy with what is going down on either side of the pond right now?

Seeing people, Penn State fans, genuinely wanting Franklin gone makes me angry but more than that, it makes me sad that people expect perfection from others.

On that note, going away from CJF, The coach is a man as are his staff but the kids are just that. Kids. Bemoaning a play here and there is fair enough but seeing people – fans – tweet at young men trying their best and dishing out the abuse. Well that alone is a sad indictment of modern day society. That might be even worse than people calling for Franklin’s head. Just because a player misses a tackle or drops a pass, who decided it was fair game to tweet them saying how bad they were? These are student-athletes. They aren’t getting paid. I wonder how many of those who send such tweets at these teenagers and young men would like being criticised by people they don’t know for their work/sporting performance by anonymous people on the internet?

You treat people how you would like to get treated yourself. If you wouldn’t like 100s of people ridiculing you on social media for mucking up that big presentation or for failing a school exam or for missing an open goal in a kick-about with your friends, then why would you deem it fair to do it to others?

Yes losing sucks. It really sucks but it is a darn sight better than not playing at all, not being relevant in big games or even worse, being Rutgers…

With that I have one final thing to say.

We are…

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On the pure dumpster fire that was Penn State/Temple…

Oh my word. What can I even say to comprehend what we witnessed yesterday? When you get stomped all over by a team that hasn’t beaten you in 74 years and even spotted you a ten-point lead to start the game then you know things didn’t exactly go to plan.

Where can you even start? You have a Quarterback who many draft analysts had as the best QB potentially coming out of the 2016 class and some even saw him going #1 overall who looked dazed and confused as wave after wave of Temple defensive players came charging at him untouched and unchallenged. Usually in the game of American Football you are allowed to employ a line of five men called the Offensive Line, whose primary task is to protect the Quarterback from such an assault but Penn State decided to abandon with tradition and just allow these guys to run free at Hackenberg all game long.

Yet I’m not willing to give Hackenberg a pass, not by a long shot. This was one of the top QB recruits in the country, if my memory serves me right he was the top Pro-Style QB recruit. He had a great freshman season, looked like he was ready to become a college superstar and under John Donovan’s system he has just regressed. Yes there have been glimpses of greatness but those glimpses are becoming fewer and further between. Even when he has time and open men he isn’t connecting. Up 10-0 he had DaeSean Hamilton open for an easy touchdown and a 17-0 lead but he overthrew him. One of the Temple players was quoted afterwards as saying, ‘He (Hackenberg) was out of it after the third quarter. He looked like he didn’t wanna play anymore’ and that isn’t an unfair assessment from what I saw.

Next up the play-calling. Look Hackenberg sucked. The whole offensive line sucked (but Paris Palmer really really sucked) but what on Earth was going on in the booth? Did John Donovan actually have a plan for this offense or was it all made up from the top of his head? One thing I failed to notice in the whole game was one crossing route, I certainly doin’t recall a completed pass on a crossing route. If Temple’s linebackers are just blitzing and bringing pressure then do one of two things, take advantage of the one on one defence on the outside with our excellent Wide Receivers or call some fucking quick screens over the vacated area in the middle of the field. Not one screen. We had a couple of bubble screens that were completely blown up but seriously draw up a screen pass or two.

There is a lot of blame to go around. You wait for the best part of nine months for the season and that is what you get served up. I have always been one of those very loyal fans that wants to give a coaching staff or a manager time to turn things around. I think I have rarely advocated for a change. Steve Cotteril and Richie Barker are the only two Pompey managers I’ve really wanted to see go for instance.

James Franklin was the guy I wanted and I don’t think he’s done a horrific job but his offensive coordinator is getting a right pelting amongst Nittany Nation and it is tough to not want to join in. He has been given a great hand in Hackenberg who was on the up but his scheme clearly doesn’t fit with Hackenberg’s skill set. Herb Hand is also taking a lot of heat for the O-Line and I give him a little more leeway due to the sanctions but Donovan’s seat has to be extremely hot. He has not done a good job coaching and his offensive play calling and his drawing up of plays to be honest – stinks. He needs to improve a hell of a lot or move on.

The defense was fine until it got completely gassed because it was only getting a minute or two breather between series. Jason Cabinda missed a potential pick-six. Nyeem Wartman-White got hurt and is out for the year. Carl Nassib had a terrific game but this loss and the 27 points that Temple put up isn’t on the defense at all. Could they have played better? Sure, but they played well enough to keep Penn State in it, yet the offense played well enough to just raise everybody’s blood pressure and rage.

You wait nine odd months and that is what you get. I think the only word that describes this is quite simply, ‘yugh’.

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On Joe Paterno, #409, the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal and sexual consent…

Please note the title. This is the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal not the Penn State sex scandal.

So last Friday the NCAA reached agreement with Senator Jake Corman on his litigation with the association that saw changes to the penalties levied against Penn State university. The headline change to these sanctions is the restoration of all wins by the football team between 1998 and 2011. This means that Tom Bradley now gets credit for his win at Ohio State in 2011 and that Joe Paterno gets credit for his 111 wins between 1998 and 2011 and in turn once more becomes the all-time leader in division one wins for a coach with 409.

This has caused two rather strong reactions from people. Those who think that the NCAA originally overstepped their authority when they originally hit the university with unprecedented sanctions following the Freeh Report and those who believe that it just shows that Penn State still doesn’t get it. The fact the litigation wasn’t pushed through by the university but by a senator doesn’t seem that important to these people and lets be honest here, this isn’t an issue where facts are the top determining factor on your opinion, this is all about your gut reaction.

One such person is former Penn State alum Roxanne Jones who wrote an op-ed for CNN entitled Penn State still doesn’t get it. In it she shows that she doesn’t get it (but she is the author who says that she has taught her kid to get a woman to text him before sex saying she agrees to have sex with him because that is evidence that she consented to sex, not that a woman is ever free to change her mind but still. You think I’m making that last thing up? Think again…

Never have sex with a girl unless she’s sent you a text that proves the sexual relationship is consensual beforehand. And it’s a good idea to even follow up any sexual encounter with a tasteful text message saying how you both enjoyed being with one another — even if you never plan on hooking up again.

So yeah, interesting woman. The whole consent issue is a legitimate one but a text message proves nothing. The woman can always change her mind and what is to stop the rapist taking her phone and texting his phone about consent? Still that isn’t what I’m really writing about today but I just wanted to show context of this authors previous work. Also sending her kid to university with 300 condoms? She must think her kid is a freaking stud. If I’d been sent to uni with 300 condoms…I’d still have 300 (or I’d have sold them off cheap to those who were in fact getting some)

Back to the piece from yesterday, ‘The NCAA had reached beyond its authority in punishing Penn State, they argued,’ she wrote. ‘In other words, their lawsuit had nothing to do with the boys who were raped or abused by Sandusky. Correct but still that isn’t the point of the lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed because an authority overstepped their boundaries and had no legal grounds to do what they did. ‘The NCAA caved,’ she decries. No Roxanne, they didn’t cave, they knew they were about to lose in court because they knew they had no legal grounds to do what they did. This is the United States of America, this is a litigation culture so when you do something that you have no legal grounds to do then expect to lose in court.

This isn’t about restoring Joe Paterno’s wins. They should never have been taken away in the first place because doing that does nothing for the victims of the crime does it? The NCAA has its laws and they have punishments for breaking those laws. Penn State did not break any of these rules. One man – a former employee at Penn State – did some unspeakable crimes, at least one of which occurred on the Penn State campus. That we know.

Do you know what else we know? That man is going to spend the rest of his life in prison where he belongs. You see the issues here aren’t about NCAA by-laws, they are about criminal laws and therefore he went to criminal court. Three other men, all university officials have had charges filed against them regarding a potential cover-up but none of them have gone to trial yet. Again they face criminal proceedings, not civil actions or NCAA sanctions because the laws they are charged with breaking are criminal ones.

Anyone who knows anything about civil law knew that the sanctions would get reduced and that the wins would eventually be restored. You can’t punish people for things that aren’t governed by your rules and regulations. It is a bit like a utility company deciding that you’ve used too much energy and are therefore cutting off your supply even if you’ve paid your bill on time. They have just decided to punish you because they want to.

The sanctions were originally levied in the mist of more public shock and outrage than I have seen in a long time. The reporting at the time was reactionary and poor. This is part of the media culture that we live in nowadays. Journalism isn’t about being right, fair and balanced. Instead journalism is about being fastest, being loudest and being the most extreme in terms of reporting. That is a detriment to society but is sadly an indication of where we are.

I don’t know the extent of any cover-up at Penn State and do you know what, nor does Roxanne Jones. Three men are facing charges and we’ll start to get further towards the truth when they face trial. There is still another lawsuit pending by the Paterno family and they want everything to come out wherever that trail leads. Coach Paterno’s legacy will forever be tarnished by what his former defensive coordinator did after he had left his job.

Joe Paterno was never linked to what this monster did, only one person committed unspeakable acts against children and that man was Jerry Sandusky. He was never a suspect in the investigation that led to charges being filed against three university officials, in fact the investigators are on record with saying Coach Paterno followed the law and was a forthcoming witness.

What we all want to see if the truth come out and that best practices are put in place to ensure nothing like this can ever happen again. When something horrific happens then what you want to do afterwards is to have those who committed illegal acts punished within the scope of the law. You want the truth to come out. You want those who were wronged to feel some justice. You want the cracks filled up to ensure that such a scandal cannot happen again and you want the issues highlighted so everyone is more aware of sexual acts against minors and are more attune to the warning signs.

Stripping Penn State of wins, scholarships, bowl games and bowl revenue does nothing to achieve any of those goals. This is why doing it was a show to make the NCAA feel better because the public wanted someone to pay. The fact Jerry Sandusky is in jail is a secondary story because that doesn’t fill column inches. That is such a depressing line to write but it is also true. The NCAA had no legal basis to levy those sanctions and those sanctions also do nothing for the kids who were the victims of this monster. The fact the huge $60million fine is going to help victims of this monster and other similar monsters is something that helps, nothing else does.

A man rots in jail, another three face charges and potential jail time. The whole issue is now front and centre and hopefully lessons will be learned not just in Pennsylvania but all around the US and beyond. I hope the kids who were his victims can find as much peace as possible and if the three men charged were in fact part of a cover-up then I hope they get that justice, they’ve already got some from the fact that Sandusky will never be a free man again.

The fact Joe Paterno now has 409 wins in the record books changes nothing. He recorded those wins within the boundaries of the laws of the NCAA and the players who played those games did not do anything wrong to have their wins vacated. No player who played was ineligible. No coach who coached was ineligible. I’m glad that coach Paterno has his wins back because they never should have been taken away in the first place. Punishing him, his players and his coaches for acts they didn’t do isn’t right. I know the crimes against those kids weren’t right either but two wrongs do not make a right.

Roxanne Jones says that Penn State still don’t get it. I think that she doesn’t get that in the country she lives in, just like the rest of the world, you can’t punish someone or an organisation when they haven’t done anything against your rules and regulations. Those wins were always coming back and anyone with an ounce of legal knowledge knows that. I think her argument is that Penn State should have curled up and allowed the NCAA to do whatever they wanted to them because nothing they could do could be worse than what happened to those kids. That isn’t how the world works. This isn’t an easy case because of the sensitive nature but leave the punishment to the criminal courts because if any laws were broken, that is where the punishment should come from. The NCAA had no power to do what they did and just because they were sailing on a wave of public opinion doesn’t make it right, in fact quite the opposite.

Jerry Sandusky was and is an evil man. Three other people may well be criminals. Everything else isn’t clear and until we know the full story we won’t know the full truth. I hope the Paterno lawsuit gets everything out in the open and then everyone can digest all the information. Most of all I hope that the victims find as much peace as possible and that this incident, no matter how ugly, helps stop further cildren from being victims to evil men like Jerry Sandusky.

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Bill O’Brien walks out on Penn State for the pros – cue meltdown


Well this sucks.

I was scrolling through my twitter as I couldn’t sleep and saw the report coming out from ESPN that the Houston Texans had come to terms with Bill O’Brien to become the next head coach of the franchise. O’Brien will be walking away from State College to chase his dream of coaching on Sunday’s, leaving behind a confused fan base unsure of how to react.

I must admit I am stunned. I never thought he’d walk out. I thought this flirting with the NFL was just that. He seemed like a man with so much integrity but it just goes to show that you never know what to believe. He was always going to bolt for the pros and we all knew that Sunday’s was where he wanted to coach but he had a job to do and I fully expected him to see the Hackenberg/Breneman recruiting class through to the end of their college careers.

Of course at the time of writing it is just a report out of Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter but I think we can safely say that this deal is going to get done. Now we move on to who might replace him and O’Brien’s legacy. We’ll start with his legacy, it is a very tricky to really work out what it’ll be. He held the programme together at a time when everybody thought it would completely fall apart. He turned Matt McGloin, he of the great quote, ‘Broadcast/journalism was my first degree. Being awesome was the second,’ into an NFL quarterback. This 2012 team will go down as one of the most revered in Penn State history because of what they had to deal with and O’Brien was the person who held it all together. However he looked 18 year-old kids in the eye and told them he’d be with them all the way through their college careers and then bolted on them after just one year. That stinks.

We have been spoiled in having Joe Paterno as head coach for as long as we did. Whatever his pitfalls, which may or may not have been significant, he was extremely loyal and whilst he did flirt with the NFL and even agreed to go to the Patriots, he never left and made it his life’s work to mould kids into fine young men and win a few football games along the way. As he once said, ‘Success without honour is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good.’

Bill O’Brien never bought into the Grand Experiment and that riled a tad. I think eventually Penn State will be the footnote of the Bill O’Brien story. He used us to get his dream job and to be fair in his two years in State College he did a fine job in righting the rudderless ship. The sourness though of sacking Ron Vanderlinden just before quitting himself leaves a nasty taste in the mouth and lying to teenage kids…yeah its not great is it?

Moving on to who replaces him, I’m firmly in the James Franklin camp. The guy can flat out recruit and he won at Vanderbilt, which is an extremely fine academic institution and was an afterthought in the SEC. He’s still a relatively young man at only 41 years of age, is a Pennsylvania kid and I think he would be very interested in taking on the role at State College, seeing it as a great long-term job as well. I don’t want to see any NFL rejects, certainly ones recently available out of shall we say, Tampa, Florida…

The man who’ll decide who to approach is Dave Joyner and he’s not exactly flavour of the month amongst the fan base. No-one seems to trust him to make the right decision and when Michael Mauti comes out and says if O’Brien leaves within 3-5 years then it’ll be Joyner’s fault, then that holds a whole lot of cachet.

All I know is it’s 4:20 in the morning and I actually have to get up tomorrow but I’m pretty pissed – as in annoyed – not drunk. We’ll see how this unfolds but this is all extremely disheartening.

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Can you Sam Ficken believe it?

Regular readers of The Rambles of Neil Monnery will have no idea who Sam Ficken is. As I’m kind I shall put you out of your misery. Sam Ficken is a student-athlete who attends Penn State University. He is the kicker on their football squad. He had what you might call a rather bad day on Saturday. When I say bad day I’m talking like he did a Ronnie Rosenthal but not just the once – several times during the game. You felt for him but despite the loss so much felt so right.

Ever since the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal engulfed Penn State and the NCAA decided to not bother with following their own rules football has been hard to watch. Not seeing the grumpy old man either up in the booth looking through those glasses (that he didn’t even need to wear any more) or prowling the sidelines is hard. There were no rolled-up khaki’s and no records to break. The future is now and last weeks defeat to Ohio was hard but deserved. That game was live over here on UK television so I could watch in glorious HD. This week in a late switch the game with Virginia was also on so I could watch on the TV instead of via the PC and the healing process started for me.

I like winning. Heck who doesn’t? However I also like competing and enjoying a proper match. That is what I got to do on Saturday. Penn State may have lost 17-16 to a Virginia side that they totally dominated but they competed and showed the heart that I want to see from my team. I got to stand up and yell about how great Michael Mauti is (seriously that kid is going to star on Sunday’s) and see a front seven dominate what was meant to be a very strong Virginia O-Line.

Matt McGloin even showed us that he was capable of running the new offensive system more than adequately. The O-Line looked more than decent despite losing four players to graduation last season. Yes there were downsides like our inability to stop the big 3rd down completions on Virginia’s final drive and the fact our secondary looks bad but they aren’t big issues in the grand scheme of things.

One thing I want more than anything from rooting for my team or favourite player (depending on whether it is a team sport or individual) is I want to see heart and a compelling game. On Saturday for the first time since we went into Ohio State with tom Bradley as Head Coach last year we saw that. These players have been put through the ringer and yet they chose to stay on when they all could’ve moved on and played elsewhere.

I once more found my voice and my passion for the Nittany Lions. I know Sam Ficken missed four Field Goals and had a +1 blocked but in this era of Penn State Football wins and losses don’t matter anyway. The team haven’t officially won a game since 1998 thanks to the NCAA. What matters football wise is they show what it still means to come and play for the university. Recruits will quite possibly shy away from Penn State until after the sanctions are lifted but if a team can still compete – on the road – at a pretty darn good opponent then it’ll show recruits that they can still do ok in coming to Penn State. If players like Michael Mauti can have great years and get drafted high in the NFL then the dark days might not be too dark nor too long.

Sadly for me Navy will be an internet job but luckily I have a good friend with a slingbox who gives me access so I will get to see the game. What I look for is heart and passion. These bunch of kids seem to have that and if Ted Roof can learn that blitzing on 3rd down might not be the greatest plan every single time then we might just get the first win since I started growing facial hair…

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What to do when a man is playing God? Get another man to play God and say he’s the real God

Yes folks more on the Penn State Child Sex abuse scandal. Recently I don’t seem to have written too much jolly but there isn’t too much jolly going on in my peripheral vision at the moment.

Yesterday Mark Emmert the President of the NCAA decided to lower the boom on Penn State football. Whilst he didn’t use the death penalty he did essentially kill Penn State as a football powerhouse for the best part of a decade and relished every single moment. He had appointed himself judge, jury and executioner but what he was really doing was appointing himself as God. The moral arbiter of the NCAA. He got all the power he wanted from the other presidents and decided to not only use it – but use it far beyond his actual remit. Luckily for him you won’t find too many people trying to defend Penn State so he could’ve done whatever he wanted and the public would have backed him – or said he didn’t go far enough – he was on safe ground.

He believed that Joe Paterno had become too powerful at Penn State. So to show everyone how it should be done he used a power-play himself and became the supreme being in charge of everything the NCAA rules over. The problem was the NCAA don’t rule over criminal cases – that is done by the police but that is but a mere minor detail. To show everyone that becoming too powerful leads to bad times he usurped more far reaching power than anyone in NCAA history. Yeah that will sort it.

He repeatedly said that this was a unique situation and he had not set a precedent. Anyone with a semblance of a brain knows that is laughable. The NCAA now have the power to rule over criminal acts. Personally I am all for due process and to allow the courts to decide on what is criminal and what isn’t but why wait for the law and due process when you are Mark Emmert?

I have no idea what happened at Penn State and do you know what? No-one else reading this has an idea either. If they say that they do then they are either a liar or they are called Graham Spanier, Tim Curley or Gary Schultz. Everyone has an opinion on what happened at Penn State and most people’s opinions are set in stone before any of the key players have faced a jury or spoken in public.

The Freeh Report was a horrific read but it was also a report without subpoena power. Mark Emmert said about how it was so thorough it had talked to over 300 witnesses and was good enough for him. The only issue is he didn’t speak to anyone with any first hand knowledge except Graham Spanier – and he has already claimed that most of his testimony wasn’t even included in the Freeh Report for whatever reason. Conspiracy theorists might claim that Louis Freeh already had a narrative and much of Spanier’s testimony didn’t fit that so it was left out but those conspiracy theorists are all crazy…

Something that did cheer me up (well cheer me up is not the right wording so let’s say made me less angry) was the fact many journalists after spending months whaling on Penn State have questioned his right to step in. Many have finally said that he has over-stepped his boundaries to make this big PR stand. Some people such as Jay Bilas to Chris Fowler to Tony Kornheiser to JA Adande to Bomani Jones etc… actually think the NCAA went beyond their remit because they wanted to be seen to be acting.

For the past few months I have said that this issue is the Salem Witch Trials 2012. It is such a lightning rod story that people don’t care about due process as they just want justice and they want it now. I spoke to a couple of my neighbours about it yesterday and all they heard was ‘child sex’ and they said everyone deserves whatever they get. I tried to argue that should innocent people deserve punishment too and they didn’t care. There was child sex involved and that was enough for them. That is sadly the way things are these days.

Should the catholic church be shut down because of its issues on this front? Should the boy scouts be culled? People want Penn State football finished but does that punishment fit the crime? The crime was perpetrated by an individual and it was compounded by other individuals. These individuals are either in jail, dead or facing criminal prosecutions. These people are not involved at Penn State any more and the university is already changing its culture and following the recommendations to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. How does penalising the innocent make up for the evilness and the criminal acts/bad decisions of others?

Losing twenty scholarships a year for four years means that there are eighty fewer scholarships for student-athletes at Penn State but it also means that eighty fewer student-athletes will get scholarships all over the country. So eighty people who will be recruited to play college football next year will not get a scholarship? Do these eighty people deserve that? How about all the businesses around State College? Do they deserve to see their incomes drop as the football programme at the university decreases?

All the other student-athletes on non-football scholarships will also suffer as the men’s football programme pays for all the other sports. These sports may well be cut as the university might not be able to afford them. How about the football players themselves? Yes they are transfer without penalty by why are they penalised for events that happened before they even got into junior high school?

What happens if Tim Curley and Gary Schultz are found not guilty at their criminal trials? What happens if the Freeh Report isn’t gospel? What happens if actually the main players in this instance actually were duped by Jerry Sandusky and actually didn’t know everything that everyone thinks they knew? There are so many questions and whilst we have heard many answers none of these answers have come from the people that know the answers. The answers have come from everybody else. At some point these people will answer these questions and then what do we do?

I know everyone wants to hit Penn State hard but was it the university that faltered or was it people? If I said that you moved into a house that five years ago a paedophile lived in would you be guilty of harbouring that person even if you didn’t know them? Should you face sanctions? The people involved in this horrific state of affairs are in jail, dead or facing criminal charges as I have already said. They are not playing football at Penn State today, they aren’t the hotel or restaurant owners in State College. Punish those who erred and not those that didn’t. That is my point of view.

One last thing – even those who have erred deserve due process. You don’t shoot first and ask questions later. Mark Emmert has played God because he believes he is serving the American’s peoples will. The general public have made up their minds and they want justice. They don’t care if the justice is fair or not but they want someone to suffer because these innocent kids had to suffer at the hands of a monster. Who suffers they don’t care as long as someone does and because Penn State employed all then they are right people to get hurt despite all the other innocent people at that institution. I’m sure these people want the catholic church shut down and the boy scouts dispensed with as well.

It is institutions that make these people evil – not individuals. If you believe that then I despair I truly do. You punish the people involved you don’t punish those that weren’t. That is maybe an old school belief but heck there is nothing like a (very) public witch hunt. Justice takes time but time isn’t something people have time for as it were. People want justice – or what they perceive as justice – yesterday. Whether they actually get justice is not important. The perception of someone paying the price is enough whether or not the people paying the price are people who should be.

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The (well one of the) main problems with journalism these days…

I know most of you don’t care about the Penn State scandal but it has given us not only a chilling A-list story on child molestation alongside the Catholic Church but it has also given us a glimpse of how sports writers work these days. Being right has always been at the forefront of journalism with being first a hair’s breadth behind. These days though being the loudest voice in the room is by far the most important thing.

Let me just give you two prime examples. Stephen A. Smith is a well known writer and broadcaster in the United States who specialises in basketball. When asked on ESPN’s First Take programme whether Penn State should receive the death penalty he reiterated that it should – and not just the death penalty – it should get it for a minimum of five years. Got no problem with that as we all have opinions but then he went on to say the following, ‘I have only glossed over the Freeh Report but I’ve read what I needed to know.’ So he has just a strong opinion based on glossing over a report. That is enough for him to have an opinion. I know one man who I wouldn’t want on my jury…

The other example comes from Sally Jenkins who is one of the very best in the business, long time columnist for the Washington Post so she really isn’t any mug. She wrote a column last Thursday after the release of the Freeh Report where upon she felt comfortable enough to say that Joe Paterno was guilty of perjury and of being a liar. Ok again that is her opinion but she says this due to what is in the Freeh Report.

The Freeh Report was 267 pages long and took me the best part of four hours to read. The report was released at 9AM local and yet her scathing column was posted at 9:31AM local. She hadn’t read the Freeh Report when she wrote her column. She had written the column, then when the Freeh Report came out flicked to a section in the Freeh Report to check that her narrative hadn’t been blown and went for it.

When I was plodding my way through Journalism at university I got to the stage where I to be blunt felt so disillusioned with the whole profession that I pretty much decided not to pursue a career in the industry. From what I could see there were a lot of very lazy journalists about who liked the sound of their own voice far more than they did informing the public of what was going on. That is even more evident to me now not just through the Penn State story but about politicians, bankers, foreigners etc… – a newspaper has a narrative that they want to get across to the public and they’ll fit the facts around the narrative. Not only that but they’ll change the narrative depending on what the public want. The most important thing isn’t to be right or fair or balanced but to check most boxes in a focus group.

I find this scenario extremely depressing but it is what it is. I know I’m just another pointless voice in the world that in the interweb but I at least choose to be a pointless point that has no narrative. I write what I think even if it is against how I thought I thought. I don’t care if 99% of the people who read a specific blog disagree with what I wrote. I write this blog as a place where my own personal thoughts on issues can come out.

It is like journalism just without being told what to write. It is a type of liberation. Maybe I had a lucky escape from journalism as I’d no doubt be too much of a loose cannon. I have opinions and I won’t swallow them. I think people knew that and so instead of working in the fast-paced action world of news or sports here I am doing internet type stuff to pay the bills and write my blurb on the side.

Maybe things didn’t work out too badly on that front after all…

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I have taken my time but now I think I’m ready to react to the Freeh Report

Last Thursday afternoon was not the most comfortable experience that I have ever had. Reading the Freeh Report and somehow not throwing up all over my desk and surrounding carpet is I think an achievement in itself. There will be many people who don’t even know what the Freeh Report is – well I’ll tell you this – it is a 267 report into the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal and more importantly it is the report into how Penn State as a university dealt with a paedophile on campus.

I didn’t go to Penn State – I went to the slightly less well know Surrey Institute of Art & Design University College which doesn’t even exist any more as it is part of the Universities & Colleges for the Creative Arts but there is a reason I have drank at the foot of Penn State – and that was a curmudgeonly old man who ran the football programme at said university. Well that old man died earlier this year mere months after the biggest scandal ever in American sports and possibly only Watergate can trump it in modern American history happened under his watch. It is that big.

Bob Ryan said last week that Joe Paterno was the most famous and important person to ever come out of Pennsylvania with the possible exception of Benjamin Franklin but that it was probably a push. So this isn’t some unknown guy. However now the Freeh Report has decided that he was as culpable for Jerry Sandusky’s action as three other men everyone is ready to spit on his grave. This is a sad symptom of the reactionary culture that we live in. The Freeh Report is full of holes and did not speak to many of the important people involved due to various reasons. Basically if I was using another American scandal I’d say it was the Mitchell Report which was ready to bury people based on just one source – Brian McNamee.

This time round Louis Freeh is ready to bury people on the strength of 14 and 11 year-old e-mails that may or may not be out of context. We all know that if this was a prosecution case in a criminal trial then no-one would be found guilty but the court of public opinion is a very different one to that of a court of law.

One thing I have learned in my 29 years on this Earth though is that going against the herd is not what you do unless you want to stick out like a sore thumb. One other thing I have learned is that going against the herd when a paedophile is involved in tantamount to signing your own death warrant. The voices are just so loud that rational thought processes are not allowed to prosper. People want justice – but not real justice – they want vigilante justice. This is what is happening in this case.

The other three men who Freeh says were involved have kept their counsel. The two with criminal cases to answer still believe that when their side of the story is told that they’ll be proved to have not done anything against the law.

The counsel for Gary Schultz release the following statement last week:

When the complete factual story is told before an impartial jury, it will be clear that Mike McQueary never told Mr. Schultz that he witnessed Mr. Sandusky engaging in anal intercourse with a young boy, that Mr. Schultz did not possess or maintain any secret files about Mr. Sandusky, and that there were no efforts between and among Messrs. Schultz, Curley, Paterno and Spanier to conceal Mr. Sandusky’s behavior.

The council for Tim Curley released the following statement last week:

Thus, the conclusions reached in the Freeh Report are based on an incomplete record.

A complete record can and will be made in a court of law, aided by the power of subpoena, where all of the witnesses are subject to thorough cross examination. Fortunately for Mr. Curley, the Constitution guarantees that the criminal charges pending against him will be decided by twelve citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania based upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and not upon mere opinions drawn from limited sources.

Now I am still what you call old school. You are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law and deserve to be treated as such. You are not innocent until a report into your conduct which only looks at a small portion of the evidence deems you as such. That isn’t how we do it in the democratic world – well it isn’t how it should be done anyway. However the court of public opinion has spoken and even if Curley and Schultz are found not guilty their names will only be cleared legally. Their names will never be cleared in the minds of most people.

Unsurprisingly away from the lives that have been damaged so cruelly by a man so evil that you just hope the rest of his life is a sheer living hell, my thought process is about Joe Paterno. The criminal cases will play out and I like to let these things play out before saying anything due to my aforementioned crazy ideal of innocent until proven guilty. Paterno has since passed on but his legacy is still up in the air. People have made judgements already without seeing how things play out. There are some horrific pieces of journalism around – flat out horrific – not just from bums like me but people who should know better.

Sports writers are just like any other journalist or indeed any other person. They want to be the loudest and the most veracious when it comes to showing moral outrage. The problem with most of them in this instance is Joe Paterno was beloved until what was it eight or so months ago. Many journalists wrote so many amazing things about the man but now Louis Freeh says that Paterno knew everything – not only that but he covered it all up – then that alone is enough to change the minds of everyone.

An e-mail that said that Joe had been spoken to and they decided they weren’t comfortable with going to the police any more is not enough to convict Paterno on any charge. He may have talked PSU out of their plan but it is also feasible that Paterno told them that it would cost the university millions of dollars but it was the right thing to do. No-one knows. As of today there is no record of that conversation but apparently that is enough for Louis Freeh. This was a man who was head of the FBI for eight years mainly through the Clinton administration so he isn’t some chump. Surely he knows you can’t essentially convict a man based on not only second-hand evidence but when that evidence is supposition. He doesn’t know what Joe Paterno said to Tim Curley. I don’t know what Joe Paterno said to Tim Curley. Rick Reilly certainly doesn’t know what Joe Paterno said to Tim Curley. One man does and that is Tim Curley himself and he’ll take the stand at some point so we’ll see what comes out.

There is surely plenty of blame to go around. We just don’t know where the blame should be laid yet. We all have opinions but opinions and knowledge are two very different kettles of fish.

I want to save my final blurb for the aforementioned Rick Reilly. Who I have never been a fan of but heck at this point he’s just trying to scream the loudest like many of his brethren:

I hope Penn State loses civil suits until the walls of the accounting office cave in. I hope that Spanier, Schultz and Curley go to prison for perjury.

What happens Rick if they haven’t committed said crime of perjury? Do you just hope that they get done for perjury because it will fit in with your narrative? What the rational person will say is that they hope justice is carried out. If they are guilty then we hope they get found as such. If they are not then we hope that they are found not guilty. Obviously being rational is beyond Rick’s comprehension – or indeed most people when it comes to crime of this nature.

If anyone believes that the Freeh Report is an 100% accurate representation of what happened at Penn State then they are morons. Rick Reilly and others seem to believe that it is and therefore they are morons. A report can never be 100% accurate when it doesn’t speak to the vast majority of the people with first-hand evidence of what went on. It might be accurate but we don’t know that and we shouldn’t take it as gospel. To do so is irresponsible journalism and irresponsible on a human level.

The fall-out from Jerry Sandusky’s actions haven’t even scratched the surface yet. As depressing as that is it is the truth. When people like Mike McQueary, Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz etc… start speaking publicly and/or under oath then we might start getting the full picture. Until then we have seen half the story and to form an opinion based on half a story is not much further elvolved than what happened at the Salem witch trials.

Update 25/08/12: Lots of people have read this today after being linked to on the BWI Rivals message board. For all my thoughts on PSU please click on this link for all Penn State blogs on this site

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Joe Paterno has lung cancer

A fortnight ago the whole world of Penn State blew up. Allegations of unspeakable proportions were alleged to have happened within the institute. Charges were filed against senior administrators accused of covering up. The legendary head coach who until a fortnight ago was believed not just one of the greatest football coaches but also one of the greatest men to have ever worked in college athletics was accused of not doing enough and was forced from his job. The university handled the situation about as badly as any institution can ever handle anything.

It has just been a desperate time for all. I have already written many things about the rush to judge without all the facts has been a total disgrace. How people can form an opinion on some of the story from one half of the ledger is beyond me. We all know that the Grand Jury testimony goes a lot further than what has been released to the press. We’ve found out this week according to sources to ESPN that the full Grand Jury testimony says that Mike McQueary actually did intervene and stop an alleged incident in the Penn State showers. That has come out this week but his reputation has already been dragged through the mud.

Having read certain things from people close to the Paterno’s it seems that Joe Paterno may well have evidence that he acted both legally and morally regarding the Jerry Sandusky allegations. However he is unable to talk at this juncture as it would affect the Jerry Sandusky criminal case. I’m willing to wait for everything to play out before I come to any judgements but then we get the news that we got today.

Joe Paterno has lung cancer.

His son Scott Paterno confirmed today that his dad has treatable lung cancer and they are hopeful of a full recovery. Talk about a punch to the stomach. I think my utmost thoughts are that he fights and beats this demon. I want this for two reasons. Firstly Joe Paterno is a prosecution witness in this case and should Paterno not make it then the Sandusky case gets hurt. Secondly I hope he beats it so he can live long enough to tell his side of the story and then everyone can make up their minds with all the evidence.

It might sound crazy that I can sit and type and fully believe that Joe Paterno will be completely vindicated and exonerated for how he handled that 2002 incident. Those close to the Paterno’s seem to feel confident when the truth comes out people’s perceptions will change. Also the fact Paterno was willing to speak at that Press Conference but Graham Spanier cancelled it a mere 40 minutes before because Paterno was going to talk and say the truth is rather fishy. Whether Curley, Schultz, Spanier et al handled the situation well is very much up in the air – as it is for Paterno and McQueary but I wouldn’t be completely surprised if their stories are wildly different when it all comes out.

Lastly the amount of people that are saying this is karma that Paterno has this evil disease makes me want to puke. The AP in America ran a poll asking who was accused of these unspeakable crimes and 30% of the American public answered Joe Paterno and still many members of the media are saying they acted responsibly and treated the story how it deserved to be treated. Either they didn’t and/or 30% of American’s are so stupid it’s insane.

Jerry Sandusky is accused of these unspeakable acts. Not Joe Paterno. The media are terrible and the rush to judge without even half the story just sums up people today. I for one wish Joe Paterno the best in this battle and a long and healthy forced retirement. Until someone gives me cold hard facts and not conjecture that Paterno valued his job/his university over the sexual abuse of boys then I’m going to hold off judging. I am in the minority I know but hey it’s better to stand for what you believe than follow a crowd who act in a way you disagree with.

As for those wishing Paterno a slow and painful death. I have no words.

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Mike McQueary moved into protective custody

I hope that my blogging surrounding this story will wane in the coming weeks and months. No doubt at some point is will flare up but I hope to be blogging again on political matters and random stuff that pops into my fron soon. Heck it was the Southend Lib Dem AGM on Monday and I have exciting (well semi exciting, well news, well something) I have reaction to that and other stuff that really should be blogged about but other things have been the priority this week.

Ok so if you’ve read this blog or read, seen or heard any type of news bulletin in the past week you would have heard about the Penn State Sex Scandal. The latest news on this is Mike McQueary has been placed into protective custody according to a PennLive report after having received what the police are determining as ‘numerous threats’ on his life. For those who don’t know Mike McQueary is the key prosecution witness in the Jerry Sandusky sexual assault trial. He allegedly saw Sandusky sodomising a boy of around ten years-old.

Now there are people angry that he didn’t do more. I can understand that but people please take a step back here and try not to act like idiots. The media have whipped this up into a storm and when journalists like Professor JA Adande are saying that the media’s reaction has shown us how great the media are my heart sinks. This is a man who is teaching the next generation of journalists but hey – as I wrote earlier – being fair doesn’t sell newspapers.

You have guys like Mark May – who most self-respecting college football fan knows is a grade A moron saying essentially that Mike McQueary by not running into that situation and saving the boy doesn’t deserve to live – that he isn’t human. That is basically what he said on live national TV. Now it turns out that the police believe McQueary’s life is in danger and yet wait for this…

The man accused of these crimes doesn’t need protective custody. He is living in his martial home with no police guards stationed outside of it. So the person accused of these heinous crimes is free to live his life with no seeming immediate fear but the person who is the key witness to putting this seemingly evil monster inside if left to fend for himself would probably be murdered for not doing enough.

The media have driven this story so hard that they have clouded the public’s perception for who the real villains are. If the baying mob want to kill McQueary then the likelihood of Sandusky being convicted of these crimes falls dramatically. Not a little. Dramatically.

So what do the mob want? Do they want justice for the victims or do they want to seek their own revenge on the key witness and ensure that these victims do not get full justice.

They two things are mutually exclusive. If the mob gets to McQueary then Sandusky in all likelihood walks free to possibly sexually abuse more boys. Is that really what the mob wants? Of course it isn’t but it is what the media bandwagon has driven them to.

The mob and the media cannot see the wood for the trees. Jerry Sandusky is the man accused of these crimes but no-one cares because the media have told them not to care. The media told them to care about Joe Paterno and now Mike McQueary and I genuinely fear for both their lives. I fear I’m going to wake up to the news that one or both of them will be butchered in cold blood by someone and if that happens then the blood stains will be all over ESPN and the rest of the media who have driven this story so far down the nation’s throats that people are choking on it and can’t see the reality, just the perception given to them by the media.

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