Esme’s Blog: Penn State And The Culture of Winning

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There has been much written about the fall of Coach Joe Paterno and the shocking sexual abuse scandal that was allowed to continue for years despite eyewitnesses seeing sexual assaults on children.

An appropriate comparison has been made to the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic church. But the Penn State nightmare is also an example of how, when it comes to athletic excellence, all is often brushed under the rug. It starts early. The star athlete who can’t make it to practice, but is allowed to start because of his prowess.

In school, these athletes are shoved along, stroked at every turn because everyone knows they will someday earn a scholarship or perhaps even a professional pay check. The culture of athletic success has its well documented down sides, which include academic scandals, criminal behavior and an out-right arrogance that a sense of unbridled entitlement brings.

It is this culture that puts winning ahead of the basic need for all children to be protected that is so shocking about the Penn State scandal. The outrage that has accompanied this particular case, especially within the main stream sports media, is unparalleled.

If there is any good that can come here, it is the understanding that the culture of protecting star athletes and star coaches is one that can corrupt so absolutely, that grown men could watch children be raped and not rush to help. If there is any good here, it is the knowledge that something like this must never, ever happen again.

  • gtV

    There is more to this scandalous tragedy than the culture of winning and athletics. It Is a micro-snapshot or microcosm of our society today. We as a society should look at this scandal, our values, and ethics. What have we become as individuals and why don’t our ethical belief ethics and belief systems work? Is this who we are as an American society? Something to think about…..

  • Donnie S

    Sounds like sports is more important than child safty and well being, what a bunch of sick twisted hillbillies. The students rioting in the streets. They should close that creepy school.

  • missingmiddleclass

    maybe it is time to separate college athletic students and coaches from REAL students and real professors. football and college sprots arei a side show that has nothing to do with academics.

  • Ron K.

    Really, a professional reporter with as much experience as Ms. Murphy, cannot come up with a more insightful commentary?

    Couple of points to consider. First of all, I think most of the country will agree that the culture contributed to the cover up and that there were grave moral mistakes and poor choices. Don’t you think that is a trodden point already. Secondly, you make a quick passing shot at the Catholic Church with one sentence. A good editor would have removed that sentence . . . it bears no relevance to the story . . . but hey, let’s get a couple more digs into those Catholics. Nice.

    Let’s talk about the real issues. First of all these are horrible crimes committed by a horrible person. This is not a sports story this is a criminal story. Let’s treat it as such. Academics, sports, and the Catholic Church did not cause the perp to be a monster. He was a monster on his own choice.

    Did people look the other way? Yes. But looking the other way is not unique to sports programs or religions. We all have looked the other way. How many times have we all witnessed a person in need on the road? Or a homeless child or family in need and “kicked the can” down the road in the hopes that someone else would take care of the situation. In many families, there is a culture of cover up. We should be sickened by this story; sickened to the point of not being afraid to take action in our own lives.

    If there is a lesson here, it is that we all will come across defining moments and we all will have a chance to act and save another human. Take that moment as a time to be strong. Please don’t take this story as a story that sports culture needs to change and that the Catholic Church is a horrible place. Take this story as a reminder that bad things happen and we all have the power to do better.

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  • StraycatStrut

    What a horrible deal for a child to go thru. I agree with the comments that we need to protect our children better from all predators even if we personally do not know the child. But I also agree that the culture of TV has taken and mangled our beliefs and values. Just watch any nite at the violence on TV and the advertised dramas selling to the public. Even the daily NEWS does not promote a higher level to our culture but rather exploit the deviance in the nature of the crime in political correctness. The magnitude of the crime is just elavating in our society for the criminals 15 minutes of fame.

  • Tony Rozycki

    Excellent article about athletics in America Esme! (Even the Big Ten lost its way when it had to have eleven football teams.) I think missingmiddleclass makes a good point too.

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