Now that the full scope of Penn State’s corruption is clear, it’s time for some bold action. Joe Paterno was a fraud. His bosses were spineless bureaucrats. The culture at Happy Valley was sick. So what happens next?
The Louis Freeh investigation that uncovered the ugly truth about Penn State was more than just a historic look back at 14 years of depravity; it was a powerful demand for immediate and dynamic change. We don’t need to hear another hollow word from Penn State about its promising future or new direction. After 14 years of lies, who’s still listening? Instead, here’s what should be done – now:
* Tear down that statue. Joe Paterno is still a hero now only to the dumbest of the dumb. He enabled children to be raped. He placed his reputation and that of his football program above the well-being of innocent kids. Paterno’s image was not tarnished by the Freeh study, as so many have news outlets have reported. It was obliterated.
The notion that a statue still stands on the campus of Penn State honoring this disgraceful man is tangible proof that the university has not yet grasped the gravity of his transgressions. Joe Paterno never again will represent anything positive about college athletics; in fact, his entire 46-year reign must be seen now as a charade. There is no counter-argument to allowing the sexual assault of children.
* Impeach Tom Corbett. That’s right, the governor finds himself right in the middle of this quagmire, having failed as attorney general to find enough evidence to get Sandusky off the streets in 2009. What Freeh discovered in six months without subpoena power, Corbett could not uncover in two years. And now we may know why.
On my radio show last week, former Gov. Ed Rendell said Corbett assigned one investigator to the Sandusky case while dozens were working on legislative corruption. Did Corbett look the other way because he had received $200,000 in political contributions from officials of Sandusky’s Second Mile charity? The legislature needs to answer that question – during impeachment hearings.
* Death to football at PSU. Despite the outrage generated by the Freeh report, there have been few cries for the NCAA to hand Penn State the ultimate punishment, the death penalty. Well, here’s one loud demand for exactly that, especially since the oppressive power of the football program was the primary cause of the cover-up.
In the past, the NCAA has issued the death penalty for point-shaving, academic fraud and recruiting violations. If the NCAA does not consider enabling the rape of children to be as serious as those issues, then the NCAA itself needs to be disbanded.
All of us should have learned a great deal from this hideous episode. Now it’s time to act upon that epiphany with the kind of courageous action that has been lacking for 14 shameful years.
Cole Hamels spent last week listening to the overtures of his prospective new teammates, spouting well-rehearsed lines designed to maximize his value and dealing with growing speculation that these might be his final days with the Phillies. Behind all of the rhetoric, however, is a surprisingly simple situation.
The Phillies will keep Hamels beyond this season if they match the best offer during free agency this fall. Hamels has said with absolute conviction that he will not leave Philadelphia unless the Phils decide that he’s worth more to another team than to theirs. And how can he be?
Yes, the Dodgers will try to prove their new wealth and commitment to success by making a prohibitive proposal – probably seven years and close to $175 million. Hamels is worth more than that to the Phillies. He has roots, a championship, adoring fans, and yes, a future here. There is no logical reason for the Phillies to allow another team to outbid them.
As someone who talks to the fans every day – and has done so on WIP for 23 years – I feel qualified to predict the fallout if Hamels signs elsewhere as a free agent. It will be unprecedented. It will be extreme even by Philadelphia standards. It will be a death knell for a great era of baseball, and for a time of unprecedented prosperity.
If Hamels leaves as a free agent, the attendance streak will end, sales of sports apparel will experience a freefall, TV ratings will plummet, and the Eagles will again become the top sports franchise in Philadelphia, by default.
When you look at it that way, Cole Hamels will be a bargain for the Phillies at any price.
Let the record show that the honeymoon between the new owners of the Sixers and their fans officially ended last Friday afternoon at approximately 4 p.m. with the utterance of two fatal words: Kwame Brown.
Before the idiotic decision to waste $6-million on free-agent Brown, at least an argument could be made that the new ownership had a clue about how to run a basketball operation. After acquiring the face of failure in the NBA – a 6-foot-11, injury-prone, lazy, underachieving flop – the debate is officially over. The new guys are clueless. The new guys are doomed.
And please don’t absolve coach Doug Collins from blame when evaluating this terrible off-season so far. Remember, it was Collins who coached Brown – ineffectively – in Washington after the big lug was chosen as the No. 1 pick of the 2001 NBA draft. Brown’s signing here has Collins’ DNA all over it.
Finally, we have a clear picture of what that blueprint was for this off-season, and it included dumping Elton Brand as an amnesty exemption, added a host of nondescript “tweeners” who have no track record at any position and bringing back the softest player in the NBA, Spencer Hawes, to work on the front line with one of the biggest busts in NBA history.
The new owners proved in their inaugural season to be master salesmen, filling seats and generating excitement largely through the power of their own optimism. They will have a much tougher time of it next season – especially now that Kwame Brown is on their roster.
Idle thoughts . . . .
• We love to talk about heroes in sports. Well, if you’re looking for one right now, you cannot do better than former FBI director Louis Freeh, the first official with the courage to stand up to the rampant corruption at Penn State. Someone finally made a commitment to the truth. Imagine that.
• Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post got the last interview with Joe Paterno before he passed away last winter, and she dutifully reported everything the Penn State coach said about the Sandusky scandal. Here’s how she started her story after the Freeh report: “Joe Paterno was a liar.”
• Bud Selig declared this the “golden era of baseball” last week during the All-Star break, ignoring the bad TV ratings, the steroid scandal and the lack of hustle by a majority of star players. Well, if the commissioner ever needs a speaker at his testimonial dinner, who better than . . . . Bud Selig himself?
• Hold on a second. Jonathan Papelbon got a five-out save on Saturday night, and his arm didn’t fall off? I swear I read somewhere that Phillies manager Charlie Manuel should have been doing this all year. Oh, yeah. It was right on this page, three months ago. I wrote it.
• By the way, Papelbon said anyone criticizing manager Charlie Manuel this season is “stupid.” Unfortunately, that includes about three-quarters of the Phillies fan base. Hey, we’re just lucky we have a superior intellect – and totally objective spokeman – like Papelbon to set us straight.