"Faith is the surrender of the mind; it's the surrender of reason, it's the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It's our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated."-Christopher Hitchens
The above quote by the recently departed Hitchens, noted author, social critic and infamous contrarian, says it all about the worship and unquestioning loyalty that envelops your average major college football program. Penn State suffered an inordinate amount of this due to the all-encompassing aura of ex-football coach Joe Paterno, who sucked the air out of the Penn State campus for over 45 years until he was given the bum's rush for not only failing to report Sandusky to the authorities but also for exhibiting monumental hubris when the situation called for exactly the opposite.
This isn't exclusive to sausage factories like Penn State. It happens at places like Duke University, where basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski is deified and worshiped like a Greek God. The fanbases of these programs are nothing but cults driven by a snide, cynical clique of worshipers who brook no criticism and resoundingly defend their programs at all costs. One must have faith, and being a true believer is the cost of admission, to the detriment of one's individual sense of self. Any rational sense of right and wrong goes out the window when defending "the program". Just ask ex-Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel.
You see the worst of it with assholes like Bobby Knight, but he is merely a symptom of a much greater disease. Sportscaster Dick Vitale, who has spent a lifetime licking the boots of coaches from his pulpit as a college basketball commentator, recently stated that Indiana University should erect a statue for Knight because of all he's done for the school. Vitale seems to have either forgotten or blatantly disregards the reasons why Bobby Knight was fired in the first place. During a public gathering almost 30 years ago, we have a very astute and pragmatic assessment of coach Knight's influence on the most talented player to ever play at Indiana, Isiah Thomas-
Notice how Knight is glaring at Thomas. Underneath the forced smile, you can literally feel the visceral, scalding-hot fury emanating from his eyes. And you have to love the way Thomas turned his head and glared right back at coach Knight as if to say, "Yup. I'm sayin' this because it's true, and you know it, motherfucker". Whatever his motivations, Isiah was right. What could any coach teach such a talented player besides swearing, cursing and variations of the word "cunt"? Absolutely nothing. Thomas was at Indiana University long enough to win a championship for Knight, not the other way around. But coach Knight is the one that receives most if not all of the credit.
The type of misguided hero worship we've seen at Penn State invariably and inevitably leads to monsters like Jerry Sandusky feeling they can act with impunity. Sandusky, who was affiliated with Penn State in an important enough capacity to profit from it's notoriety, had acquired the desired amount of clout where he was able to pull children out of class in the middle of a school day to molest them right on the premises. And no one at this school batted an eye.
The poisonous affects of this is evident every day on college campuses all over the country. Entitled jocks walking around saying and doing anything they want-never going to class, always having someone else do their homework, and screwing every girl in sight. One minute they're living in abject poverty, the next they are driving fancy cars, rocking mad jewelery and shopping at Lord & Taylor. Girls losing their self-respect just to be close to these low-IQ, overgrown pituitary cases. Boosters paying tons and tons of money for exclusive "access" to the programs. Everything corrupt you can possibly think of goes on in this environment. And the average student, who goes to college for an education, is supposed to make what, exactly, of all this madness swirling around them?
What lessons are we to learn from all this? What is most disheartening is some of the people who Sandusky actually helped find themselves feeling sorry-not for the victims of his heinous crimes, but for the program and for themselves. They feel good ol' coach let 'em down, and now what blue-chip steroid freak is going to want to play for their illustrious alma mater? Who's going to uphold the traditions that resound from sea to shining sea?
Let's attempt to recalibrate our priorities and realize this ain't about the disenchanted ex-players of Penn State who feel disappointed their gridiron heroes let them down. It's about the victims whose lives have been scarred forever, and it's about the obscene and undeserved hero worship of coaches like Paterno. Coaches should stay away from any grandiose and overreaching status of power and respect that is out of proportion to their chosen profession. They should coach and nothing more.
If you need some hulking, yellow-toothed greaseball like Jerry Sandusky to teach you life lessons, you are not fit to wear the jockstrap necessary to protect your testicles from the kick in the nuts you deserve for worshiping people like him. The reasons why this system is out of whack begins with the screwed-up priorities of fans and the over-reliance of sports to fill the empty void that exists in the
personal lives of the fools you see in the stands every Saturday with their school colors painted on their torsos.
The overriding issue is the average fan's need to be a part of something "bigger than themselves". This is cult-speak, except these cults don't need to recruit. They have a built-in fanbase of worshipers, groupies and boosters who pass on the love of their teams from one generation to the next. Their particular allegiance becomes the defining characteristic in their lives. I can't possibly think of anything more corrosive to a person's sense of self-worth than this. Which is exactly the type of environment makes the Sanduskys of the world possible.