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Unmasking False Football Gods
at Happy Valley

December 3, 2011 by Somebody Else

Quite honestly, I lost touch with college football a very long time ago. Way back in the day, when I was in junior high school, my mother was married to a man who was a college football fanatic. But you've got to understand that his enthusiasm went way beyond the mere excitement of the game itself.

The truth of the matter was that just like so many men today, he was forever betting on the outcome of college football games, regardless of whether or not he actually had any money on hand at a given moment. This destructive addiction has completely consumed his life for decades and thoroughly degraded his relationships with family members.

Today, it seems clear to me what a rotten sham the whole college football scene is, but for several years, I bought into it as much as anyone else did. I got all emotional when my favorite college teams went up against their rivals, and cheered them on in front of the television, or from the stadium seats when my stepfather took us to games.

However, as time went by and I became increasingly disillusioned with this compulsive sport gambler, whom my mother finally divorced after seven years of idiotic insanity, I totally lost track of the whole college football scene. I went from nervous anticipation of the next big game to complete and utter indifference.

Even today, I could care less what a bunch of macho jocks in plastic padding might be doing with a pigskin football. It only reminds me of the lousy and depressing years wasted with a man who was incapable of being a proper parent to us kids, and unwilling to be a decent husband to my mother.

So, when I heard about the recent scandal at Penn State University, involving the arrest of former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, and the firing of head coach Joe Paterno and other university officials accused of covering up Sandusky's sexual assault of a child, it brought back to my mind all of my personal reasons for disliking college football in the first place.

Well, I can imagine the rebuttal coming from die-hard college football fans:

"Come on, what Jerry Sandusky did has nothing to do with your former stepfather's sports gambling. Sandusky was molesting innocent kids. Paterno found out about it and told the university authorities. If they didn't call the cops, that's their fault, not Paterno's. Listen here, Paterno is a great man and he's done a lot for Penn State, brought a lot of money to the university. College football is a wonderful thing, but then people like Sandusky have to ruin it all for everybody. Put Sandusky in jail, problem solved. Slap everyone else involved on the wrist and get back to playing football."

The media has been promoting this same kind of attitude by laser-focusing in on Sandusky himself, providing all the lurid details of his alleged crime, plastering the man's denials on the front page, and making the whole story all about a child molester who put a stain on the formerly sterling reputation of a supposedly picture-perfect college football program, who left an ugly blemish that Penn State will never be able to completely remove, and who set off a scandal from which that university can never fully recover. According to the media's narrative, if only it hadn't been for Sandusky, everything would be peaches and cream at Penn State.

But let's be completely honest with ourselves, folks. College football itself is one big sleazy racket. Period. Sandusky's arrest and the resulting fallout have only brought this cold, hard fact to the general attention of the public, making all of our inane football celebrations and rituals seem hollow and meaningless.

Thus, the big news is not so much what Sandusky did, because, sadly, child molestation is happening all the time all over this country, but rather the way in which Penn State officials were willing to look the other way to keep all of that college football cash rolling in. That's the big story.

And allow me to correct the media's rose-tinted illusions. Things were never hunky-dory at Penn State, not even before the arrival of an unregenerate pervert and sexual predator like Sandusky.

Happy Valley is a misnomer. A better name would be Crappy Valley, because that's what the end result of Penn State's football program has been, a massive load of crap, just like every other college football program in the nation.

There is a very good reason why American-styled football is only played in this country and in Canada, and that is because the rest of the world is smart enough to realize that the game takes far too high a physical toll on the men who play it.

Notice that women do not suit up to play football. Women have better sense than men. Generally speaking, they are not willing to risk having their skulls bashed in, or getting their ligaments torn, or ending up with their ribs cracked. As a rule, they are not interested in suffering long-term brain damage or in acquiring a permanent limp.

Now, let's take a look at how college football works. It brings in young, generally healthy men, most of who cling to their shiny dream of one day playing pro football and being millionaires. These young men show up at the college of their choice with a number of injuries from their high school football days, and by the time they've finished their college football careers, assuming that they've had a significant amount of playing time, they've aggravated those injuries even more, and have probably added several new ones.

Thus, at graduation, at a time when they are supposed to be in the prime of their lives, they are saddled with physical infirmities that they will carry with them to the grave. They weren't paid a dime to play in college. And in most cases they've been passed over for the NFL draft. They've been an integral part of the college football money-making machine, but all they have to show for it are bumps, bruises, torn ligaments, fractured bones, and brain damage.

Meanwhile, the jackass coach who barked orders at them and brought them to the brink of heat exhaustion during endless, grueling summer practices is kicking back at his multimillion dollar mansion with his trophy wife.

And as for the players who actually do make it to the NFL, over and over again we hear stories of how so-and-so earned two million dollars per season for ten years, and a year or two after retirement is working at Burger King because he blew it all and now has nothing left, and it turns out that he never actually learned how to read in college, even though he was awarded an undergraduate degree in exercise science. Oh, and by the way, he has permanent head damage and now has to walk with a cane.

Admittedly, not everyone who goes to the NFL ends up like this, but more than enough players do. The NFL is just as bad as college football, in my book.

So, they say that Joe Paterno did a lot of good things, donated a lot of his money to good causes. So what? Mafia godfathers have also been known to do nice things for the community every now and then. What's a few million here and there when it only represents a tiny slice of your overall pie? I suppose that the public relations value makes it all worthwhile to such people. Good old Joe Paterno learned his lesson well from Don Corleone. He garnered the adulation of the people while bringing in the dirty money hand over fist.

Yes, as far as college football goes, money is what it's all about. A successful coach brings in more donations from university alumni and sponsors, and increases ticket sales at games, thereby pumping more cash into the university where he works.

University presidents, generally highly accomplished and unquestionably intelligent men and women, must one and all be cynics to some extent, otherwise, how else can you explain their apparently wholehearted enthusiasm for embracing the reprehensible, toxic, exploitative, cruel and barbaric college football culture? Assuming that they should know better, why do they just plaster on a false smile, cheer on their team, and try to push out of their minds the damage that is being done to innocent young men, and the foul, contemptible and destructive sports-gambling culture that has formed, like a cancerous growth, around their football program?

I'll tell you why -- because the money is good. And like so many other people, university presidents check their better ethical sense at the curb under such conditions.

The situation at Penn State was really in principle no different from the ones at so many other universities. Most people have become accustomed to ignoring the still, quiet voice of their conscience when it tells them that college football is a bunch of exploitative, brutal madness. They know very well how bad it is for so many people, but since all of it is perfectly legal, they tend to rationalize away whatever misgivings they might have otherwise had.

So, Joe Paterno and the university authorities could have called the police, but they instead preferred to cover it up and let Sandusky continue preying upon children so that they could keep raking in the big bucks at Penn State. They cared more about the truckloads of money they were anticipating than they did about protecting the innocence of defenseless children. For those reasons, I agree that the whole lot of them deserves to be fired. There should be no real debate on that point.

But my big question is this. Why do we have to wait for a scandal like the one at Penn State to realize that there is so much that is awful and inexcusable about college football as a whole? When will we finally come to grips with the fact that the rationale for covering up Sandusky's indiscretions is pretty much the same argument used to justify everything else that is despicable about college football? Let's not forget that just because something is legal does not mean that it is necessarily right.

The false football gods at Happy Valley have been unmasked, and we are now gazing with shock and disbelief upon their true gargoyle-like faces. But let's not stop there. Let's keep going and tear the masks off all the other false football gods all over the country. College football does us no more good than gladiatorial contests did the Roman Empire. And just because so many people clamor for it doesn't mean that it really benefits us in any truly meaningful way or that we need it in the least.

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