…G. M. Gilbert (commenting on the defendants at the Nuremberg Trial)
When the victorious powers at the end of World War II determined to place the Nazi leadership on trial, one of the things they did was provide them with a shrink to serve as a sounding board and as someone who could try to explain to the prosecution the mindset of the men on trial. They chose US Army captain Gustave M. Gilbert, who happened to also be Jewish. If you saw the early 2000s TV movie “Nuremberg” with Brian Cox as Hermann Goering, Gilbert is the character played by Matt Craven. At the conclusion of the trial, Gilbert wrote his notes down in the form of the book “Nuremberg Diary” (which you can probably find on line). One of his conclusions about the defendants was the comment used to title this post.
This is a baseball blog but I’m angry, furious, and damned well upset. I don’t know that I’d rank the mess at Penn State as the most awful episode in American sports, but it’s damned close. I normally wouldn’t comment here, but if Bill James is going to say something, then I think all we baseball fans can make our own comments on blogs that are otherwise strictly about baseball. I’m angry at two levels: as a sports fan and as a human being.
On a sports level I’m angry at how this is pulling down a sport I care about. I like college football. It isn’t my favorite sport, baseball is. But it’s a lot of fun to watch and speculate about and it’s being dragged through the gutter. Also as a sports fan I’m appalled at how powerful one coach and one sport could be at a university; so powerful that the university President couldn’t or wouldn’t go against the program. As a baseball fan, ask yourself if that would happen were it the baseball program. Can you imagine the bench coach at a university getting away with what the powers that be at Penn State let their defensive coordinator get away with doing? Can you really imagine that? This is a huge blight on not just the university but on the way univeristies have allowed sports programs (mostly football, but basketball in some places too) to become ultimately entities that are responsible only to themselves, not to the school. Penn State isn’t alone, it’s merely the newest in a line of absolutely awful scandals (can you use “Baylor”, “murder”, and “coach coverup” in a sentence?).
But I’m even more angry as a human being. Anyone who knows me will tell you I never bought off on the Joe Paterno Myth. It goes back to 1969 when he and Penn State ducked Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Texas was number one in the nation, Penn State was number two. Texas was contractually bound to the Cotton Bowl, PSU was an independent that could go anywhere. They went to the Orange Bowl because it was supposed to have a bigger payday. No coach worth his salt ducks a chance to knock off number one and claim that title for his team. I thought it showed Paterno more concerned with his own image and the image of his team than with the benefits of defeating the best tream in college football. No one else knew how to defense the Wishbone either (Nortre Dame figured it out the next season) and I was sure that Paterno didn’t want to risk being defeated. I’m telling you this so you will know I have a particular bias against the Paterno Myth.
I thought he got over that by the 1970s and then began the “Saint Joe” persona. My grandfather used to tell me “If someone claims to be a saint, look for the halo. If you don’t see one, he ain’t.” Turns out to be great advice and it seems like Paterno never did get over the idea of style over substance. Now his image is eternally tarnished. They’re asking if they should take down the statue of him at the football stadium. Damned right, take it down. Melt it down for scrap and sell the scrap. Give the money, what little there will be, to one of the kids Sandusky buggered. I read a comment from someone on the internet suggesting that they keep the statue up but turn it around so that Paterno could “look the other way”. I honestly wish I could take credit for that comment because it’s exactly what Paterno did.
But as angry as I am at Paterno I’m most angered by the other three involved. Here we have a university President, a Vice President, and an Athletic Director, all fathers, and we know from their emails that they knew what to do. They were willing to turn Sandusky over to the authorities but then, upon talking to Paterno, changed their mind. After all they had to be humane to Sandusky, but apparently not to the kids (shades of Gilbert’s observation). Humane to Sandusky? Gimme a break! So they let it go on and they got lucky because not one of Sandusky’s kids was one of theirs. I have a son and two grandsons. If I knew Sandusky was attacking my grandson the only way I wouldn’t shoot that SOB is because my wife, son, and daughter-in-law got to him first because they can all outrun me. It seems none of the Penn State troika think that way. It’s crude, it’s probably awful, but it’s very human and I’m not ashamed of feeling that way. I wish a little more righteous indignation had shown up on the Penn State campus. Maybe they were just trying to be “impartial.” I’ll remind them of Winston Churchill’s comment, “I decline utterly to be impartial between the fire brigade and the fire.”
So if you feel sorry for the leadership at Penn State, don’t. Save your empathy for the kids. They certainly deserve it.
Tags: Penn State