Paterno, fridge, Paterno
This might be off-topic, I don't know, but the release of the Freeh Report on what happened at Penn State does seem like something that I would like to address, especially a day after a letter purportedly from Joe Paterno was released by his family. The passage that jumped out at me was this one:
For over 40 years young men have come to Penn State with the idea that they were going to do something different — they were coming to a place where they would be expected to compete at the highest levels of college football and challenged to get a degree. And they succeeded — during the last 45 years NO ONE has won more games while graduating more players. The men who made that commitment and who gave of themselves to help build the national reputation of what was once a regional school deserve better than to have their hard work and sacrifice dismissed as part of a “football factory,” all in the interests of expediency.
His name is Tony Hawks, and he's an English dude who got drunk one night, accepted a bar bet, and proceeded to hitchhike around the circumference of Ireland with a mini-fridge. He wrote a popular book detailing his experiences afterwards, which I read.
His story gets latched onto by a Dublin radio station, which plans a triumphal march to the city center upon Hawks's arrival. This ends up being a sad anti-climax consisting of three people and a confused bagpiper; Hawks goes to a hotel and watches an Irish political debate afterwards. The next day he gets lunch with the radio folk, and what happens when he exits the restaurant has been an oddly persistent thing in my memory:
As I walked out of that restaurant pulling my fridge behind me for the final time, everyone on Gerry's table began applauding politely. Astonishingly, some people on a few of the other tables started to join in. Others looked up to see what was going on, and when they saw me and a fridge, they too joined in, possibly thinking it was somehow expected of them. Soon everyone in the restaurant was applauding, with cheers, whistles, and laughter thrown in for good measure.
I felt great. The anti-climax of yesterday didn't matter anymore. I understood now. Yesterday had been phoney, this was real. Yesterday I had been saying 'Look at me." It hadn't been right and it hadn't really worked, and I should have known that …. Now it was working, and it was working because I was walking humbly out of a restaurant with no airs and graces, affectations or histrionics. The restaurant's diners picked up on this and were offering their spontaneous and unaffected appreciation of someone for whom they had a peculiar nagging respect.
Just lug the damn refrigerator. Stop telling everyone how great of a job you're doing of pulling the refrigerator. Maybe someone will notice, maybe not, but once you start talking about it yourself your self-regard starts chipping away at the core.
If Penn State had not been posited as a Grand Experiment, it's possible that one of the four adult-type substances who could have put Sandusky's second career to a stop a decade before it did would have had more regard for the possibility children would be raped* than for what people would think about them. It's too late for all of them, perpetrator and victims alike, now. But to me the lesson is to shut up about yourself and get on with it. It will help you not make terrible mistakes because you are trying to preserve what people think about you in the face of what you really are.
BONUS AMAZING IRONY SECTION: I've been reading various Penn State boards, which are now riven with debate over how much proofy proof there actually is at this juncture. Quite a lot of people have given up the ghost—a BWI poll about taking down the Paterno statue is running 80-20 in favor—but a few continue to soldier on. Here's an exchange from BSD that is, well…
Just finished the report top to bottom minus all the parts about the Clery act and university and state codes.
I think the 98 investigation heavily, heavily influenced future actions. I think that investigation established to everyone involved that Jerry was not a child molester but rather a man who had boundary issues, the police reports even backed that when they describe his behavior as not that of a predator. Every action they took after that appears to have been normal actions taken with a prestigious former employee, whether it was 2nd Mile support, access to facilities, emeritus status etc, they seemed to feel there was no reason Sandusky should be a liability.
I think that that investigation clouded their judgement of 2001. It seems that there was some telephone affect in place as well but the lack of reconciliation between Paterno/Mike and Schultz/Curley’s statements makes that cloudy. At this point Jerry had been established as a man with boundary issues, not molestation issues and I think in their minds when they heard of another shower incident, they just related it to the same level of importance they thought of the 1998 incident, not a serious one.
It’s called priming. Once we have a preconceived idea about something or someone in our head, it’s nearly impossible to get it out.
A good book that get into this and all sorts of other cool issues is Jonah Lehrer’s book, How We Decide. Most of our decisions are not based on rationality or reasoning, but rather imbedded emotional responses. That can be both good and bad. In this situation, it was obviously bad.
…it's demanding some self-reflexiveness. Yes. Since I cannot shake 20% of the Penn State fanbase individually, screaming "SNAP OUT OF IT, MAN," I think I will go with "demanding some self-reflexiveness."
SIDE NOTE TO IRONY: One of the more useful ways to cleave the world into halves is to split people into a group A that is suspicious of their own brain and a group B that is not. I'm in the former group, thus all the numbers and systematization and so on. You could add a third group of people who are suspicious of other people's brains but not their own, but they seem like a subset of group B with particularly frustrating arguments. Apparently this is a post in which I dispense personal philosophy unrelated to its relevance.
FINAL PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY STATEMENT WITH BASICALLY NO RELEVANCE TO ANYTHING ON THIS BLOG: Port Salut is the most underrated cheese of all time.
ALSO: Boiled Sports takes this topic on as well, albeit with less references to underrated cheese.