Thursday, July 26, 2012

Shootings and Sanctions

Decided to take a break from writing the final installment of the “Thanks For Wasting My Time” series. The Colorado shootings and the latest from Happy Valley deserve some attention. There are old posts out there related to both subjects: “Happy Valley” (Nov 10, 2011) and “Why Are We Shocked” (Jan 15, 2011).

“Why Are We Shocked” was written after the Giffords/Tucson shootings. I closed with these words:

“Why are we shocked when a mentally ill person commits a violent crime? Why are we shocked when we find out that a violent act was committed by someone “under the influence”? Why are we shocked that someone did not do something sooner when all the signs were there? Why are we shocked? BECAUSE WE CANNOT FACE REALITY. We cannot face the reality of a problem that is so huge and so unmanageable, that we know it will happen again. So we pacify ourselves by agreeing to “tone down the rhetoric”, to engage in “more civil discourse”, to be nice and respectful, to not use violent metaphors as we compete in politics, sports and commerce. We agree to tip-toe through the crazies and pray that we are not their next target. Why are we shocked?”

Considering this latest incident, I can only say that WE MUST FACE REALITY. While a nutjob like this guy in Colorado might have hit the theater with homemade explosives had he not had guns, the REALITY IS that he did have guns…automatic weapons capable of firing a lot of rounds really fast. Thankfully, his assault rifle jammed or more people would likely have died. The REALITY is that we don’t need people owning these types of weapons. I have guns…revolvers, shotguns and bolt-action rifles. I usually hit what I’m aiming at and I don’t need extra firepower for sport or self-defense. It’s just too easy for any fool to purchase guns that are designed to spray massive amounts of lead in seconds. I know…Guns don’t kill people, people do. It’s just that some guns enable people to kill more than they might otherwise be able to do. Let’s at least address this issue. Will it completely stop crazy people from going on a rampage? No, but it will take some weapons out of their hands.

Then there is Penn State. Other than a few blindly loyal Penn State supporters, I may be the only person in America who thinks the NCAA sanctions were overkill and inappropriate. Here is the REALITY. A terrible and horrific crime has been committed. The guilty parties will be punished if not in criminal court, certainly in civil court. The saddest reality is that victims can never be made whole and their lives are forever ruined. Nothing can make up for that. But they will ultimately receive significant compensatory damages that will do a lot more for them and their families than any sanctions imposed by the NCAA. The reality is that the NCAA should have stayed out of it. But they caved in to public opinion and media pressure. If Penn State chooses to take down Joe Pa’s statue, it’s probably the right call and certainly theirs to make. Should the NCAA have taken away Penn State’s wins from 1998-2011? Taken away scholarships, no bowl games for four years? I’m not so sure. It has symbolic value and perhaps a victim somewhere feels better for it. But, in my opinion, it’s more about the NCAA trying to make the NCAA look good. And we can only hope that some judge or jury in a future civil litigation will not reduce a victim’s award because “poor Penn State has already paid so dearly.”

Penn State is suffering and will suffer for many years. I said back in November, that because Penn State chose to look the other way their “recovery will be long and painful and, perhaps never totally complete.” That certainly appears to be the case. But let’s hope it’s not just because their football team will be less competitive for a few years under the NCAA sanctions. I think Paterno, his coaching staff, the leadership at Penn State and countless others in the community including law enforcement officers were uncomfortable with Sandusky and his relationships with the boys in the Second Mile Foundation. But like a family protecting one of its own, they chose to believe the best about Sandusky and the worst about the boys and the parents who expressed fear and concern over Sandusky’s behavior. In the light of day and with all of the facts in the open, it’s clear that Sandusky was not just being given the benefit of doubt; but that the people around him were deliberately deaf, dumb and blind in not recognizing what he was up to. They should and will face the full measure of legal consequences for their failure to act. But when it comes to the sanctions, the NCAA should have punted.

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