The NCAA did something that was so out of character, so dynamic, that it strains disbelief even now, 24 hours later. In one extraordinary act, the normally comatose governing body of college athletics destroyed not just the football program, but also the legacy of Joe Paterno.
Just 10 days after the Freeh report, the NCAA decided that it wasn't enough to fine Penn State $60 million for allowing children to be raped for 14 years, not enough to take away 10 precious scholarships a year, not enough to block bowl appearances for four seasons.
No, in the end, the memory of Paterno's 46-year reign required equally aggressive action. So the NCAA took 14 years of victories -- 111 in all -- and removed them forever from Paterno's coaching record. Suddenly, he didn't win more games than any college coach, 409. He is 12th now, with 298. Just another Joe. And after placing sanctions on the football program that will render it irrelevant for at least a decade, NCAA president Mark Emmert made no secret of his disgust over the culture at Penn State, a world that placed football above basic decency.
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"These events should serve as a call to every single school and athletics department to take an honest look at its campus environment and eradicate the 'sports are king' mindset that can so dramatically cloud the judgment of educators," Emmert said.
Joe Paterno created that environment with pure, unadulterated bullying. That's why he got away with throwing his bosses out of his home twice when they tried to convince him to step down in recent years. It's why he snapped at the most benign questions from timid reporters for the last 20 years of his tenure. It's why he bulldozed the department of student affairs when asked to follow the rules.
What is happening now -- the sanctions, the protests, the national disgrace -- is long-overdue payback for years of obnoxious behavior cloaked in cranky charm. Paterno thought he could get away with anything in the domain that he ruled. And for a very long time, he did. But there is a limit even to this kind of hero worship. And the limit, we now know, is looking the other way for 14 years while children were raped. What the NCAA did yesterday -- against all odds -- was something the Penn State administration didn't have the courage to do, what the chummy media who covered the gruff old man had no intention of doing, and what the hypnotized masses were too star-struck to do.
The NCAA made a strong and powerful statement about Joe Paterno. In one act of anger and disgust, the NCAA wiped away 14 years of lies. Paterno is no longer at the top of the list of coaches in the record book, just as his statue has been relegated to a place of obscurity in an unmarked room at Beaver Stadium, never to be worshipped again. Joe Paterno's reign of arrogance and fraud is finally over. Justice has been served.
Hey Vick: Win a title, then talk
Mike Vick, the man with the most elusive feet in football, now has a runaway ego to match. In fact, after a week of his non-stop blabber about dogs and dynasties, our best hope is that the opening of training camp will coincide with the closing of his mouth.
Vick's latest venture into the public spotlight was designed to promote his new book and to provide clarity to the many fans still demanding to know why he nearly ruined his career five years ago in a dogfighting scandal, or so he says. Of course, this explanation is as ridiculous as the very idea of releasing a book right now, after a terrible season for both him and the Eagles.
Mike Vick is an egomaniac. That's why Vick couldn't just sell himself during the book tour. He also had to offer some crazy talk about the Eagles, a team that hasn't won a championship in 52 years, developing a dynasty.
Doesn't it make sense to win one championship before invoking that word? Wouldn't it be more logical to write a book after the first title, instead of before it? Isn't it just plain stupid for Vick -- ranked 14th at his position on an 8-8 team -- to talk like this?
Yes, yes and yes. But Vick isn't thinking that way as he enters an important new season. After a week of absurd behavior, it appears that Vick isn't thinking at all.
Spend, spend, spend
The Flyers are the living embodiment of sports insanity. Every year, they spend tens of millions on star free agents who inevitably fail to bring them a Stanley Cup. And yet, I love the Flyers for this.
The latest object of Ed Snider's affection is Shea Weber, a 26-year old defenseman with mad skills and a huge price tag. After negotiations broke down with Nashville over the restricted free agent, the Flyers tried to squash the small-market Predators with a 14-year, $110-million offer sheet.
So far, there's no word on whether Nashville will commit 70-percent of the entire estimated value of their franchise and match the deal. What we can say, however, is that the Flyers are living up to their old reputation as the Broad Street Bullies.
And I endorse their behavior wholeheartedly. As someone who moved from a smaller market (Providence), I see the good and the bad of living in a major city. The traffic is worse here, the prices higher, the air not so healthy. But being big has its advantages, like larger crowds, luxury boxes, high ad rates, more money to spend.
Granted, this approach has failed repeatedly, as the Eric Lindroses and Chris Prongers and (ugh) Ilya Bryzgalovs have fallen short year after year. And granted, 37 years is a very long time since the last championship. But still, you can't deny how much fun it is to dominate every summer this way.
If only the Flyers didn't actually have to play the games.
- Angelo Cataldi is the host of 94 WIP's Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30 to 10 a.m
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