Say it ain’t so, Joe.

On Saturday we were celebrating JoePa’s 409th collegiate football victory.

On Wednesday we were saying goodbye to a legend who was once above reproach.

It’s an odd bookend to an otherwise illustrious career; however, as we read more into what was uncovered during those three days, the more it makes my stomach turn.

All I know of Joe Paterno is what I’ve seen in interviews and on the football field. He was admittedly old-school, tough, and commanded respect. He didn’t seem to put up with a lot of the nonsense that is prevalent these days and really, he was everyone’s grandfather; he was Grandpa Joe. He withstood the criticism of his coaching abilities as he grew older and brought this year’s Penn State team to a strong 8-1 record (currently undefeated in the Big 10) and probably a top-tier bowl game.

But as details of the alleged sexual abuse from one of his former assistant coaches, Jerry Sandusky, begin to seep out, the less JoePa’s coaching achievements seem to matter. Here is a man who, for whatever reason, chose not to get more involved, chose not to fully flesh out what then Graduate Assistant Mike McQueary witnessed, chose not to question his assistant coach, and chose to not follow up with his superiors. There was a systematic failure on all levels to protect the ones who really needed protection: the young boys. Instead, they chose to protect their own; one who certainly needed to be outed and not taken back into the fold.

From what I have read, JoePa and McQueary, now the receivers’ coach (more on this later), did what was legally required by following Pennslyvania state protocol by reporting the incident to their superiors. It was the Athletic Director Tim Curley and the school’s Vice President Gary Schultz’ responsibility to report the abuse to the Department of Public Welfare, in which they failed to do so. Where JoePa and McQueary went wrong was failing to follow up with DPW to check on the status of the case and to press for more action.

Protocol aside, the problem most people are trying to reconcile is why no one stepped outside themselves to provide additional help. Why didn’t the university do more the limit Sandusky’s access to campus facilities knowing that he had a history of using them while exhibiting inappropriate behavior with young boys? Why didn’t any of the top brass confront Sandusky about the rumors of inappropriate contact (because you know someone knew something and told other people)? Why didn’t the janitors and McQueary intervene when they witnessed the alleged assaults? Why didn’t one of the janitors report the abuse he witnessed? Why didn’t they call police? Why didn’t they insist their superiors follow up with the case? Why didn’t the DA decide to pursue a case after Sandusky admitted to showering naked with a young boy back in 1998?

Why was this allowed to continue over a 15 year period?

There are so many failures within this chain that I’m disheartened that it has gotten this far. I can’t help but take it personally, as I wonder how I would feel if I found out there was a known pattern that was not stopped before my friends’ sons, my nephew, MY SON was abused. If even one child is victimized, it is too much.

Should JoePa have lost his job as a result? As a man who holds so much sway within a community, he could have, and should have, done more. His failure to exert more pressure for an appropriate solution is disappointing but legally he did all that was expected. However, for a man who’s main goal is to “serve the best interests of this university and the young men who have been entrusted to [his] care,” it is sad that he did the opposite. Sandusky was using the Penn State football facilities during his assaults. JoePa should have stepped up for the sake of those boys. If Jim Tressel can be dimissed for failing to monitor the situation at Ohio State, certainly JoePa could be dimissed for failing to monitor the situation happening in his locker room. This is bigger than a football issue. This is a human issue and whenever you fail to act rationally and morally, then you have simply failed.

No matter what, JoePa had to go. There was no way he could have coached for the remainder of the season without the increased scrutiny surrounding this case. Every week he would have faced more questions about the case and it would have grown to a much larger distraction. But if JoePa is fired for his inaction, then surely McQueary should be let go as well [ETA: ESPN is now reporting that McQueary will not be coaching this Saturday but still remains on staff – it’s a start], considering he actually saw the abuse and did as much as JoePa in terms of reporting the incident. If anything, I’m outraged that he is still allowed to remain on staff when the other bigger names have all been dismissed or stepped down. But can you imagine how the victims and their families feel? Watching people riot and protest a coach’s dismissal as a result of his inaction in their lives? Is it hard to possibly think they could feel that the protesters might think THEY are the reason why JoePa was fired? That is not a burden that should be placed on them.

It’s sad to see JoePa’s legacy tarnished by this scandal, but it’s even sadder that so many adults failed to protect those boys.

I wish I knew how to quit you

There are three things in my life which I really love:  God, my family, and baseball.  The only problem – once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit.  ~Al Gallagher, 1971

I developed my love of baseball from my dad. I learned very early on that sports was at the core of his heart and if I wanted to spend more time with him, liking sports was the way to do it. And so I started watching sports with him. I remember spending a lot of time cheering and yelling along with him while watching baseball, football, basketball and yes, even professional wrestling. But baseball was his first love and it became mine. I had a blast collecting baseball cards and helping my dad catalog his. We even took ever opportunity to give each other the “Bash Bros.” forearm.

photo by: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Admittedly it’s been a long while since I have been fanatical about sports in general and baseball in particular. When I once was a repository for random stats for just about every player on the Yankees, I slowly saw that blind, rabid fanaticism fade as I began working in sports. While I thoroughly enjoyed the game while I was working, the last thing I wanted to do was come home and watch SportsCenter and be reminded of work. Maybe there are some doctors that like to watch Grey’s Anatomy but I didn’t really like the idea of being at the stadium for 12 plus hours to come home and watch listen to the talking heads spout about whatever else was going on in some other stadium. Every one else got to come home and leave their jobs at the office and the only way for me to do that was to turn off ESPN.

And so I stopped actively watching baseball and ESPN. It was just too much for me and was a necessary move to keep me from getting burned out. I needed that break from the game even though it did cause me to basically become clueless about all sports. I used to be able to name the starting five for every basketball team in the league and hold court in just about any sports debate but now all I can really do is shrug my shoulders. I didn’t really care but I did feel that burning shame when people instinctively asked me for my opinion not knowing that I was no longer as attuned to the sports world has I used to be. I wanted to be that person but my information was just so old that I had to fake it by being vague. Because the more vague you are, the more accurate you can be.

But now that I’m no longer working in sports for the time being, I’m starting to renew my love affair with it. In the past year I’ve been finding myself actually listening to the games on the radio and tuning in to them a lot more than I had in the previous five years and it feels great. While I probably won’t be watching SportsCenter anymore [it’s now like E! News with sports than anything else] it feels good to get back to the game I love. So much has changed; I need to reacquaint myself with my Yankees and learn who’s who among the pinstripes. I can’t believe Derek Jeter is 36! Wasn’t he just 30 and incredibly productive and effective? Now he’s arguably getting close to the twilight of his career. We all can’t be Ozzie you know.

Will I regain the extreme fanaticism I once had? No, I won’t. That was me before I peered behind the curtain. I can still appreciate the game for what it is and get swept up in those moments as a fan because, no matter how jaded you are, you can’t help but enjoy the feeling of excitement and/or agony that surges through your body when you’re watching your team compete.

And that is what keeps me a fan.

Don’t come ’round here no more

Yesterday we had a service guy come out to take a look at the problem child that is our refrigerator. We bought the thing new and have already experienced some issues [along with our stove but that’s been corrected already] – and now we’re faced with buying a new door. A new door for a brand new refrigerator. Do you see the stupidity that’s all up in that sentence? I know.

LG, we expected so much more from you.

But I digress; at first I didn’t pay Henry that much attention since I was working on some notes for my term paper but then I looked up and noticed a bright red hat and a small little oval with a face on it on the back of the hat. This face, in fact:


This is not the face you want staring back at you…

I held my tongue until he was about to leave before asking him about his affiliation [yup, he is a born and bred Buckeye fan] and, naturally, revealed mine [yup, even after this weekend’s poor, poor performance].

Then I stopped and had a think. There’s nothing that riles my inner self more than meeting a member of the rival tribe. I don’t know why I get so territorial but there are really only two occasions where I’m practically dying on the inside to reveal my Michigan connection:

  1. When I meet someone who either attends, attended, or roots for Michigan
  2. When I meet someone who either attends, attended, or roots for Ohio State and/or Michigan State.

This phenomenon doesn’t affect everyone. There are plenty of people who could care less that they’re talking to someone who attended their school’s rival [I’ve met a few of them – so terribly disappointing] but there are plenty of people who’s ears prick up at the mention of their school or get excited when they see someone else wearing a school shirt or see those almuni stickers and license plate holders on cars and those are usually the ones who will make their affiliations known when they see someone who is sporting the rival school’s gear.

Or it could very well be just me. I’m totally fine with that.

I don’t know what it is about it but I get a kick out of chatting up a Buckeye fan, though admittedly it has not been as much fun the past six years, and giving each other that good natured ribbing that sports fans do. I just feel the need to make my allegiance known.

I’m a Michigan alumna. I’m here. And…yeah.

I have plenty of stories of meetings with rival fans at airports, the grocery store, at school and even work. Once, my classmate’s husband found out I went to Michigan [he’s an OSU fan] and the next time I came over for our group meeting, he made sure to place his OSU door mat out front. Just for me. I told him it was fitting that a Wolverine wiped her feet on it. And one of my former bosses was an Ohio State fan; we even talked about the Big Game during my interview. I later found out that he specifically asked about the game to see if I knew about it – if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have gotten the job. Henry and I did have a good chat though. He joked about maybe not doing the job right next time he comes but that’s totally something an Ohio State fan would do. Way to stick to the script. Oh snap! But really, its a fun back and forth and really, it opens people up. Maybe that’s why I get that drive to say something: its a way to connect with other people.

Sports. The great uniter.

*I now have Tom Petty’s song stuck in my head now. So totally worth it.

Outside my box

Last night, while who knows how many people sat around to find out where a self-absorbed multi-millionaire was going to play next season:

He’ll be in Miami – in case you were wondering
[source]

The country continues to fight a war in another nation, sending scores of men and women home emotionally and physically broken:

[source]

People are still losing their jobs and finding it hard to find work. And the Senate still hasn’t come to an agreement on the Federal Extended Unemployment Benefits so millions of people who are on extended benefits are not receiving ANY money for the foreseeable future [in case you’re wondering, I’m on my 3rd week with no check yet still have bills to pay. Including my COBRA so I can still see the doctor].

[source]

Oil continue to spill into the Gulf:


[source]

And a former white BART police officer, with a history of cover ups, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter of an unarmed black BART passenger on New Years Day in 2009. A passenger that was restrained, on his stomach, and held down by other officers.A mother lost her son, a daughter lost her father, and hundreds of people lost the little hope they had left in a system they feel let them down again. The incident resonated with many people simply because this easily could have been them.

And a city that is only 30 minutes away, where friends and family live, that has been wrecked with negative press, remains on edge following the verdict.

[this series of photos from SF Gate]

So excuse me as I did not fall prey to the sensationalism that was the “LeBron Decision.” As I have made my living peddling sport and plan to do so again in the future, trust me when I say it’s a business and there are other, more important things to be worried about. It’s an odd story of two twenty-somethings. One on top of the sports world with a free agent decision special never seen before and other who lost his life two years ago in a tragedy that could have been prevented. Why do we care more about the former than the latter?

Let’s keep things in the right perspective.

A league of our own

So last night was our annual company softball game and it was so much fun. I haven’t been able to attend the past few years since it’s usually been on a Wednesday when I had Bible study but since I’m on my one-week break and this year was held on Thursday, I was finally able to attend.

And boy was I missing out all those other years!

Our company is fairly large with a few different offices spread around so we don’t always get to see everyone on an everyday basis but the general rapport between everyone is great. The event is kind of a big deal around these parts: this year there was even an emcee, a National Anthem singer AND photographers [yeah, I know]. But in all, it’s just like any other softball game at the park. There’s plenty of pizza [we had two separate deliveries!] and beer, soda and water [several people took their beers out to the playing field with them] and it was all very casual though still teeming with that competitive vibe that makes things that much more fun. There was even a homerun derby afterwards!

We broke into four teams and played 3 total games: 2 semifinal games and then the championship game. With 17 players on our team, we had to rotate in. I started on the bench but was put in as catcher during the second inning and eventually finished the game after sitting out the next two innings [the other people were lacking in some skills]. I did have a fairly decent showing at the plate, though I made good solid contact, I didn’t get the ball out of the infield [hitting was never my strong suit] and I was just glad and relieved that I didn’t stink up the joint like I did during batting practice when I whiffed on all five pitches.

I know. HORRIBLE.

I was really nervous about playing because I knew there would be a few women out there who really could play. I knew I wouldn’t be able to compete on their level, having never played softball in an organized way, but thankfully I was able to keep up and didn’t let myself down.

Hopefully it’ll be scheduled so I can participate in it next year. I definitely want to do this again. There was so much laughter and good natured teasing going on. One of the interns [on my team] had a bit of a rough night though, after boffing a couple of catches that he was teased about, he redeemed himself with an inside-the-park homerun only to throw himself back into the doghouse after failing to run out a pop fly that the other team ended up dropping. Had he made it to first base, we would have won. Oh well.

I wasn’t too bummed about losing though. At least that meant I was free to leave whenever. I left at about a quarter to 9 and the championship game was not even halfway over.

I am, however, kind of considering picking up a glove to use in the future. I started out using my dad’s old glove, one that’s been around for forever. I think it might be almost as old as I am, but ended up switching with a coworker since the original one wasn’t as padded as I would like. I bruised a finger while fielding throws because of the way the ball hit the glove. Besides, you never know when you’ll need a baseball glove!

The Internet isn’t the only thing you can surf

It feels so good to be done with classes. Ahh. Granted, it’s only for a week but still. That’s seven days without worrying about going to class, hoping I’m not called on because I haven’t thought about opening the book, trying to motivate myself to do homework [or quarter-long research papers in the last three weeks of class] and no more worrying about hustling out of work soon enough to get to campus before all the good parking spots are already taken.

Being a grad student is EXHAUSTING.

I’ll discuss my thoughts about the quarter some other day. I mean, I just submitted my final exam yesterday! I need some time to decompress. So let’s talk about something fun.

Oh, I don’t know, how about something like surfing!

Yes, because this time it was awesome. Serious.

Unfortunately we were down a person as Helen had some pressing issues come up at the last minute, but it worked out for the best since Trace and I ended up on the water for a lot longer than usual. We were there for just about the entire 3-hour rental time because the waves, oh the waves were glorious.

Granted, that also meant we had a lot of water to battle against just to get a good distance away from the shore but it was worth it although tiring [but let me tell you, it’s a good idea to get a good distance away from the shore, lest you fall off your board and hit a rock. That hurts like a mofo!]. There was a point that I had turned around and told Tracey that I felt like I hadn’t moved at all!  The sets were really good. It’d be calm for about five minutes or so, which left plenty of time to get to where we needed to be and then for the next few minutes, ride-able waves came through and while there were some that knocked me clean off the board or came too quickly that all I could do was ride it on my stomach, I did manage to actually stand up and ride a wave in.

I don’t think you complete understand the weight of that: I stood up on my board.

I SURFED!

This is a huge deal for me since just moments before I stood up for the first time, I was trying to pep myself up. I mean, I had been surfing off and on for a good two years now and not once was I able to replicate the success I had during that first lesson with Nick and I desperately wanted to do that. So yes, I talked to myself and then something just clicked and next thing I knew, I was standing up on the board! And riding the wave in! And easily bailing out at the end of the ride! And you know what’s even better?

I did it a total of 5 times! I know! That’s a lot of exclamation points! But really, that was the first time I stood up since my last lesson so I felt very extremely accomplished. So accomplished I might even buy a wetsuit.

Okay, so maybe not yet, but I did want to buy something to commemorate the day so I bought a new pair of Reefs sandals and oh my sweet butter those things are awesome. They make me want to wear them everywhere.

Anywho, the adrenaline that rushed through me after I rode that first wave was intense. Then I thought, hey, let’s make it two. And then it turned to three and then four and the fifth was my last one before calling it a day. I really hope I’m able to replicate the feat the next time I go surfing.

I really want to get my own wetsuit. Once I get that, the next stop is my very own board!

Okay, maybe I should get practice on a fiberglass board first. Then I get my own board. First things first.

Now where are my Reef sandals?

Hey, your fan is showing…

Over the last weekend I was kind of half watching the Battle of the Bay: 49ers versus Raiders while working on my Econ midterm [that I got an A- on!] and twittering about it when I got into a fun little battle of words with a Niner fan. The banter went back and forth, mostly about how crappy the Raiders are and my lack of a denial [I mean, they are!] but what stood out the most was this exchange:

tweets

While I am still a huge sports fan, I mainly feel the fanatic part of me has largely been tempered after taking classes at Michigan. I just don’t get caught up in the glitz of things like I used to; I’m just not as emotionally attached as I used to be.

That is a potential side effect but it doesn’t happen to everyone who works in sports. Some people still manage to maintain the complete fan naiveté, others become more tempered [like myself], and still others pretty much have their inner fan completely subdued as if they’re dosing up on Xanax or something.

Anywho, so my secret is out. I’m not that big of a sports fan anymore. I hardly keep up with anything and I’m lucky if I can remember who was drafted when [much to the chagrin of my nephew, who CONSTANTLY likes to ask me about so and so or who that football guy is]. Now compare that to the me in high school when I could recite the starting five for every basketball team in the NBA, the first 15 guys drafted in both the NFL and NBA drafts [oh, and when I actually watched the draft!] and when I was ready to go to death for my favorite teams. My life revolved around Sportscenter, so much so that I wanted to work for them. Yeah, I was ready to move out to Connecticut. Heaven forbid you say anything negative about someone I liked. I complained and moaned like the most seasoned of sports-radio call-in listeners about what I would do if I ran the team or how I would have managed a certain situation.

So pursuing a career in sports was the most obvious of things for me. If only I knew what that would entail. I’ve said it a few times before but I remember my very first day of class at Michigan, sitting in a classroom in the CCRB [Central Campus Recreation Building] above the squash courts and down the hall from the weight room with anticipation, only to be told that I would systematically be destroyed and built back up. Okay, not in those exact words but I’m sure that’s what Dr. George really meant to say.

Who knew that by the end of my four years there I’d turn into a pretty savvy and arguably [by some] emotionless fan. I was effectively groomed for management, which was pretty much the point. You can’t be a raging fan and properly manage a team [or, to be honest, work for a team]. You have to be able to make the proper and necessary business decisions, because after all, it is a business. Looking back, I know I would have sucked as a General Manager because I would have been too caught up in the fan aspect of a player instead of looking at it from a more critical eye. There are many layers that typical fans [not all of them!] miss out behind every decision.

And don’t get me started on trying to reason with a die-hard fanatic [trust me; I used to be one of them!]. Like many things, you cannot have a logical discussion with someone who operates wholly on the emotional side.

I did notice that when I started working for the minor league baseball team, my subsequent viewings of Sportscenter plummeted. It just reminded me too much of work. I wanted to come home and escape everything that happened that day and watching baseball highlights all night was not helpful. Then I began to dread going into extra innings because that meant I would be getting home that much later or that, at one point, didn’t care who won; I just wanted someone to get a run so I could finally go home!

I’ll let you in on a little secret: during the really long extra inning games, most front office staff are no where to be found because they’re in their offices finishing up as much work as possible so they can go home sooner after the game ends.

So in an effort to maintain my sanity, I started branching out and watching and paying attention to other things. I just don’t find it fun to be immersed in something all day and then come home to surround myself in the same stuff. Sometimes you just need a break and figure out how to better balance your work/life.

But I will say that I still have those moments of pure fandom; when you’re kicking back at a game and you’re caught up in the moment. Like how I was always excited when the home team knocked in the winning run in extra innings, or nearly going bat crazy watching that epic Yankees-Red Sox extra inning thriller a few weeks back. Or how much fun I had watching the Mariners’ play in Seattle.

And those moments feel soo good.

The fan in me hasn’t died. It’s just realized that the sun will rise again and the world will continue on whether or not the Yankees win the World Series.

And that, my friends, was a hard lesson to learn.