Even though I tend to avoid the news, I don't live under a rock. I would have to be completely in LaLa Land to have not heard anything about the horrible abuse that took place against innocent children at Penn State. The whole story is sickening and horrifying on so many levels, and I truly hope that the victims in this case - the children - are not forgotten. THEY are the true victims here: not Graham Spanier, not Michael McQueary, and certainly not Joe Paterno.
I don't follow college football; I find it tedious and a complete waste of my time. Actually, I don't follow a lot of sports. Over the years, I have become pretty disillusioned with the way many Americans view sports figures as golden gods. I don't know any professional or collegiate athletes personally, but I can guarantee that they're all just normal human beings. (Of course, that does not include my niece, Kate, who will be playing volleyball at Purdue next year. She is no mere mortal.) These are men and women who get paid disgusting amounts of money to PLAY GAMES for a living. Sure, they provide people with entertainment, and relaxing is definitely an important part of life. But, all in all, sports are games, pure and simple. I can appreciate that professional sports employ a lot of people and feed a lot of families, but why do so many people see athletes as special beings? (Hello, NBA players and owners. I'm talking to you.)
When did this happen in our country? When did it become acceptable for athletes to be treated as if they're larger than life? When did it become okay for athletes to act like spoiled brats? And when did it become de rigueur to excuse athletes or anyone associated with athletics from their bad behavior? If Jerry Sandusky had been in almost any other profession, he would have been in prison faster than he could blink. Obviously, his case takes it to the extreme, but other athletes or figures in the athletic world have been down a road that showcases their bad behavior. Tiger Woods, anyone? Sure, the public was disgusted by him for a while, but now he's back. Ben Roethlisberger? Yep, he's still playing. Michael Vick? Uh huh. He's around, too. And, apparently, for a long time, Jerry Sandusky was protected by his posse so that his despicable actions didn't spoil the Penn State football program. Bravo.
Why do we accept this? Why is this okay? Certainly sports can give a sense of community, of trust, of purpose. For some kids, sports may be the only family they have. And that's exactly why we shouldn't allow this type of hero-worship to continue. In the grand scheme of life, does it really matter if your favorite football team has a winning record? Do you really care if you get to watch professional basketball? If it does or if you do, sorry. Maybe you could channel some of that energy to adoring people who really make a difference: teachers, soldiers, therapists, police officers, firefighters, human rights activists. Let's stop giving the power to the people who play games for a living and the people who surround them. Cheating on your wife isn't a game. Sexual assault isn't a game. Making two dogs fight to the death isn't a game. Taking away childhood and innocence isn't a game; it's a disgrace and we should be better than this.