Can Anything Good Possibly Come Out of the Penn State Scandal?

Nothing positive comes from this. The victims and families won't magically heal because of a new athletic director. The damaged lives won't be fixed because Paterno was fired, and he will never get his back his sterling reputation. Rightfully so. The lifetime's worth of genuinely good things JoPa has done as a coach and human being don't make up for what looks like—at best—a decade of gross negligence. The school itself—a university to which Paterno devoted his life—will suffer immeasurable damage to its reputation, plus the very measurable damage from crippling lawsuits, like those that have cost the Catholic Church some $3 billion.

But asking if any good for college sports can come from all this pain, to me, unjustly lumps whatever happened at Penn State with a constant parade of lesser sports scandals. To equate the awful situation in Happy Valley with the sleaziness of, say, the Miami Hurricanes' latest outrage is making an unfair connection. Yes, players in big time college programs get free shoes, free cars, or straight-up cash. It's ugly, and sometimes illegal. But that ugliness is created by a uniquely exploitative system. There's nothing inherently wrong with a booster giving an 18-year-old a new car for being awesome at football. It's only a crime because the NCAA says it is.

Not so with the situation at Penn State. Those alleged crimes, and the willful turning of so many blind eyes that often seems to enable them, cut to the core of what we hold sacred. Those kinds of crimes also aren't exclusive to football, or college athletics or all sports, any more than they are exclusive to any particular church. Sadly, wherever there are children in our society, there will be those nearby who would prey on them.

Maybe you're right, Jake, and the costs of the Penn State mess will change how other schools do business. Maybe, in the future, a school administrator will think twice before covering up when a sleazy booster buys lap-dances for a recruit. Let's hope. But the comparison still makes me flinch. If there's a lesson to be learned here, it applies far, far beyond the realm of sports.

But you know all that. Of course. I'm just flailing. How about you, Patrick? We're all groping to find some meaning in this awful situation. What's been your reaction?

–Hampton

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Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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