Whatever I'm Thinking

RIP Joe Frazier…and Joe Paterno too?

I came across another great post from the Sage of Mount Airy. RIP boxer Joe Frazier. He’ll be remembered as a tough fighter with fans who appreciated toughness.

Hat tip to the Sage for finding this quote from Sports Illustrated’s Richard Hoffer:

That fight [the “Thrilla in Manilla”] was pretty much the end of their careers (Frazier lost once more to  Foreman then gave it up; Ali stuck it out several more years, though never again as brilliant or determined), and Frazier was left to a life of resentment. He  never got over the losses, the insults, the legacy that was left him. Ali became  a world hero, lighting Olympic flames, an example of political courage the rest  of his mute life. Frazier, a bitter, old warrior, instead had to consider the  inadequacies of grit in a time that was more inclined to reward glamour. (my emphasis)

Indeed we live in a time inclined to reward glamor and not grit.  Our time rewards style more than substance, emotional outbursts more than rational conclusions.   (Perhaps it’s unfair for me to criticize “The View” because I’ve never seen a full show, but even the clips are enough to sicken me.) It’s a tough environment for those of us who were philosophy majors in college only to become computer programmers in our adult lives.

Today I heard an audio clip from James Carville explaining that (quoted from memory) “people appreciated the political skills of Bill Clinton. He may be the most popular political figure on Earth today. I haven’t seen such political skills from Herman Cain.”  Perversely, our time not only values ‘political skill’ over Cain’s honest bumbling, our time dismisses the most egregious actions so that we may worship fully at the pagan altar of style.  Anyone wanna bet that Clinton and Carville, at bottom, believe that truth is relative?

Today the arch-goodguy Joe Paterno has come under severe criticism for his handling of a sex crime at Penn State.  The actual details of Paterno’s responses to the allegations are unavailable to me at this time.  All the police say is that Paterno has not violated any laws. As far as I can tell Paterno’s actions fall somewhere within the bounds of these two extremes:

a) Paterno was told of the criminal actions of his assistant and tried to hide them as best as he legally could, or

b) Paterno was told of some ‘possible’ incident, without particulars or certainties, and relayed the information since he was legally required to relate his knowledge of rumors and hearsay ‘just in case’.

I don’t know the facts. No one does, yet.  But as my old college professor Dr. de Alvaraz told us, “What matters is the gross impression.”  The gross impression will impel the public to condemn Joe Paterno, Penn State, a Penn State degree, the “Nittany Lion” as an animal and perhaps the color blue as well, if not the game of football too.  (Remember how the sport of lacrosse was vilified in the wake of the Duke lacrosse ‘scandal’ — which wasn’t a scandal after all?)

This morning on ESPN’s Mike and Mike Show they played a call from a woman who started her rant with “Joe Paterno runs Penn State” then went on to condemn him and everything associated with Penn State down to the color blue.

People please!  Joe Paterno does not “run” Penn State. He does not make its laws. He does not judge its residents jailing those he finds culpable and releasing those he deems innocent. He does not arrest people. Like everyone else in Happy Valley Joe Paterno is a citizen subject to the laws of the State of Pennsylvania.

Society has done a very poor job of separating style from substance here; Paterno is a celebrity but state law is the substance.

Can anyone, anyone, tell me why a witness to a violent sexual act with a child did not do either of these two things:

a) intervene physically to stop the assault

b) call the police

If you witnessed a felony occuring in the restroom of Microsoft’s corporate office would you run and call Bill Gates first? Of course not.

These are our times. Like it or not. But times change. They always do. They just don’t change as often for the good as I’d prefer.

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