Football, Crime, and Punishment
Have you ever been in a place with 107,000 people crowded into a city block? Have you been in a place with 107,000 people, all dressed in white, screaming in unison for their team? I had the privilege of visiting State College, Pennsylvania, home of the Penn State University Nittany Lions, to watch them play against Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes.
It wasn’t a bowl game, or a national championship, but you coulda’ fooled me.
I’ve been to big bowl games, a national championship, and even a Super Bowl. The closest sports comparison that I’ve had the privilege attending was during the Braves run for their first world championship. Every fan yelling, the whole game.
These northerners may not compare on the field to our SEC teams, but their fans love football and their team as much as anyone.
Why was I there?
You might rightly be wondering why a southwest Georgia native is spending the weekend in central Pennsylvania watching a football game between two teams that in the past he would wish there was a way they could both lose. It’s simple. Kids. Kids will make you do the darndest things.
Steven Bench, son of my close friends, Steve and Glennie Bench, received a scholarship to play football at Penn State this year. He quickly became the number two quarterback. That’s pretty good for an 18-year-old freshman who just a year ago was playing Friday nights in Cairo, Bainbridge, Thomasville, and Americus in South Georgia!
He is now flying in a charter plane for games in Iowa City, Iowa; Lincoln, Nebraska; and wherever the heck Purdue University is located.
Penn State and Punishment
As most of you know, unless you’ve decided not to watch the news or read papers for the past 18 months, Penn State has been the recipient of one of the harshest punishments the NCAA can slap on a school. Loss of scholarships, no bowl games, no ability to play for the national title, and the broad consent for all the current players to leave the school without the usual sitting-out for the year, make this “sentence” a tough pill to swallow for 18-to-22-year-old kids….
This does not count the millions of dollars of fines, and a complete change of the administrative staff in the athletic department at Penn State. A couple of staff members are under criminal indictment for perjury.
The guy, Sandusky, that took advantage of those young defenseless children, is in prison for the rest of his life. He has received his punishment-kinda light if you ask me. The school and its administrators are being held accountable by financial fines, the loss of jobs, and even criminal charges against those who allegedly had a hand in trying to mislead investigators. All that is very appropriate.
The “punishment” of these hard-working kids who show up to practice every day, who work their asses off to field a competitive team, by taking away the potential rewards of that hard work, is just wrong.
Punishing Kids: Is That The Right Thing?
The NCAA, with all the money and lawyers, can and should find a way to punish the guilty while not punishing the kids who just want to live their dream of playing football on Saturday in front of thousands of fans. They want to be able to have the dream of winning bowl games and national championships.
Know what young Steven Bench says about the whole thing? “I just want to play football…..” Kids.
If you go back and watch the tape of the October 27th, 2012, Penn State vs. Ohio State game, and listen very carefully to the audio, you can hear the cheer, “Weee Arrrhe-PEHNN STATE!”, in a southern accent. That would be me!
These young men and women at Penn State represent our future, and I, for one am ok with that.
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Tags: NCAA and Penn State, Penn State football and NCAA punishment, Penn state football players being punished by NCAA, should football players be punished for the deeds of administrators at Penn State