TERRE HAUTE —
I’m not normally one for navel-gazing. Generally, I think it’s a waste of time. Hairshirts aren’t my style.
But upon release of the Louis Freeh report on Thursday regarding Penn State’s cover-up of sexual abuse by former football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, it’s crystal clear some navel-gazing is in order.
When I’m in a contemplative mood, I turn to the movies.
One of my favorites is Stanley Kubrick’s World War I masterpiece Paths Of Glory. In it, Kirk Douglas, who plays Colonel Dax — a French officer who is given the impossible task of defending his soldiers from a death sentence in a show-trial in which their fate has already been decided — speaks a line that always hit me to my absolute core. It’s a line that came to my mind when I read about Freeh’s report today.
“Gentleman of the court, there are times I’m ashamed to be a member of the human race and this is one such occasion,” said Dax in the trial scene.
That might seem to be a weird line for me to conjure. After all, I had nothing to do with anything that happened at Penn State. Why take it so personally?
I’ve thought, from day one, that the culture of college athletics created this monster, specifically, football at Penn State. That culture is all-pervasive, and as a member of the media, I’m a part of that culture. And I’m not terribly proud of that right now.
Boil everyone’s motivations at Penn State down for their inaction and it comes down to protecting the brand and the image of a university that defines itself by its football team.
Nothing — not even the monstrous act of molesting children — was too much to sweep under the carpet. Football is king. Joe Paterno is king. Love live the king.
It’s not just Penn State. The names that were shamed today were Paterno, Tim Curley [Penn State’s athletic director], Graham Spanier [former Penn State president] and Gary Schultz [former Penn State vice president], but let’s not be naive.
As long as the culture of athletics creates the desire to win at all costs and has sway over the better part of our angels, this could happen anywhere.
As long as there is a cult of personality built around coaches that win, the desire to protect that winning at all costs can make otherwise intelligent people completely blind to madness.
This culture extends to more than just the coaches and administrators directly involved. This culture is perpetuated by alumni and donors, the media and fans. As a media member, a deplorable situation such as this gives me pause.
I’ve never had any illusions about the parasitic nature of college athletics. All of the parties — athletes, coaches and schools — use one another for mutual benefit.
Athletes use universities to further a professional career and/or get their education. During the recruiting process, when they have the leverage, they play coaches and schools off one another for their own benefit.
Once they get the athletes, coaches use them to be successful and raise their profile (and pay) within their own profession.
Schools use both to create a brand, gain exposure and solicit donations.
A side-effect of that, however, is that a successful coach can turn around and use his leverage to create his own power base that can sometimes overwhelm that of the university. He becomes a power all his own, as it was for Paterno, as it was for Bob Knight at Indiana for many years, as it was and continues to be for many others.
I’ve always been fine with all of it. It’s mostly a victimless arrangement that has some mutual benefit for all.
And as a member of the media, we’re a part of it too. We’re the mythmakers that keep the engine going. But we merely serve as the conduit of the fans’ interests, which can be rabid. We’re all a part of it. We all created this culture.
I never paid much mind to the consequences of this. However, when something as repulsive as the Sandusky case and its cover-up comes up, it makes you realize how dark the road is when the culture of college athletics compels you to drive blindly down it with no perspective.
I don’t think anyone could envision the moral bankruptcy of the Penn State case, but it happened, and could happen again. It could be happening right now somewhere else.
It’s a clarion call for all us to have some serious perspective introduced at all levels of college athletics.
Getting back to the movies, I recall Alec Guinness’s Colonel Nicholson in Bridge On The River Kwai when he realized — too late — that building a bridge for the enemy Japanese wasn’t a justification of his principles, but a bankruptcy of them.
“What have I done?”
This is the Col. Nicholson moment for culture of college athletics. For one, Penn State’s football program should be shuttered either by its own decision or via the NCAA death penalty because the guilty must be punished harshly.
For the rest of us, it’s a matter of being vigilent in not aiding and abetting to create the same monster Penn State did.
Am I confident that will happen? Sadly, not one bit.
Already, reports have surfaced that the NCAA might not punish Penn State’s transgressions because they don’t fit under their definition of “lack of institutional control”. As such, their rules for potentially applying the death penalty might not apply.
It doesn’t fit the definition of lack of institutional control? Drink that in for a moment. There are no words. One can only shake their head.
I turn again to the movies and once again to Bridge On The River Kwai. The Penn State saga probably won’t be the Col. Nicholson moment for college athletics, it will be yet another Major Clipton moment.
Maj. Clipton, the prison camp doctor played by James Donald, has the memorable last lines of that movie epic.
“Madness … madness!”
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or email@example.com. Follow Golden on Twitter @TribStarTodd.
TERRE HAUTE —
I’m not normally one for navel-gazing. Generally, I think it’s a waste of time. Hairshirts aren’t my style.
- Sports Columns
Hughes, News & Views: Terre Haute ‘hacker' accomplishes Mark’s Par Three first
But it’s enjoyable for beginners and golfers of modest skill levels and it doesn’t lack for activity during warm-weather months.
Open since 1964, it’s had its fair share of players test their skills, probably several better than 43-year-old Brian Brown of Terre Haute.
RAMBLIN’ RECK: Catching up on some things
Catching up — on all-state softball honors and a new basketball coach in Illinois.
TODD GOLDEN: Golf ... the beast within?
Like many sports fans, my interest in professional golf is confined to the four major tournaments. Many prefer the Masters, some like the back-to-roots British Open, but I’ve always liked the U.S. Open the best.
Trackside: Midgets could be on rise in Wabash Valley
With Indiana Midget Week taking center stage this week at Wabash Valley ovals, it’s time to talk midget racing.
More specifically, it’s time to examine its status in the Hoosier State and what the future might hold for one of open wheel’s most competitive but yet overlooked forms of racing.
It’s no secret the mighty, little midgets have suffered from hard times in recent years. Spiraling engine costs and resulting smaller car counts have led to a sharp reduction in the number of races for the midgets.
Terre Haute Action Track supporters of the midgets know first hand. They lost their popular Hut Hundred a few seasons back and hope of them returning to the local half-mile clay oval remains a question mark.
RAMBLIN’ RECK: South grad helps VU to national golf title
Vincennes University’s men’s golf team claimed the junior college national championship last week with a Terre Haute South Vigo grad in the lineup.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Close, but no cigar, theme for ISU sports in 2012-13
When I covered my first event of Indiana State’s 2012-13 season — ISU’s opening football game at Indiana — I was the first one in the press box at IU’s Memorial Stadium. I’m never the first one in the press box.
Maybe the prospect of ISU’s season had me so pumped that I decided to get it started close to three hours early? (Or more truthfully, maybe I was over-vigilent about predicted traffic horrors on the Indiana 46 bypass that never came to pass.)
TRACKSIDE: Bad weather gives time to reflect
With weather-related issues continuing to plague the Wabash Valley racing scene, the lack of on-track activity presents an opportunity to offer an overall assessment of the 2013 campaign to date.
Ramblin’ Reck: Indiana gave Heat ‘all-stars’ all they wanted
The prelims are over and the finals begin Thursday in the National Basketball Association with Miami going for a second straight title against San Antonio, looking for its first championship since 2007.
The Indiana Pacers gave the all-stars from Miami all they wanted and then some before the Heat took charge to win the seventh game Monday.
REDNECK QUAKER: Another African hunting adventure well worth the trip
Here I sit in a hunting blind in South Africa with an adventurous soul, Mack Adams. The dove and guinea fowl are calling with the sun warming the morning chill.
Hughes, News & Views: Pacers, 500, NFL on mind of curious columnist
One previous time, I believe, my annual May questions column ran one day late into June.
Can you forgive me for this being the second time?
With apologies out of the way, below are questions that have been taking up valuable space in my head lately.
Some are serious, some not so much. Most are sports-related, but don’t blame me if a few are not. After all, newspaper sportswriters don’t eat, sleep and breathe sports 24/7 (contrary to what my Lisa might tell you).
Here we go:
• How funny will the reaction of the national media be when the Indiana Pacers knock off the unbeatable Miami Heat tonight and Monday to take the series and head to an NBA Finals showdown with the San Antonio Spurs? Hint: Several ESPN “experts” will need to change their underwear next week.
TODD GOLDEN: MVC Tourney can be ISU success story if work is done
Prior to last week’s Missouri Valley Conference baseball tournament at Illinois State’s Duffy Bass Field, fear and loathing prevailed in some corners of the conference.
It seemed that Missouri State, Creighton, and most notably, Wichita State, had a monopoly on the season-ending tournament since the Coolidge Administration. (It had actually been since 1998.) How could the tournament make it without playing in one of the three aforementioned universities’ big venues?
TRACKSIDE: Burton’s death shows tragic side of racing
The tragic chain of events that had unfolded the previous night at Bloomington Speedway had cast a pall over what should have been an enjoyable night of racing at LPS.
Word had circulated the Putnam County racing facility that earlier in the day that young Josh Burton had succumbed to injuries from an accident the night before at Bloomington.
RAMBLIN’ RECK: Each lead change made Indy a thrill
The 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 and will be remembered as one of the best races in recent history.
It won’t be memorable for a close finish but rather for a record 68 lead changes and 14 different drivers taking their turn at the front of the pack.
Redneck Quaker: Crappie bait available if you keep looking
For those wanting to catch catfish on the river or crappie in a lake, there is a great place in town to pick up your live bait.
Inland Aquatics is located at 10 Ohio St., at the intersection of the Wabash River and Ohio, but you can’t get to it from Ohio Street. It is easily accessed from Wabash Avenue cul de sac, directly behind the Courthouse. The alternate parking is at the other end of Fairbanks Park from the boat ramp with plenty of room for trucks pulling boat trailers.
They have sold tropical fish for 20 years. There is always feeder goldfish and red wigglers available for the aquarium customers and a lot of fishermen stop to pick up some last-minute bait supplies. They became aware of the need of live bait in Terre Haute since Gander Mountain closed its bait shop.
RAMBLIN' RECK: Sunday promises to be big day in Indy
Sunday promises to be a super day in Indianapolis.
It’s the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 followed by Indiana vs. Miami in the third game of the National Basketball Association playoffs.
TRACKSIDE: Local drivers, owners looking to have strong night at Tony Hulman Classic
In its rich 43-year history, the Tony Hulman Sprint Car Classic has long carried on a strong local racing tradition.
From its early beginnings starting in 1971, the U.S. Auto Club-sanctioned event has been the annual centerpiece of the racing calendar at the Terre Haute Action Track as well as a key stop on the USAC sprint schedule and one of the most sought after wins in big league sprint-car racing.
Shooters compete to fight cancer
A team of employees at Taghleef, formally A.E.T, would like to give a personal invite for you to join in on a lot of fun while helping save lives.
Cindy and Mark Wilguess are the inspiration behind the Taghleef Team. Cindy herself fought this battle with cancer and won. Last year she led her team to be the No. 1 fundraisers in the Relay for Life.
TILL IT'S OVER: Terre Haute Triathlon's new race director seeks more events for his hometown
Today is the day for the Thunder in the Valley, and the Terre Haute Triathlon is under new leadership in 2013, the 28th year for the event at Hawthorn Park.
A former Terre Haute North track and cross country standout, Ethan Page is the race director as the race falls under the reign of Page’s new company, Crossroads Events.
TODD GOLDEN: Don't give up on ISU baseball just yet
If you had to pick one word that would describe the 2013 Indiana State baseball season, it would have to be frustration.
TRACKSIDE: Terre Haute's Carmichael enjoying strong spring in modifieds, stocks
It might have been cold and blustery at Charleston Speedway on Saturday night, but for Terre Haute driver Kenny Carmichael the evening couldn’t have been more pleasant.
From Terre Haute to the major leagues: Phegley's play could earn him promotion to Chicago
Josh Phegley's debut in the Major Leagues could be coming to a ballpark near you.
There's an expert at Parker's Archery
As I was driving the winding roadways of southern Indiana, a rustic building caught my attention and the sign on the front revealed it to be an archery shop called Parkers Archery.
TRACKSIDE: Rain still a pain for Wabash Valley racing organizers
Soggy weather conditions, which have rightfully drawn the ire of Wabash Valley race fans and crews in recent days, continue to plague promoters where it hurts the most — their pocketbooks.
RAMBLIN’ RECK: Pacers having a ‘Garden Party’
The Indiana Pacers are back in form and looking good.
KENNY BAYLESS: Sponsors sought for 'Ladies Only' event at Terre Haute Sporting Clays
Sponsors are being sought at the Ladies Only event at Terre Haute Sporting Clays on Saturday at 10 a.m. Sponsors should be willing to donate $1 or more for every broken bird. Each lady is allowed 25 shots. Flat donations are gladly accepted. Also, organizers are looking for more ladies to participate. Ammo, clay birds, and guns (if needed) will be furnished.
College Report: Lively earned collegiate upgrade with strong play
Hillary Lively signed to play Division II basketball at Maryville (Mo.) during her senior year at North Vermillion, but those plans changed and she would up at nearby Danville Area Community College — where she recently concluded an outstanding two-year career.
Lively was impressive enough to earn a Division I scholarship to Southeast Missouri State of the Ohio Valley Conference, and both her future and past college coaches think she will continue to succeed there.
“She fits what we need,” SEMO coach Ty Margenthaler said. “She has college experience, she is strong and physical and plays well around the basket and moves well.
“Her strength, rebounding and touch around the basket will be a big help. On the defensive end, she’ll be able to guard a true center.”
RAMBLIN' RECK: It’s May … a time for horses and horsepower
It’s the first day of May, a great month for sports.
It begins with the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. My Old Kentucky Home is played before the start of the race on which hundreds of bets will be placed by folks who ordinarily don’t bet on thoroughbred horse racing.
A week later, practice begins for the Indianapolis 500.
Terre Haute runner sets up race to help Boston
Having competed in the Boston Marathon once before in 2003, 35-year-old Majel Wells of Terre Haute thought she should give it another try in 2013.
“My goal was just to finish and enjoy Boston,” she reflected this week. “I had an injury [runner’s knee] beforehand, so I wasn’t too worried about beating my time from 2003 [4 hours, 10.20 seconds].
“But nobody cares about what your time is at Boston anyway.”
From what I’ve heard over the years, she’s right. Unless you’re a super-serious runner, the Boston Marathon has been more about taking in the atmosphere and having fun than placing in the top 50, although Wells was pleased that she beat her previous time by finishing in 3:55.19 on April 15.
Obviously, her race time wasn’t the most vivid memory that Wells took away from her 2013 Boston experience.
Amey Takes Aim: NHL playoffs to put TVs to good use
If Jenny had known, she probably wouldn’t have bought that TV.
But four or five years ago, my Fathers Day present — for those unfamiliar with Amey family traditions, the Fathers Day one is “let’s get something we all really want and pretend it’s a gift for Dad” — was a 42-inch Vizio. It’s been used even more than the cell phone I never would have bought for myself, or the TomTom that disappeared since Jenny’s smartphone arrived.
And it came with high-def.
I’m not going to insult you by telling you how great high-def is, because to do so would be to imply that you are even farther behind the technological curve than I am. I’m guessing, however, that not all of you have yet discovered what it does for hockey.
Foot Notes: ISU track athletes looking to keep improving at Drake Relays
Indiana State’s track schedule has helped its men’s and women’s teams escape the glacial Wabash Valley weather and enjoy warm days in Auburn, Ala., and Knoxville, Tenn.
With the Sycamores’ track facility basically laid to rest for competition and construction on a new one planned near the Wabash River to begin in 2014, major kudos go to everyone involved for continuing to produce athletes that are NCAA contenders who race with some of the world’s best.
Some of ISU’s current athletes are hoping for season-best performances this weekend against strong competition in the Drake Relays.
Former Sycamore NCAA pole-vault champion Kylie Hutson, who competes professionally for Nike and trains in her hometown of Terre Haute, also has been in Des Moines, Iowa, to compete in the Pole Vault in the Mall on Wednesday night.
- More Sports Columns Headlines
- Hughes, News & Views: Terre Haute ‘hacker' accomplishes Mark’s Par Three first