. Penn State football, the Summer Olympics, and the state of the world : Budget Travel Adventures

Penn State football, the Summer Olympics, and the state of our world

Penn State Joe Paterno

Penn State Joe Paterno (Flickr)

I am one month away from the kick off to the 2012 College Football Travel Tour.  I can’t wait to experience and share the passion, culture, campuses, games, and college towns.  For anyone who loves travel or football, this will be a unique and exciting series featuring unique stories and travel tips.

This time of year, I get excited about college football.  Today isn’t one of those days.

In the wake of the child sexual abuse conviction of former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky, the NCAA leveled unprecedented sanctions against Penn State and its football program.

A $60 million dollar fine, 14 years worth of wins vacated, a loss of scholarships, and more.  It’s a black eye on the world of college football.

This doesn’t mean I disagree with the punishment.  However, looking beyond the crime and punishment is what makes me sad.

Penn State changed the world of college football

Joe Paterno was a legend in the world of college football.  He was an “Aww shucks!” lovable grandpa figure who was admired and respected by coaches, players, and fans.  He reminded me a lot of my own grandfather.  I wasn’t a Penn State fan but I liked him.

He was the winningest college football coach of all time and he did things the right way.

Or so we thought.

While Jerry Sandusky was sexually assaulting children on the campus of Penn State, Joe Paterno and Penn State’s administration turned a blind eye.  They covered it up, ignored the problem, and didn’t report it so that things would continue the Penn State way in football.

Joe Paterno didn’t commit any crimes.  However, he is the scapegoat for everything that went wrong in this scandal.  People used to think of Penn State as a solid academic institution with one of the most well respected college football programs in the country.   Not anymore.

When did football become more important than the well being of a child?  Sure, college football is a sport that requires the sacrifice and hard work of many men as they work towards a common goal.  Injuries, football related deaths, and corruption have occurred as a result of money, power, and the insatiable desire to win.

However, the massive cover up of the sexual abuse of children by a man and school that were so well respected saddens me.  It hurts me.  For a program and coach that seemed to do everything the right way, they got it all wrong.

The world of college football mourns today.  It mourns for the lives of these abused children.  It mourns the scarred remains of a legend.  The world of college football was changed today.

With conference media days, summer practice a week away, and a new college football playoff, now is the time to get excited about the college football season.

However, today got me thinking about the state of our world rather than the beginning of the college football season.

Can travel really change the world?

Less than a week after the Colorado shooting at a movie theater, the loss of lives is followed up by a sickening stain on the world of college football.  Obviously the former is far more important than the latter.  However, both give me an opportunity to reflect about the state of our world.

An intelligent man who once volunteered as a camp counselor spent months planning a mass murder.  College coaches who traveled the country to educate and inspire young kids failed to help kids when it mattered the most.

This week, athletes from all over the world come together to celebrate the greatest travel and sports event in the world – the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.  Our conflicts take a back seat to competition as we celebrate diversity, culture, and the best athletes the world has to offer.

I am celebrating the stories of people who are celebrating life changing moments through travel through a special campaign.  Expedia Find Yours is sharing travel stories and inspirations that remind us that we are all connected and have a story worth telling.

In light of the tragic events from this past week, there are things to celebrate.  We celebrate culture, sports, and travel stories around the world.  Yet I find myself asking this question again – can travel really change the world?

Truthfully speaking, a part of me believes it while another part of me has doubts.  Travel helps connect us with one another.  Sports unite people for a common purpose.  Yet maybe that isn’t enough.  Maybe there is more that we need to do.

It’s time for a comeback

University of Washington Huskies Oregon DucksLives will go on.  The college football season will begin with the same excitement and passion that it always does.  However, innocent lives and a loss of innocence occurred this week.

The world celebrates the best of sports, travel, and culture this week.  Yet there seems like there is so much more that we need to do to make this world a better place.

Yet the world of college football has changed.  Today, we witnessed the final nail in Joe Paterno’s coffin.  He was buried in infamy.

In Italy, Paterno is a town in Sicily that flourished during the 15th century.   The town was plagued by malaria and was no longer important or relevant.  In the 1960s and 70s, it rebounded and grew once again.

The Italian origins of the word Paterno go back to the word father.  While it’s too late for college football’s Paterno (that lovable grandfather on the sidelines) to rebound, let’s hope Penn State football finds success again.

This past week, we suffered huge losses on the playing field of life.  We need to rebound with a big win.  Now is the time we win one for the kids – the ones on the field, in our homes, and around the world.

Beyond gold medals and championships, may this week remind us that sports and travel can change the world.

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  1. Steve Whitty says:

    I catch some college games on the TV in England and have heard of Penn State and Joe Paterno. The whole situation is sad but NCCA had to be seen to punish the university. The legacy has been tarnished. I just hope time will allow it to be repaired.

  2. It is hard for me to even comment on such an emotional story. And I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know all the facts about the PSU scandal, but I think it is safe to say in the case of Joe Pa no one does because he is not around to tell his story.

    But as a fan of the game and someone who attended Beaver stadium. As someone who watched Joe Pa coach and Penn State play often because of family ties to the University, the whole scandal pains me; it makes me sad. Today my thoughts center on healing, not on punishment.

    Certainly I know it is easier for me than others, so my thoughts go out to all the others who struggle….

    And I start with first and foremost, the children affected.I can’t imagine and I don’t want to I’ll admit it. I am just glad it stopped and the guilty party was convicted.

    But also my thoughts are to all the innocent people affected. To the tailgaters, ticket holders, alumni, players, students, people of Pennsylvania, and all fans of PSU and the game itself. If it pains me as a casual fan, I can’t imagine how their world was shattered.

    stay healing, Craig

  3. The Joe Pa scandal kind of reminds me of NAZI Germany. Because of the extraordinary evil found in Germany, many normal individuals became complicit in horrendous crimse like working at a concentration camp or murdering prisoners of war. In normal times, these people whould have been doctors, lawyers, milkmen, electricians, whatever.

    Same can be said of Penn State. If not for the evil of Jerry Sandusky, Paterno would still be a legend and Penn State would be regarded as the model institution. This is not to make an excuse for them as they failed to combat the evil of the pedophile, but it is important to note the source of the evil.

    This is why I do not believe in heros. If you dig deep into any human you will find faults. Joe Paterno was exposed for being a human being. He should not be villefied for it, and he should never have been worshipped as a hero in the first place.

    Good thought provoking article.

  4. There is a nostalgic feeling that begins as autumn approaches. The part that has to do with football is now a bit tarnished. Thanks for the thoughtful musings…

  5. Leah Travels says:

    Absolutely sports can change the world. I’ve seen it have the most profound effects on individuals. In my ten years of coaching, I had players that had nothing in common but the name on the front of their jerseys. They were of different races, religions, socioeconomic levels, and even had different countries of origin. It was a melting pot of cultures, and I learned as much from my players as I hope they learned from me. I was always fascinated that a group of people so diverse could pull together with the same goal in mind. (I imagine the torture of running and lifting weights had a little to do with it.) I often think that this world would be a better place if we all played on the same team with a similar goal in mind.

    Sports are the great leveler of mankind and unite the world as we’ll soon see in London. In my mind, the Olympics are the best thing the Greeks could have given the world. The games are more than which country wins the most medals. I think it’s also a stage to educate the world about each other’s culture. It’s a platform to stamp out bigotry and prejudice. I hate that politics ever overshadow or tarnish the games. That’s not what the Olympics are about.

    As a college sports fanatic, I’ve felt kinship with people I didn’t know because we loved the same sport, perhaps not the same team, but certainly the same sport. Over the years, we’ve seen scandal after scandal in big-time college football. Those all involved cheating of some sort. Money was taken. Cars were bought. Whatever. I’ve become jaded enough to realize that’s going to happen. But what happened with Penn State goes beyond a twenty-year-old player selling his bowl game ring. What was allowed to continue forever altered the course of countless young boys’ lives.

    Joe Pa is not guilty of abusing these boys, but he is guilty of not doing anything to help them. He turned a blind eye for whatever reason. Was it to protect his football program? Was he protecting his friend and defensive coordinator? Was he ensuring that Penn State would continue to rake in the revenue from their football program? I can no more pretend to understand what was going through Joe Pa’s head any more than I can begin to fathom what Jerry Sandusky was thinking.

    I’m always saddened when I find out that something isn’t what it seems, especially when it comes to sports. I still remember when the death penalty came down on SMU. I was little, but I was so upset to know they were cheaters. The Penn State situation affects me in a similar fashion. It bothers me that the baby is thrown out with the bathwater. It angers me that fans, players, and alumni have to suffer because of terrible choices made a few powerful men. It’s not fair to the young men who committed themselves to the university and its football program.

    But most importantly, it’s not fair to the little boys who looked to those select Penn State coaches to protect them from the unthinkable. Penn State followers will unite and rebound, because that’s what sports teach. When you’re knocked down, you get up, dust yourself off, and continue. Let’s just hope that the boys that were abused have been able to do the same thing.

    (Oh…sorry for the rant.)

  6. Laurence says:

    Thought provoking post Jeremy. I thought I kept myself up to date with current affairs, but I’d totally missed this story, and it is shocking stuff. Institutions becoming complicit in evil acts is not a new story (hello Catholic church), and is something that I fear will continue to happen. As the quote goes, In order for evil to flourish, all that is required is for good men to do nothing…

  7. Turtle says:

    It’s such a tricky issue to comment on. In some senses, it was the acts of a sick man that’s at the centre of it here – and, sadly, there will always be evil people in the world. On the other hand, any cover-up is inexcusable and shows more than evil – it shows greed an a lack of compassion.
    If we’re going to look at it in the context of travel, I just hope that it opens people’s eyes to a bigger world that is more important than money, power and (dare I say it) football.
    When did these people lose perspective?

  8. Wow that is extremely sad to hear. I am so glad that they punished the entire College though as that should never have been covered up.
    I think there is always hope with travel and sport. They always bring people closer together and we can all share our similarities, successes and respect for one another through them! Thanks for the post.

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