Commentary

Snow: A fallen statue no guarantee of sports purity

August 4, 2012 

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A man stares at the site where the statue of former Penn State University football coach Joe Paterno once stood outside Beaver Stadium on July 22, 2012 in State College, The statue was removed by workers after Pennsylvania. Penn State's president Rodney Erickson made the decision Sunday in the wake of the child sex scandal of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. According to an FBI report, it is believed that Paterno had detailed knowledge of Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing children before and after Sandusky retired from coaching at Penn State.

PATRICK SMITH — Getty Images

So they pulled down the statue of the late Penn State coach Joe Paterno, once the winningest coach in college football history.

I’m not sure that was the best decision by the university as atonement for the worst scandal in the history of college sports.

The statue could have stood as a permanent reminder of how destructive the excessive adoration of college sports can be to the purpose and reputation of an institution of higher learning.

The statue could have been a scheduled stop on campus tours for entering freshmen, with the guide reminding visitors that Penn State’s future focus will be on academics, not football.

One wonders if Shakespeare’s edict holds in this case: “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”

It may be that, despite the NCAA’s severe punishment, Paterno’s revered image as super-coach will survive, while the deliberate coverup of sexually abused children will be interred with Paterno’s statue and soon forgotten.

Announcing severe penalties for the university, including vacating all football victories from 1998-2011, NCAA President Mark Emmert, said, “Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people.”

Don’t bet on it.

From the beach

During our recent time at the beach, I awoke in the night to one of my favorite spectator sports, watching a storm at sea.

I lay there watching the continuous flashes of lightning streak the dark sky and illuminate the surging waves crashing against the shore. The display called to mind a mammoth artillery barrage stretching across the horizon.

I was torn between the tug of sleep and my continued fascination with one of Nature’s greatest spectacles until Morpheus finally pulled the curtain of my consciousness.

Lunch guest

Horror stories from squirrel victims have poured in. There are far too many to share. Suggestions on how to deal with this plague, this pestilence are legion. I thank you for expressing your sympathy and/or anger toward the culprits.

Jill Griffin shared an amusing account of a squirrel’s crime against humanity. A friend, Bruce Louden, an avid golfer, went to his golf bag for his lunch, only to find that a squirrel had crawled inside and dined on Bruce’s peanut butter sandwich.

Laughter’s magic

I recently attended the Pullen Baptist Church memorial service for a beloved friend, Mary Lib Finlator, wife of that late icon of liberal activism, the Rev. W.W. Finlator.

“Mary Lib Finlator lived life with more laughter than tears,” said Pullen pastor Nancy Petty.

She related an anecdote from Mary Lib’s son, Wallace, that took place when his mother was teaching English at Broughton High School.

A very popular football player who expected his teachers to cut him some slack handed in a term paper that was woefully inadequate. Mary Lib, who had already given him more than one extension, angrily tossed the paper into the trash can in front of the astonished class.

“Next morning when Mom arrived at her classroom, everything had been turned upside down: every chair, table and even the fateful trash can,” Wallace said. “ Mom’s desk was face down, legs in the air. The pictures on the walls had been carefully re-hung upside down. Even the pencils in the pencil bowl were pointed toward China.”

When she first arrived, Mary Lib noticed a clump of students hanging around her classroom doorway, waiting to enjoy their teacher’s reaction.

But when she beheld the mayhem, the teacher, instead of going into a rage or succumbing to tears, burst into laughter.

Within 10 minutes, every item in the room was back in its correct place, and that was the end of the matter. Mary Lib did not undertake an investigation to find the culprits. She did not report the incident to the principal.

It’s little wonder she was one of the school’s most popular teachers during her 17- year tenure.

Yes, laughter, if you can manage it, can be a great healer as well as a powerful aid along the rocky road of life.

Peaceful co-existence

Like the gingham dog and the calico cat, the two cars sat side by side at the Windward Dunes parking lot.

One sported an Ohio license tag reading, “Birthplace of Aviation.” The North Carolina tag boasted, “First in Flight.”

Snow: 919-836-5636 or asnow@newsobserver.com

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