November 11 – Volume 12, #11
In spite of a sterling record of service to Penn State University that spanned over 60 years, head coach Joe Paterno did deserve to lose his job for not doing more upon learning of assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s alleged sexual molestation of adolescent boys between 1994 and 2009.
While it is true that Paterno did fulfill his legal obligation by informing his athletic director upon learning of the crimes, as a leader of young men at such a prestigious institution, Paterno’s responsibility went far beyond what was legally required. So although he doesn’t bear the ultimate accountability for the alleged scandal, he does carry a great deal of it and had to fall on the sword in spite of his highly decorated tenure in State College, Pennsylvania.
What Paterno didn’t deserve, however, was to be fired over the phone. Joe Pa suffered from a tremendous lapse in judgment, but he had built up enough equity at Penn State where he was owed more than that.
Penn State officials will hide behind the bogus claim that they didn’t want to create more campus upheaval by having cameras follow Paterno from his home to the meeting with the Board of Trustees, and then back again. With TV crews camped outside of Paterno’s house for days, there would be no way that a termination meeting would escape media scrutiny. And already-riled up students may have been zapped out of their iPhone-induced passivity and taken to the streets to spread mayhem that not even Allstate could clean up. But this is a lame excuse, and even lamer treatment of a man who had brought so much attention and revenue to the university over the past six decades as head coach. Firing someone of Paterno’s stature took balls. The trustees should have had the balls to look the man in the eye when they dropped the axe.
Paterno had to be held accountable for his choice of not reporting the actions of his long-time assistant and friend to the police. And, in kind, the administration should have been prepared to be accountable for their decision to fire a cultural icon that is likely never to be rivaled at Pennsylvania State University. Instead the trustees at Penn State took the pussy way out. Unfortunately this kind of cowardly behavior is becoming all too common in a society where people regularly hide behind machines to shield themselves from confrontation.
Technology is a great thing. Truly. It’s made all of our lives better in so many important ways. The most important contribution to the betterment of humanity being, of course, me creating this blog. One of the promises of technological achievements like the internet, $600 cell phones and other viral advancements is that it was supposed to make our communication easier. But what it seems to have done instead –in addition to making us all considerably dumber as a nation- is make it easier to avoid having to come literally face-to-face with tough decisions. Relationships; such as the one shared by Paterno and Penn State, are forged through blood, sweat and tears, but in these strange days they are quickly torn asunder at the click of a mouse.
In the past year I have seen two of my partners who helped me to build Illanoyze to its current heights leave the company. While this was certainly their prerogative, and an exercise that I truly bear them no ill will for as I feel the loss is more theirs than the company’s, no words can quite capture my disappointment in how these defections were carried out. Rather than engage in a man-to-man sitdown as we had in the cultivation of our enterprise, my business partner of better than a decade felt that it was sufficient to inform me of his departure via a one-line e-mail. Even more disappointing was when my own flesh and blood informed me of his departure through a text message. And while my selfish actions certainly warranted my ex-wife’s decision to file for divorce, I think that I should at least have been looked in the eye when I found out that my life was going to be turned upside-down. Instead, this reality was crystallized in a letter that wasted less ink than our wedding vows. Upon being terminated from my job of four years, I wasn’t called into the office just five floors above, but was sent an e-mail instead.
This zeitgeist is bigger than any of them. This certainly won’t be the last time I’ll be greeted with some earth-shattering information in such a medium. A medical diagnosis may well come in the form of a Facebook post. One day soon, I’ll be compelled to read the intricate details of a mortgage in the form of a text message. It’s only a matter of time before I am able to forgo the courting process altogether and will go on dates by using Skype. Confronting fellow beings at eye level isn’t always a pleasant experience, particularly when we have to tell someone something they may not want to hear. Or when we tell them something that we may not want to hear their response to. Dealing with conflict in such a detached manner is becoming the norm for our society. Rather than making our planet more connected, this technology is making us less human.
People can’t even hold conversations with one another anymore. Where we’re at is never as exciting as the ubiquitous digital universe that we’re forced to depart from during the moments where we’re inconvenienced because we have to live life. It is par for the course in modern America for people to go to concerts, parties, sporting events and even religious services and spend most of their time on Twitter.
There are far more important cautionary tales for modern society that emerged from the Penn State scandal that supersede the manner in which a millionaire was laid off from his job of 46 years. Please believe me, in no way do I want to suggest that Paterno is the most harmed victim in this – if he is even a victim at all. No, the victim that I am illuminating through his public example is us. And the world that we live in. All these widgets and gadgets are making us become more robotic than the machines that we operate. We are living the Wizard of Oz in reverse, losing our hearts and brains to devolve into cowardly tin men with each text and tweet.
Peace and God bless,