Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Innocence Lost

As the weeks of late summer tick on by, there is an excitement building in the air.  The cooler nights and the fall colors mean one thing.  College football season.  This year, that anticipation is accompanied by an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. 

Growing up in central Ohio, Buckeye football was the biggest thing going.  Still is.  I would soak up every detail of the game in the Sunday newspaper, memorize the statistics, know what number every player wore, and re-enact games while playing outside after school.  It was the most popular subject of discussion among my group of friends.  As I got older, graduated, got a job, married, started a family, and moved on in life, I still tried to make time on Saturdays in the fall to watch, or at least listen to the Buckeye games.  I still enjoy watching football, but each year I have noticed that it is less and less important.

Overshadowing the college football season for me this year is the Penn State scandal.  Not the NCAA’s punishment.  Not the death of Joe Paterno.  Not the firings.

That “kicked in the stomach” feeling comes from realizing that the cover-up (or failure to investigate further) of Jerry Sandusky’s actions is my fault.  And for that I am dreadfully sorry.  It is my fault for getting sucked into the multi-billion dollar college football machine.  It is me, the fan, who had a part in creating this monster that is college football.  It is my purchase of school merchandise, my attendance of the games, my need to know everything that is going on with my team.  I am the fuel for this machine.  Jerry Sandusky will need to be responsible for the pain he caused his victims.  The former administrators at Penn State will need to answer as to why they did not follow up on the allegations.  But who made the machine?  Did I not help build it?  Should I not bear some responsibility for contributing to the “too big to have any trouble” culture in college football?

The players are pawns in the hands of greedy businessmen.  I am sure there are good, upstanding administrators and coaches around, but power and money have a tendency to corrupt.  Two of the most respected coaches in the sport fell victim to it.  Joe Paterno and Jim Tressel.  They were the class of college football, the guys who did it the right way.  They got sucked into the machine.

College sports have very little to do with the mission of most universities.  It has turned into the income division.  What does the business of college sports have to do with education and research?  Besides creating lots of revenue.

I approach the upcoming season with mixed feelings.  I will most likely still follow the Buckeyes, but with a heavy heart.  The pure sport that existed in my youthful mind, is gone.  The innocence of amateur sports has been lost.  Actually, it has been gone long ago.  I am just now realizing it.