Finger: Was Writing on the Wall with Paterno, Penn State?

Finger: Was Writing on the Wall with Paterno, Penn State?

With our fearless leader, Enrico Campitelli Jr., on vacation in an undisclosed location—really, he won't tell us where he is—we may have some special contributors dropping by The700Level.

Today we're joined by CSNPhilly's John Finger. Reexamining multiple incidents involving the Penn State football team in 2007, Finger begs the question as to whether or not the writing was on the wall in regards to what we now know about how the university and its football coach collectively handle institutional crises...

Note: West of Philadelphia is a large land mass called Pennsylvania. To most, this region is called “Penn State Country.” To be more succinct, this is Penn State football country and non-citizens of this land act at their own peril.

I grew up in Penn State Country. I have family and friends who are and were Penn State alums, professors, boosters and supporters. As such, Penn State football dominated everyday life during the season. For many, football Saturday’s were the reason for existence. The same went for the annual spring practice game. Typically, Saturday afternoons in this part of the world consisted of women preparing mass quantities of food, drink all while dressed in the appropriate Penn State garb. The men would wear a tasteful Penn State shirt with a pressed pair of khakis and black shoes.

Just like Joe. Hey, it wasn’t just a football game or a happening. Penn State football was life.

And it drove me nuts.

More so, the man at the center of this universe, was impossible to ignore. Joe Paterno was the most well-known and revered man in the Commonwealth. He gave speeches to introduce presidents and he was the star. If he went to a basketball game, people watched him. People fought in bookstores in order to buy copies of his autobiography or life-sized poster cutouts.

Paterno was a moral arbiter for a lot of folks in Penn State Country and a compass of what was right and wrong. Paterno, in Penn State Country, was the cult of personality personified.

And it was all a lie.

As it has played out, Paterno is not very much different from the Jackie Sherrills or Barry Switzers he railed against. When push comes to shove, Paterno will always protect his own no matter what the cost.

The following story was written on Oct. 19, 2007 during a period where Paterno’s players were being arrested for sexual assault, fighting on campus and shooting a crossbow through the dorms. Plus, Paterno had been involved in a road-rage incident on campus.

Little did we know what was going on behind the scenes at Penn State with disgraced former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Perhaps the handwriting was on the wall? 

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Gotta Go, Joe
Oct. 19, 2007
There was time up there in the hinterlands of Happy Valley when a certain football coach could carry on his business in town with impunity. If there was a professor or another local pinheaded intellectual rolling through stops signs, then by golly, it was up to the football coach to restore order by making the necessary traffic stop.

Anarchy might be a concept that the intellectuals like to discuss and stroke their pointed beards over, but here in the real world anarchy doesn't get you to a Bowl Game, Poindexter!

After all, whose name is it on the library where they stash all those books the professors love to read and write? It ain't no philosopher... yeah, that's right; it’s the football coach, smarty pants.

Better yet, it used to be that the football coach ran that little college town in the same way that Porky used to in that eponymously titled movie from the 1980s. See, Ol’ Porky ran his backwoods town and even had the local law enforcement signed up for duty. In fact, when making the rounds about town, the sheriff and his boys would occasionally come across a few of Porky’s friends who may have had a little too much moonshine and were causing a “disturbance” or something like that.

But rather than take the miscreant to the lockup and run him through all that fingerprinting and photographing rigamarole, the local law would just take the deviant over to Porky’s house to let him deal with it.

Hey, no sense getting worked up over boys just being boys.

Once upon a time the “Porky's Model” was how it was done up there in Happy Valley. Say a footballer had one too many after practice (or study hall) and decided to fire a crossbow into the dorms. Or, say, he may have teetered over the edge into felony rape and sexual-assault charges ... well, the State College PD and the campus cops could have just turned it over to the football coach. No sense getting worked up over it. Let the boss handle it. That's what he's here for.

But there's a big problem nowadays. It seems as if the times have changed up at State. It also seems as if those pinheads in academia and those degenerates in the media have finally started to take that whole “accountability” and “discipline” malarkey the coach always talked about, to heart.

But this time, it just doesn’t apply to tailgating and rooting for Ol’ State to win the big game and letting the boys be boys. Nope, instead they want to know things. Like, for instance, why the football coach won’t tell the taxpayers in the Commonwealth how much his public-subsidized paycheck is for.

How gauche!

Then they want to know just who does the coach think he is when he “gently chided” a woman driver who may or may not have rolled through a stop sign. I mean come on, Coach... you know how those gals are behind the wheel. She was probably putting on her makeup and didn't see the sign. No wonder her husband was shouting. Cut him some slack, Coach — he has to live with her!

But oddly enough, those vultures want to know why the coach has not discussed the running back who will stand trial for felony rape and sexual-assault charges when the star player allegedly attempted to have sex with a woman sleeping in his apartment.

“What makes this assault different ... is that she was punched in the kidney in order to gain compliance,” assistant district attorney Lance Marshall said outside the courthouse. “This case is more unusual than our typical sex assault case” on campus.

Yes, and you want to know what else makes it different? In the first five games of this season, the running back rushed for 302 yards and six touchdowns. It’s a good thing that it's a star football player from Penn State that stands accused and not a lacrosse player from Duke. Otherwise, the school might cancel the rest of the season and suspend the program.

But something like that would never happen at Penn State, would it? Not with Mr. Clean, Joe Paterno running the show. After all, when asked about the charges levied on his running back, the football coach, understandably, got angry...

At the guy asking the question.

Here's an excerpt from last Wednesday's media teleconference:

Question: Bonnie Bernstein reported on ABC's telecast that you told her Austin Scott was off the team. He's no longer on the depth chart. What's his status?

Coach: You want to talk about anybody that we're playing? I'm not going to talk about it. Austin Scott's got to work some things out.

Yeah, like trying to stay out of jail,
right?

Meanwhile, when asked if four of his players, who were reportedly involved in an on-campus fight the night after the Iowa game, would see action this weekend, The Coach said: “It depends how well they practice.”

Come on... it was just a fight. It wasn't like they raped anyone. Sheesh!

Now here’s the thing that gets me: when I was a kid growing up in the so-called Penn State Country, I read the football coach's biography and was taken with certain aspects of it. Particularly, I was enchanted by parts where Paterno wrote about his youth in Brooklyn and his father’s insistence on education and a strong sense of morality be the focal point of his son’s life. These lessons were drilled into young Paterno everyday not just by his father, Angelo, but also a particular Jesuit Brother who used  to make young Paterno stay late after to school for special assignments in Latin and literature. In fact, it may have been the most interesting section in any jock lit book I have ever read.

It makes me wonder what that old Latin and literature student would think of the tired, old ball coach who hasn’t quite learned that things aren't the way they used to be.

What would the Jesuits say?

What would Angelo Paterno say?

Flyers-Oilers 10 observations: Two big rallies and the win streak pushes forward

Flyers-Oilers 10 observations: Two big rallies and the win streak pushes forward

Ten observations from the Flyers' 6-5 win over the Edmonton Oilers Thursday night, their seventh straight win and longest win streak since Dec. 2-15, 2011 (see Instant Replay).

1. And the Flyers (somehow) did it. They won their seventh straight game on a night Steve Mason wasn't his best — five goals allowed for the third time this season — and the team defense was largely atrocious. Michael Raffl scored a beautiful goal for the game-winner at 18:31 of the third period and the Flyers held on. This game had a 1980s feel to it. Lots of scoring. Highly entertaining. And the Flyers found a way to win it. This team is on a roll.

2. From the Flyers' perspective, the most entertaining moment of the opening 20 minutes came with 5:31 left in the first period, when Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning and Oilers center Connor McDavid exchanged words post-whistle in the Philadelphia zone.

Manning broke McDavid's collarbone last season, which forced McDavid to miss a chunk of his rookie season. Nothing more than a little pushing and shoving with some trash talk.

Still, the sequence brought the most excitement in the first period. Speaking of which …

3. For a team that entered on a six-game winning streak, the Flyers' first-period effort was disheartening. They needed more than nine minutes to get their first shot on goal, and had more shots in the final two minutes — five — than they did the first 18 minutes.

No real scoring chances, either, out of the nine first-period shots. Raffl had a nice chance, but Oilers goalie Jonas Gustavsson was able to make the stop.

That's two straight games the Flyers have had poor first periods. Tuesday, they were tied, 1-1, with the Panthers, but faced a 1-0 deficit Thursday. Better first periods are needed.

4. Boy, the Flyers woke up quick after the 10-minute mark of the second period.

Down 2-0, the Flyers scored three goals in one minute and 12 seconds in the second period — 12:31, 13:24 and 13:43 — to get the Wells Fargo Center jumping.

Mark Streit started it off with a power-play goal, followed by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and then Claude Giroux. Bellamare beat Gustavsson with a well-placed wrist shot, which may have been the fourth-liner's best shot of his NHL career, for his first of the year.

Giroux's diving slapper gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead 19 seconds later. The loudest the building may have been this season. It had a playoff atmosphere after Giroux's goal.

5. Let's talk about McDavid. We hear about how fast he is, how skilled he is, how special he is, and he is every bit as advertised. You see it more when you see him in person.

McDavid scored his first power-play goal of the season at 4:35 of the second period, his 12th goal of the campaign. He rocketed home a one-timer from Leon Draisaitl off a rebound.

The 19-year-old kid leads the NHL in scoring and just scored his first PPG. The kid is special. Very special. Side note, McDavid chirped Manning after his PPG.

6. And, of course, McDavid was a factor in another Oilers goal. After the Flyers took momentum with their three goals in just over a minute, McDavid took it right back.

While the Oilers were shorthanded, McDavid was double-teamed in the corner left of Mason by Andrew MacDonald and Bellamare, but he was able to shovel the puck to Mark Letestu, who then found Andrej Sekera for a blast by Mason to make it 3-3 at 16:15 of the second period.

The credit for that goal goes all to McDavid. Tremendous strength by a 19-year-old who was being pinned against the boards by a 30-year-old and 31-year-old, respectively.

Sekera's goal was the seventh shorthanded goal allowed by the Flyers — most in the NHL.

7. I was skeptical of using the Bellemare line against McDavid, but at 5-on-5, Bellemare, Chris VandeVelde and Roman Lyubimov did a decent job against McDavid. Still, the Oilers' captain finished with a goal and assist. The Flyers held McDavid without a breakaway.

The Bellemare line did a tremendous job at 5-on-5.

8. The fans grew restless with the referees in the third period. First, Brayden Schenn put a loose puck into the net, but Gustavsson had covered it and the whistle had blown quickly. And then, McDavid tackled Ivan Provorov on a break. Should have been a penalty.

9. We hear about McDavid all the time, but Edmonton has another young star in Draisaitl, who found himself off the McDavid line against the Flyers.

No problem for the 2014 No. 3 overall pick. Draisaitl had a goal and two assists and displayed an uncanny ability to find open players and get them the puck.

In a game featuring McDavid, it was Draisaitl who stole the show. Wow.

10. It was Goaltender Heritage Night at the Wells Fargo Center, but there were no special ceremonies. The honorees, voted by the fans, were Bernie Parent, Ron Hextall, Pelle Lindberg, Pete Peeters and Brian Boucher. Outside of some interviews during stoppages and a cool, little presentation during introductions, there was nothing to write home about. There was an uptick in goalie jerseys in the crowd.

Personal favorite? A Brian Boucher No. 1 Philadelphia Phantoms sweater.

Instant Replay: Sixers 99, Pelicans 88

Instant Replay: Sixers 99, Pelicans 88

BOX SCORE

NEW ORLEANS -- The Sixers avoided setting a franchise mark of consecutive road losses with a 99-88 win over the Pelicans in New Orleans.

Prior to Thursday’s victory, the Sixers had lost 23 straight away from Philadelphia. Their last road win was Jan. 20, 2016 against the Magic. They also had dropped 23 consecutive games on the road from March 29 - Dec. 23, 2015. 

The Sixers held Anthony Davis, the NBA’s leading scorer, to 26 points, below his season average of 31.6. They were led by Ersan Ilyasova, who dropped 23 points again after scoring 23 in the Sixers’ last game against the Grizzlies. 

Third-quarter transformation
The Sixers trailed the Pelicans 57-52 at halftime and struck back defensively in the third. They held the Pelicans to 5 for 25 shooting from the field and 2 for 12 from three in the quarter. The Sixers outscored the Pelicans 19-12 in the quarter to regain the lead. 

Inside the box score
• Davis recorded a 26-point, 11-rebound double-double. He shot 8 for 21 from the field, 0 for 2 from three and 10 for 12 from the line. 

• Ilyasova scored 23 points (9 for 16 from the field, 2 for 6 from three, 3 for 4 from the line), eight rebounds and four assists.

• Joel Embiid contributed 14 points (5 for 15 from the field, 0 for 5 from three, 4 for 5 from the line), seven rebounds, two assists, four blocks and three steals in 27 minutes.

• Sergio Rodriguez gave a solid 16 points (6 for 13 from the field, 4 for 8 from three) and eight dimes.

• Nik Stauskas and Dario Saric combined for 27 points off the bench.

• St. Joe’s alum Langston Galloway dropped 19 points (8 for 16 from the field, 3 for 6 from long range) off the Pelicans’ bench.

Trusting the process in New Orleans
It follows Embiid on the road. Fans chanted “trust the process” while he was at the free throw line. The volume was more quiet than at the Wells Fargo Center, but the effort was there nonetheless. 

Injury updates
The Sixers were without Jahlil Okafor, who remained in Philadelphia battling gastroenteritis. Jerryd Bayless also missed the trip because of left wrist soreness. Former Sixer Jrue Holiday sat out with turf toe. 

Up next
The Sixers will return home to Philadelphia to get in some practice before heading back on the road. They will play the Pistons in Detroit on Sunday.