After taking a long hiatus, I’m trying something new this week with some Monday Musings on some hot topics in sports and entertainment. Today we’ve got scandal, celebrity, and a little athlete career management.
Penn State, JoePa, Sandusky and Scandal
The biggest scandal of the weekend may be the biggest sports scandal and/or coverup we’ve seen in decades. On Saturday, former Penn State Defensive Coordinator and longtime assistant to legendary Penn State Head Coach Joe Paterno, Gerry Sandusky was arrested on over 40 charges including many involving sex crimes against children. The charges stem from a 15 year period from 1994 to 2009. It’s important to note that Sandusky was a member of the Penn State staff until 1999 when he surprisingly resigned. While all of the charges are heinous, the most shocking story may come from a 2002 incident when then graduate assistant and current Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary observed Sandusky engaging in a sex act with a young boy (approximately 10-12 years old) in the Penn State lockerroom/showers. McQueary, after consulting with his father, went to Coach Paterno the next day and told him he saw something, but according to Paterno and the Penn State administration, what McQueary told them wasn’t nearly as explicit as what McQueary later told the Grand Jury. Paterno then told his Athletic Director Tim Curley who in turn shared the conversation with his boss and Penn State Vice President Gary Schultz.
And then…..nothing happened. For 9 years, nobody came forward, nobody said a thing, nobody further investigated. Both Schultz and Curley have been charged with perjury based on their testimony during the Grand Jury hearings. And on Sunday night, Curley took a leave of absence and Schultz resigned. But what about living legend Joe Paterno?
His son Scott, a former lawyer himself, claims that JoePa had no obligation to do anything but report what he had heard to Tim Curley because by 2002 Sandusky was no longer a member of Paterno’s staff.
“Unfortunately,” Scott Paterno said, “once that happened, there was really nothing more Joe felt he could do because he did not witness the event. You can’t call the police and say, ‘Somebody tells me they saw somebody else do something.’ That’s hearsay. Police don’t take reports in that manner. Frankly, from the way he understood the process, he passed the information on to the appropriate university official and they said they were taking care of it. That’s really all he could do.”
Scott is right that the testimony of Paterno would have been hearsay in a court of law, but as far as a police investigation goes, I’m sure they would have listened if Coach Paterno had picked up the phone. What the police can investigate has nothing to do with what is admissible in a court room. Forgetting the legality of it all, the bigger issue here is a lack of a moral compass by anyone. If McQueary didn’t properly articulate what he saw, he should be ashamed of himself. If he did, and Joe Paterno and his superiors didn’t aggressively pursue an investigation, they should be ashamed of themselves. And even if he didn’t articulate it, but merely mentioned that he saw inappropriate behavior between Sandusky and a young boy in the Penn State locker room that should have triggered an outpouring of concern for the victim and contempt for Sandusky. Yet nobody in State College felt compelled to pursue this. Not McQueary, not Schultz, not Curley, and perhaps worst of all, not Paterno. Perhaps he was protecting a friend, perhaps he was in denial about what he heard, but his actions were inexcusable. And to now try to hide behind a legal curtain that doesn’t exist is shameful.
Joe Paterno spent over 60 years in college football, developing leaders and molding boys into men. Yet his coverup and/or willful ignorance of this tragic scandal will not only end his football career, it will permanently tarnish his legacy.
Switching gears completely to last week’s news of Kim Kardashian’s filing divorce papers against hubby of 72 days Kris Humphries….
Here’s what I don’t understand – Kim Kardashian has made millions of dollars off of carefully protecting and shaping her brand. Ever since the Kim’s sextape dropped and she became everyone’s favorite “celebrity”, she, with an assist from mother Kris, has done a better job than perhaps anyone in the world of managing her brand. So how could she have so badly miscalculated the public’s response to her divorce just 3 weeks after her “fairytale” wedding aired on E! network? There are a handful of rules you can never break in the court of public opinion, and rule #1 is never lie, or look as though you’ve deceived your fans. Yet this “wedding”, that earned Kim an estimated $17.9 million dollars, did exactly that. The hurried nuptials in time for the final season of her show, the immediate move to New York to film the next season with Kris, and the over the top media circus all reek of attention seeking. And to make matters worse, Kim’s public statement did nothing to quell the rumors of a staged wedding when she refused to even acknowledge why people might think that would be the case. Her love for Kris may have been genuine, but her defensiveness about the nuptials suggested otherwise.
Instead of telling the world that they were crazy to think she would marry for money or media attention, she should have been honest and open. She could have acknowledged that perhaps she and Kris rushed into things, and that they realized they wanted different things. She could have made mention that everyone makes poor judgment calls, and this was just one of those instances. It may not have helped the diehard haters who had made up their mind, but for those fans (consumers) who still wanted to like Kim, it would have made her seem like a real person who is fallible, and not a media seeker who is beyond reproach.
Now we hear Kim went to Minnesota to talk to Kris and try to salvage things. It sounds to me like just another way to get the cover of US Weekly again. At some point Kim is just going to have to be honest with herself, and the world, about what’s really important to her. Love, or fame. Right now every action seems to indicate the latter, but if she gets too callous with the American public’s trust, she’ll end up with neither.
Finally, today marks’ the 20th Anniversary of Magic Johnson’s announcement that he is HIV positive. While many today will comment about the great work Magic has done for AIDS research and awareness, or how far we’ve come in 20 years in our understanding, my take is a little different.
As an 11 year old in East Lansing, Michigan in 1991, the news about Magic was not just a global story, it was a local one. Magic had attended Lansing Everett High School, not far from where I grew up and had attended Michigan State University in East Lansing. As such, as a young kid, I had multiple opportunities to see Magic Johnson in person at basketball camps, MSU games, and local events. And while he was always the star of the Lakers, he was also the local hero. Even as an 11 year old, I immediately understood what the news about Magic meant for him.
Thankfully, we were all wrong, and Magic still continues to live a vibrant and healthy life as a businessman, entrepreneur, educator, broadcaster, and philanthropist.
And what occurred to me is that while Michael Jordan is the global icon for basketball, Magic Johnson should be the global icon for all aspiring athletes. Sure, Magic made some awful mistakes in his youth and wasn’t a perfect human being. And it probably took the HIV wakeup call to help him become the man he is today. But Magic is exactly what every star athlete should aspire to be in the post playing career afterlife. Magic wasn’t prepared for retirement when it hit him, but he adapted when he did. He became an ambassador for a cause, he became a businessman who made hundreds of millions of dollars, he failed as a talk-show host but eventually succeeded as a broadcaster, and he is still involved in the sport he loves, basketball.
Now not every athlete will have the same kind of success that Magic has had off the court. But if you’re an athlete who aspires to do greater things, Magic is the type of guy you’d want to emulate. He’s taken advantage of the opportunities presented to him, and found a way to benefit the people he grew up with by involving his hometown in those business interests. He’s a global ambassador for HIV, yet still does charity work in Lansing. And most importantly, he’s found a way to stay relevant. Many athletes are happy to just walk off of the court into a private life – and if that’s your preference, god bless. But if you’re interested in still finding ways to still be in the spotlight and use your celebrity as a philanthropist, businessman, or even for fun, Magic has provided the blueprint.