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October 11, 2012 - Stephen Browne
The news is full of two major sports scandals: on October 9, 2012, former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years and maximum of 60 years in prison after being convicted of 45 counts relating to child sex abuse.
There's a lot of other people going down with him too. A lot of university officials have resigned, including Penn State President Graham Spanier, and a fair number of them are sweating bullets waiting to see what they might be charged with.
It seems to a lot of the Penn State crowd, winning football games was more important than the welfare of children.
And in the world of cycling, recent revelations by the US Anti-Doping Agency revealed that many times winner of the Tour de France, de Suisse, de Luxembourg, etc, had been doping for years. The inspiring cancer survivor comeback kid stands revealed as a cheat and a bully.
And, you have to speculate whether Armstrong's testicular cancer, for which he underwent chemo, brain surgery, and had one testicle removed, was caused by steroid use.
My God! Who wants to win a durn game that much? Quite a few people it seems. I was at Oklahoma University during the last years of head football coach Barry Switzer's tenure there. Eventually even the regents of that football mad school suggested Barry move on after a number of scandals. The tip of the iceberg was revealed the year in which one player shot a team mate, another got busted for cocaine possession, and four were convicted of a gang rape in the athletic dorm.
What was really shocking was the number of people ready to blame the victim. As shocking as the number of people at Penn State who appear not to have even thought of the victims.
We used to say, "Oklahoma University's football team are honor students. 'Yes, Your Honor. No, Your Honor.'"
So why would a university ignore blatant signs that one of their assistant coaches was a moral monster? And why would an athlete risk death and be half-castrated to win a few more bicycle races?
I can only think of two reasons, one of which I understand, the other I don't.
There is of course, money. High salaries, prizes, endorsements, book deals, etc.
As my dad used to say, "Football is a fun game. But when you're making a quarter million dollars a year at it - it's not a game."
The other has to do with what the Wide World of Sports used to call, "The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat."
It's not that I don't understand that it feels great to win, and rotten to lose. But to ignore the abuse of children by someone they should be able to trust? To risk a horrible death?
Come on! There are more important things than winning a game.
Perhaps I don't understand because I'm a teacher and lifelong student of martial arts. Moreover, in the arts I teach we don't do tournaments. We do boxing, wrestling, combat games, competitive exercises etc. But we don't train to win a specialized sport, we train for the eventuality we hope will never come, to defend our lives and the lives of others.
We don't do formal tournaments, as fun as those are, because the training to win combat sports is too specialized. Tournament sports have rules to insure the safety of the participants, which necessarily degrade combat effectiveness.
It puts things in a different perspective when you train not to go home with a trophy, but to go home with your life.
Armstrong almost didn't, and Sandusky is going to spend the rest of his life in prison, isolated from a general population in which nearly every single individual would kill him without a second's thought.
I'd like to ask Armstrong, and the people who knew or suspected the harm Sandusky was convicted of doing to children, "Was it worth it?"
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