Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Penn State football must be suspended

In the wake of the firing of Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky’s convictions and the independent report from Judge Louis Freeh, what should happen to Penn State’s football program?

What does decency demand? What’s best in the long run? Beyond what the justice system hands out in the way of punishments, what role should atonement play in trying to facilitate a proper healing of all the wounds Sandusky (depicted above right) has created? 

Paul Woody’s opinions on sports are always worth considering. More often than not I agree with Woody, but in his column on Sunday, “Penn State has much to do but disbanding football isn't one of them,” he wrote that he thinks the Nittany Lions’ football program should not be suspended.
We are judged by how we treat the most vulnerable among us. That is where Paterno, Spanier, Schultz and Curley failed. They gave scant thought to the victims they knew about and no thought to the victims they created by their inaction.

These men face punishment for that shortcoming. Punishing everyone now involved in the Penn State football program only creates more innocent victims.

There already are enough of those.
This time I disagree with Paul. You see, I can’t hear the cries of the indirect “innocent victims” he’s worried about, because the cries of Sandusky’s many direct victims are still ringing too loudly in my ears.

No, it’s too soon to go back to football, as usual, in Happy Valley. 

Saying that Penn State football generates too much money for the university and the community surrounding it is sort of the same argument that was made for banks that were said to be “too big to fail.”

With that argument it seems we’re supposed to let feeling sorry for hot dog and T-shirt vendors who will be out of a job outweigh cleaning up thoroughly after the worst scandal in college sports history. In this case it’s also saying money is more important than properly looking over the safety of children, when we send our kids off to a sports camp, or enroll them in a school. 

In this unprecedented case money concerns simply have to wait, while other concerns are given their just due. This week there were yet more men coming out of the woodwork, to say Sandusky abused them, this time from 30 years ago. There will be more. 

As far as Penn State’s football players are concerned, the NCAA could grant them waivers to let them transfer immediately to other schools, if those student-athletes want to put football over matriculating at Penn State.

Speaking of the NCAA, it is not ruling out the so-called “death penalty” in this case. However, my hope is that the powers that be at Penn State will quickly realize that they have to voluntarily shut down the program, themselves.

In 1982 Rev. John Lo Schiavo, the president of University of San Francisco, disbanded his school’s men’s basketball program. For some good reasons, including crimes, he decided the corruption had gotten so bad it was the only thing to do. After a thorough house-cleaning the hoops program was resurrected three years later. (For in-depth background on that episode, go here.)  

If Penn State doesn’t fall on its sword, then the NCAA should compel the university to do it. This is the perfect time for the money-chasing hypocrites who run the NCAA to get something right. How many years will it take to get things mended at Penn State?

Maybe one year would be enough, maybe it will take longer.

Woody and I agree about cleansing Paterno’s name from the campus. And, I honestly do feel sorry for all the people who loved Paterno who are suffering. Still, some of them haven't really faced up to what was wrong with making Paterno a god. That's going to take time.

And, I also know from having played sports over a lifetime that Sandusky isn’t the only mean and twisted coach in this country who ought not to be around children. 

Remember this: This scandal isn't about kinky sex. It's about raping children. Violence that ruins lives.

Little kids by the millions are watching this story. Some portion of them have been abused. They will learn lessons from how this all plays out. An example has to be made of what went wrong at Penn State. A year without football may cost some money, but it will also allow for some soul searching.

Maybe even some atonement.

-- 30 --

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Complex problem, simple solution -- universal heath care

The most import reason for extending health care to all citizens should rest on something solid. While many softhearted liberals might say morality compels us to provide minimal health care -- at the least -- to all citizens, practical considerations will always insist with maximum volume that we deal with them first.

Fine, I happen to have the answer to the health care stalemate. And, it's not buried in a mountain of details, it's a fairly simple concept: 

America’s greatest natural resource is its citizenry -- it’s everyday workforce. The federal government should protect that resource above all others, in every way it can that's available to it. Without workers and consumers there is no economy.

Without a healthy middle class America's future is dim.

Whether they like their jobs or not, America’s sons and daughters go to work on good days and bad to pursue happiness, such as it might be. Toward that end they establish families and create communities. Just as society has recognized that our vital natural resources need to be protected from fast-buck artists, why would we not also protect our families' wage-earners in the most efficient and effective way we can?

Otherwise, what's the point of protecting the water we drink, the air we breathe, or the animals with which we share the planet?

A few years ago there was a scandal in this country over poisonous toys that had been imported from China. It was found that some of the materials weren’t safe, health-wise, for children to handle. The toys were pulled off retailers’ shelves. Hopefully it was done in time.

Those bad toys never made it into France. Like some other civilized countries, the French regulators never let them across their border in the first place.

France had rigorous standards and inspections that kept those tainted toys out of the curious hands and mouths of French kids. They didn't have to recall the dangerous products, because in France the standards were higher and the regulations were already in place. People were put before profits.


It’s actually simple -- France picks up the tab on everybody’s hospital bills.

Since France’s government has a heavy stake in keeping all French children healthy, rich and poor, its government naturally feels obliged to move proactively to reduce risks. Dig it: one day those French kids will either be healthy or unhealthy workers ... or too sick to work.

Although conservatives still like to mock France for all sorts of silly things, its government cares much more about French workers than our government does about American workers. How happy are you that France is doing plenty more to protect its future workforce than we are?

When the French government pays the health care bills, it follows that it will take more of an interest in protecting everyone’s health. In the long run, as far as paying for a nation’s health care goes, investing in prevention is sensible because it will save money. More importantly, it protects the vital workforce.

Universal health care, with periodic mandatory examinations, is the only way to monitor the spread of dangerous diseases that could become epidemics. Such diseases have the potential to put the kibosh on any nation's economy, to say the least.

Eventually, America will come around to embracing a single-payer universal health care system. It will join its European allies in this respect, one day.

The real question is: When that day comes, will it be a healthy America that chooses to walk upright to that inevitability? Or, will America be crawling toward it on its belly, sick and tired?

 -- 30 --

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Picture Your Corporate Sponsorship Here

With the news of Altria’s $10 million deal with the City of Richmond to have the tobacco products company's name put on what has been known since 1995 as the Landmark Theatre, I remembered a piece I wrote for Richmond.com in 1999. It was one of several attempts I made in those days to have a little fun with the news.

Satire aside, in looking the 13-year-old commentary over I had to chuckle at all that’s changed in Richmond since then … and all that hasn’t changed. Of course, the Landmark Theatre was called The Mosque from its opening in 1927 until it became the Landmark. And, Altria used to be called Philip Morris, but that's another story, for another day.

The original piece is posted below:   
Picture Your Corporate Sponsorship Here
F.T. Rea
Mon., Nov. 22, 1999
Richmond City Manager Calvin D. Jamison is looking for a company to buy "naming rights" for The Coliseum. If he is successful, Richmond would be in step with many cities in the country that have taken on corporate sponsors for their arenas, ball fields, and other municipal facilities that lend themselves to such exploitation.

Of course, just because the opportunity is there doesn't mean it will happen. The City of Richmond has been waiting since 1995 for an entity to throw some bucks into the kitty for the right to put its name on the storied hall that is being temporarily called the Landmark Theater.

With the budget for the operation of the city growing every year, it's no wonder Jamison is looking for new ways to make ends meet. And since it costs Richmond six figures every year to subsidize The Coliseum, why shouldn't the City Manager listen to a company that wants to cough up seven figures to install their logo onto such a high-profile facility?

Apparently Circuit City is considering it. If the deal goes down, we might soon see the circus and annual basketball tournaments held at the Circuit City Coliseum. And why not?

We applaud Mr. Jamison's state-of-the-art thinking and wonder what other publicly owned properties might become cash cows for the city. Humbly, we submit the following suggestions:

Let's go for the gold: The monuments on Monument Avenue should take on corporate sponsors. Why wouldn't Colonial Downs go for the equestrian theme? Maybe the best horse for them would be J.E.B. Stuart's, since it seems to be in motion. Just slap that racetrack logo onto the horse's ass and listen for the sound of the gravy train.

Then there's Matthew Maury, "Pathfinder of the Seas," with that big globe. How about a travel agency for Maury? A quick look at The Yellow Pages suggests Cruises Unlimited as a possible sponsor.


Next, we go for another one of those perfect fits. Instead of The Coliseum, we steer Circuit City toward sponsoring City Hall. That way we could call it Circuit City Hall.

Along the same lines, we could focus on a little local trivia and sell the naming right of the Lee Bridge to Sara Lee; making it the Sara Lee Bridge. (Sara Lee's happens to have been the original name of Sally Bell's Kitchen on West Grace Street. Maybe the first hundred grand could go to pay off Sally Bell's disputed tax tab with the City.)

The 6th Street Marketplace has been a drain on Richmond's resources for a long time. Maybe we could change that by selling the naming rights to a company that fits its image. How about The Forest Lawn Cemetery and Crematorium?

The most visible pieces of city property may be its police cars since they are mobile. Why not sell display advertising space on the patrol cars, just like cabs and buses?

The cars could have a Richbrau logo on their sides. And an ad for fightin' Joe Morrissey on the back.

Everybody makes money.

There's no limit to what fortune could flow from this concept. There will always be yet another space for an ad that could bring in some dough. A few more ads can't hurt us any more than the zillion our pickled brains have already been exposed to.

Finally, when he's making public appearances, Mayor Tim Kaine could wear a special mayor's suit adapted after the fashion of a NASCAR driver. On his official get-up there would be logos for sponsoring companies. There's no way Ukrops, Ethyl, or CSX can pass up this opportunity.

Come to think of it, didn't Richmond already do much the same thing when it hired Calvin Jamison from Ethyl?