Entries in Penn State (2)

Tuesday
Nov152011

VIDEO: Bob Costas Scores Small Victory for Victims and Journalism with Sandusky Grilling 

REVIEWING THE NEWS: Some of the content in Bob Costas' Rock Center interview with accused ex-Penn State Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky was shocking, but Costas' unblinking cross-examination wasn't. (VIDEO)

By Kenny Herzog

Costas has always been good, but never under such significant and complex circumstances.

 

It's almost impossible to fathom why disgraced former Penn State Coach Jerry Sandusky and his attorney, Joseph Amendola, conceded to an interview with Bob Costas on last night's Rock Center. Or why Amendola didn't muzzle his blithering client halfway through the unsettling, self-indicting discussion.

Maybe it's because they were able to conduct it over the phone, thereby stripping Costas of the chance to interrogate his subject while looking him in the eye. Or perhaps Amendola figured that, if America finally heard about these allegations from the lone implicated adult, it could give him a head start on discrediting the then-underage children whom Sandusky purportedly sodomized.

It's also likely that Amendola underestimated Costas, whose career has generally remained within the boundaries of sports reporting and commentary, but whom any observant TV viewer knows is one of our great broadcast journalists, worthy of being considered this generation's Howard Cosell. At minimum, Amendola had obviously never seen the one-time Syracuse University Newhouse School grad's unflinching tete-a-tetes with the likes of shamed baseball icon Mark McGwire.

Sandusky was out-witted and seemingly caught off guard by Costas, who stayed composed and balanced while asking point-blank questions like, "If you're not a pedophile, then what are you?" and refusing to allow Sandusky a single evasive response. When the accused child molester claimed, "I don't think it's my fault," only acknowledging, "I've obviously played a part in this," Costas immediately insisted to know what part, to which Sandusky pitifully answered, "I shouldn't have showered with those kids."

 

You could see Costas gritting teeth and maintaining palor while Sandusky had the self-deluded, offensive gall to suggest that the children making accusations simply misinterpreted his good intentions. It was clear how sorely Costas wanted to eviscerate Sandusky and lecture him in some more obviously cathartic way. But then the story would have become about Costas, and potentially even risked portraying Sandusky as having been blindsided or attacked, which is exactly what Amendola was banking on. Instead, Costas repeatedly turned Sandusky's convoluted and contradictory pronouncements on their head and spun them back toward the retired coach, who was incapable of justifying his own incoherence. 

Of course, Costas wouldn't want to be celebrated for what he did either. It's his job, and he did it well, but it still won't change the fact that Sandusky most certainly had inappropriate contact with young boys whom he promised a brighter future, and possibly of a sexual nature. But at least he set the tone that someone amidst all this needs to start acting like an adult.

 

IN OTHER WORDS: Let's hope Sandusky goes to trial, because if guilty, it should go unmitigated. 

BOB COSTAS RATING: 10/10

STILL A LONG WAY FROM CLOSURE FOR THE VICTIMS, IF IT'S EVER POSSIBLE RATING: 1/10

COSTAS ALL BUT CONVICTING SANDUSKY BY CHARACTERIZING HIS PLED INNOCENCE AS MAKING HIM "THE UNLUCKIEST AND MOST PERSECUTED MAN THAT ANY OF US HAS EVER HEARD ABOUT" RATING: 9/10


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Thursday
Nov102011

A Few Words on Joe Paterno and the Penn State Student Riots

 

REVIEWING THE NEWS: This whole mess on College Avenue is a rare instance in which almost everyone is wrong.

By Kenny Herzog

We should reserve judgment on Joe till we hear all the facts, but school officials, students and, naturally, media are clearly guilty of making a bad situation worse.

 

Late last night, in the wake of news that Penn State University's legendary football coach Joe Paterno had been fired, riots broke out on College Avenue, the central thoroughfare that runs through PSU's ironically dubbed Happy Valley. Students who weren't even born when the 84-year-old Paterno had already reached theoretical retirement age rallied, chanted and expressed their outrage through vandalism and anger. It was an unfathomable and rapidly descended low point amid a totally deplorable series of revelations and accusations implicating Paterno's longtime assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, in heinous acts of child molestation, and possibly Paterno himself in not properly addressing the situation several years prior.

By this morning, Facebook posts and Tweets from mortified onlookers, most of whom were probably wired into ESPN's sensational coverage, conveyed a largely unified sentiment that PSU rioters are defending the protector of a pederast. That itself seems a bit black and white. Paterno, like anyone else, deserves the benefit of presumed innocence. Not because he's an icon and a Pennsylvania/college-athletics deity. Far from it. It's because he's a man with no prior documented misconduct who's been accused of criminal negligence, but has yet to offer his own testimony. He also acquiesced to impending retirement yesterday morning before Penn State trustees opted to nip that issue in the bud, axeing Paterno and university President Graham Spanier, effective immediately, in hopes of avoiding further distractions from their program come Saturday's game against Nebraska. 

That, clearly, backfired. And what we have here, to quote Cool Hand Luke, is a failure to communicate. A failure by PSU administration and trustees to effectively express the complexity of the situation to their student populus before covering their own ass. A failure by the students to communicate with each other and/or their on-campus mentors in an organized and educated fashion before abusing their privilege to protest. And a failure by ESPN in particular to try and offer some perspective, rather than simply encourage and inflame by rubbernecking their own televised footage.

What allegedly transpired over multiple decades between Sandusky and the children in his Second Mile charity program is incomprehensibly disturbing and enraging. And if Paterno turned a blind eye at any point to Sandusky's indiscretions, all for the sake of keeping his and the Nittany Lions' intertwined legacies crystalline, then that's just irredeemably sad, infuriating and reason to thoroughly evaluate our cultural ethos.

These are the real talking points in this story, not whether the stature of one tenuously corrobarative individual will be thought of differently by sports enthusiasts and current PSU undergrads in 30 years. And that's what makes these riots in particular so demoralizing in their own right: It's just a bunch of young kids angrily reacting to the notion that their heroes aren't perfect, without anyone there to remind them just how flawed human beings can really be, and how lucky they are.

 

IN OTHER WORDS: What a mess.

THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS IS JUSTICE FOR ANY VICTIMS AND THEIR FAMILIES RATING: 10/10

 

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