I’ve told many stories on the air about why I ended up working in sports radio. Sports was the only real touchstone for my father and me. Sports allowed me to live my unreached athletic dreams through the games on the radio. And I’m trained for little else in this world. But the main reason I work in sports radio is two-fold. I hated covering news and much preferred the stability of sports in this ever unstable world.
Those reasons came home to roost this week with the tragic story that continues to unfold at Penn State: Charges of sexual abuse by a former football assistant coach, indictments and resignations by those in the athletic department. And now the announced retirement of NCAA coaching legend Joe Paterno, maybe just hours, days or weeks before his firing. It’s a sad state of affairs.
I got out of news because of stories like this. Years ago, I wanted to be the hard hitting news guy. From murders to political scandal, I wanted to be the guy who was impervious to the often brutal nature of the stories I was covering. I couldn’t do it.
I cried while covering a house fire story that killed 5 children in their sleep. I had nightmares after reporting on a bank robbery/suicide story and I feared for my life while covering a gunman on the loose story. I reported on those stories and many others just like it for years. I have great respect for those that have the proper detachment to do it and do it well. It just wasn’t for me.
Time for a switch to sports reporting and play-by-play. It’s been described as having a job in the candy store of life. The worst I have to tell a listener is their team lost. Or that their coach or best player is heading to another city. As a sports talk show host my predictions and opinion, while sometimes funny or entertaining, have very little impact on the athletes or games we cover. Sports also provide a sense of stability. Games are, for the most part, finite. They are governed by a fair set of rules, known by all involved. The best teams don’t always win, but the outcome is settled up front and on the playing field.
Then you have the Penn State debacle. This isn’t about a game, a coaching legend or sports. It’s about abuse and covering up that abuse to protect a program and a person that has become larger than the university and purpose both serve. We’re not talking about wins or losses. There are real victims here.
The feeling I am left with is disgust. I’ve been embarrassed listening to the many voices providing excuses for the transgressions that occurred. We trust that the legal process will eventually run its proper course. We should also trust that those in leadership positions protect and take responsibility for those in their charge. This clearly didn’t happen.
Sadly I’ve gotten used to stories like this in sports. I won’t shy away from it, I can adapt. So here it is Penn State fans. Your team lost. Your coach is leaving (in disgrace). The stability of Happy Valley is gone and won’t be back soon. There’s nothing finite about this. The eventual outcome for the victims won’t be settled up-front and nowhere near the playing field.
Now I’m depressed. Guess I better see if there are any weather forecasting jobs available.