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Penn State Scandal: NCAA Beats Up Corpse, Then Demands Your Applause

NCAA president Mark Emmert's decision to absorb power accomplished nothing, but let's all marvel at the wreckage he's left of Penn State football anyway.

Nick Laham

It's amazing how taking down a statue can undo so much. The minute that despised statue of Joe Paterno came down, the event unspooled like the fishing line off a coil. Men who were once children suddenly became unraped; the veil of distance between them and the world fell, and they instantly became fitter, happier men.

Lawsuits evaporated in the drawers of legal firms. Columns excoriating Penn State as a feckless den of toadying football cultists disintegrated, leaving blank pixels and empty news columns in their place.

This happened. It had to happen. Certainly people would not do things for hollow, cynical reasons having to do more with the cheap jousting of the political living than the relevant dead.

Amy K. Nelson on the Penn State punishments.

Take the NCAA making its way into the Penn State case. The NCAA has purview here, and no one should dispute that. Being a member institution, Penn State leans on the NCAA for one thing: the stamp of amateurism. If the NCAA did not exist, Penn State would not have a ready intermediary between those pointing out that they're running a business under the guise of a non-profit and the money coming from said non-profit. Like someone waving a bottle of vermouth with the cap on over a martini, it's the gesture that makes this a cocktail, and not just a grizzled drunk sipping straight vodka from an elegant glass.

It makes sense for the NCAA to protect its product. It also makes sense of the coldest kind for Mark Emmert, head of the organization, to take a defenseless Penn State, prop it up on stage, and then take a few delighted whacks at its staggering corpse with the heaviest hammer imaginable. The key is not killing the victim, the Penn State football program. It will now be toured through every stage of the redemption cycle, and eventually brought forth as a model citizen at the appropriate date by a fully empowered oversight authority -- one that can now, with the consent of its backers, make bigger, more immediate show trials of its thoroughly fixed bouts.

Related: Coverage Of Penn State's Sanctions

The NCAA can do this because they've been given the worst kind of permission. In response to a petty tyrant at the center of his own cult of personality protecting a pedophile, the organization will simply insert another petty tyranny. They will do this even though there is no fixing the unfixable, or predicting the unthinkable.

This needs to be repeated: for everyone suggesting that football was at the core of this, for everyone suggesting for an instant that something could have predicted this, and that a precedent could be set, you literally do not understand humanity or the rare horror of something truly evil. People will sell themselves to authorities far cheaper and less impressive than a corrupt, morally bankrupt football legend. Subordinates cover for regional managers at car rental places for worse, and do so for $50,000 a year without benefits.

Give someone three cents worth of power and they will ask for an advance of an entire dollar. Often, they get far more than that in return even without asking, and in the cases of legitimate evil, simply stand by the wayside and let it happen.

What would I have the NCAA do here? Absolutely shit-nothing. After all, it's what they do most of the time. Ideally, I'd like them to evaporate overnight, and simply cease to exist. That will not happen, so I would instead like them to admit what they're doing: stabbing a corpse, and then demanding some public recognition of their ersatz bravery. I would like them to admit they are seizing a horrific moment in time to advance their own fartgassy agenda, and then demanding credit for it. They will burn an effigy after the courts have already done the hard work of humanity.

They will not do any of this. The NCAA's punishments serve no purpose, solve no problems, and prevent nothing. They represent an organization desperate for relevance seizing the moment to poach some kind of sinister power-up from this moment. They will -- and did -- suggest the "children" are the reason for the reach, and do so without openly guffawing or flinching from the shame a normal, moral person would feel at that moment. They will use the word "culture" to defend what they do, mostly because using that word allows you to make up whatever you like without evidence, justification, or data.

Most importantly, they will give everyone the important reminder that if you know a pedophile, you should probably alert the police and stop evil and stuff. They will then nuke Penn State football and people who had nothing to do with this off the map. Congratulations, albeit theatrically grim ones, will be shared between principals in the case.

Having solved one of the most fundamental flaws in humanity in a morning's work, Mark Emmert will then leave the stage, and go back to a giant building in Indianapolis paid for by unpaid athletes and collect his massive salary. He may have lunch, and then perhaps invent an appropriately colored ribbon or bracelet for the occasion. It would be a hollow gesture, but a fitting conclusion. Hollow people love hollow gestures.

For more on Nittany Lions football, visit Penn State blog Black Shoe Diaries, plus Big Ten blog Off Tackle Empire, SB Nation Pittsburgh and SB Nation Philly.

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