The edicts of Chairman Nocera: Should the NCAA have punished Penn State in the ways it did?
We have mixed feelings on that one, especially since Jerry Sandusky is in prison, and several other major figures are facing criminal charges.
We rarely root for punishment here. In this case, we’ve been struck by the emphasis on punishment, as opposed to the desire for outreach, growth, reconciliation, learning—education.
More on that war below. Yesterday, in the New York Times, Joe Nocera was back on his punishment jag.
In our view, Nocera’s logic was striking. It’s “silly” to worry about uninvolved people getting hurt, he boldly said:
NOCERA (7/24/12): I had advocated that the N.C.A.A. impose the death penalty on Penn State, and that didn’t happen. I still think Penn State should stop playing football for awhile—not so much to atone, but to remind its fans and its community that football had become too important at Penn State; that football had, in fact, corrupted Penn State. I wish Rodney Erickson, the Penn State president, were willing to [shut football down].Nocera’s logic is remarkable. Since some innocent people will be hurt (his language), it’s “silly” to worry about how many! "That’s the nature of the beast," The Chairman blithely decrees.
But he’s not going to do that; even now, football remains too important in the Happy Valley. Nor, of course, did the N.C.A.A. impose the death penalty—Emmert claims it was, in part, because innocent bystanders would be hurt. But that’s a silly excuse; its sanctions invariably hurt players and others who have done nothing wrong. That is the nature of the beast.
It’s silly to worry about how many innocent people get hurt! But then, Chairman Nocera seems to know what’s best for people all through the Penn State region. In particular, he knows what best for Penn State’s "fans and its community." He wants someone to remind them that football had become too important.
How does Nocera know that the fans and community don’t already know that? That matter is never spelled out as Chairman Joe issues his decrees.
Did the fans and community engage in these deeds? It’s silly to ask yourself that! Even now, football "remains too important" to the community, Nocera says. How does Nocera know such a thing? He gives us no idea.
Later, Nocera slams the NCAA for its “galling sanctimony”—though this is the group he would put in charge of lecturing all those fans! That said, Chairman Nocera is pleased to tell us what those fans will now be forced to think:
NOCERA: In effect, a moral transgression was being punished with economic sanctions. On the other hand, the sanctions ensure that Penn State will be awful for the foreseeable future. Its fans will have to find other things to do instead of investing their collective identity in Penn State football. That will be a useful discipline.There! The Chairman feels better, knowing that millions of people he’s never met will have to revise their weak minds. “Useful discipline” has been imposed. This will help them reshape their collective identity.
The Chairmen always love dishing out punishment. They love punishing people they’ve never met, people who have done nothing wrong. It’s silly to worry about how many such people will get caught in their moral improvement schemes.
Many folk have proposed major punishment schemes in the case of Penn State. At the same time, we have been struck by how few people have offered any thoughts about outreach, learning, the future.
Just a guess:
Penn State is full of idealistic young people. This includes many male and female athletes. What could those hopeful young people do to build something from this disaster? How could those idealistic young people—and Penn State’s adults—build upon this disaster?
Could they possibly teach younger people what they should do when they know that something bad is occurring? Could they help younger people learn empathy for the world’s countless victims?
How might those young people do that? How might such sentiments be expressed at Penn State's actual games?
Penn State is full is idealistic young people. But the nation’s various Chairmen will always be drawn to vast punishment schemes.
The more people punished, the better.
Postscript: As of 1999, your mainstream "press corps" had decided that President Clinton had to be punished.
In their coverage of Campaign 2000, they enacted their punishment scheme. Are you happy with how it turned out?
Joe Nocera still knows what's best. Punishment comes first to mind.