Politics, Community & Society > Permanent Damage

Permanent Damage

By GREG MAFFETT
Published: November 9, 2011

I was recently asked if I regretted anything in my life. Thinking about it a second, the only thing I could come up with were a few items that did permanent physical damage. I did not want to brush this off as a simple extension of the "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger" idea. Because I don't think that all those things make us stronger. Some do suck the life out of us, some limit us in other ways. But many people do have the resilience to bounce back. And they do.

And yet, there is the blood lust. It is primitive. It was there in the Roman coliseums. One of the recent stories I saw involved a soccer player who kicked an owl to death in a soccer game. The owl was hit in flight and dropped to the ground. Now of all the options open to the soccer player (i.e. pick it up, look for the referee to get it, etc.) the player kicked it in the face and killed it. The best spin was "I was checking to see if it was dead". By kicking it in the face hard enough to kill it? That story fails every plausibility test. But the fans who saw it will mostly get over it. And we'll see if that guy has a soccer career ahead of him or not. In American Football, Michael Vick was put in prison for 21 months for dog fighting, so you have to wonder what kicking an owl to death gets you in South America. (I just checked the fine is between 2.6 and 26 dollars with maybe 1-3 month jail time.)

Granted, it's just an owl. And I eat my share of winged creatures, so I'm not arguing from the holier than thou position, I mean if the guy was thinking "Hey, free owl burgers!" But I doubt that was the thought. In fact, you have to wonder what kind of mental state leads a person to that being the response the situation. None of the answers I come up with are good. And in keeping with the theme here, there clearly was permanant damge for the owl. So in this case the full 26 dollar fine is in order. And maybe more.

But with our 24 hour news cycle, this one will fade into oblivion as, let's face it, it was just an owl. And it was Panama, which were it not for the Canal, most Americans would have a hard time placing on a globe.

This one is all but gone from memory already. But the big one of the last 24 hours isn't going anywhere. That is Joe Paterno and the effort to oust him as the Penn State football coach. When I first heard the news, I was as stunned as anyone. All I heard was that there was an effort to force him out. Given that he is in his mid 80's, at first I figured it was the age issue again.

Nope, an assistant coach is being charged with fondling a minor in the shower.

Almost 15 years ago.

And that coach has been retired for over a decade.

Meaning that things seem to have gone this way. Joe found out. The coach retired quietly. The story ends without a public scandal.

There was possibly some compensation to the minors involved. There were probably lawyers and non disclosure agreements. Just guessing here, but we've seen this enough to fill in the details.

I chatted with my brother about this, his take was "This looks like the charges were very well researched". Meaning it was clear that this was targeted as a shot at Joe Paterno himself. And one that will stick. These sorts of attacks are generally quite successful in this country, no reason to believe this one won't be.

Not sure what Joe did to bring this on. He, and Penn State, have been known for running a very good program. Joe would drop guys from the team if they weren't making the grade academically. Meanwhile there are conferences in America that clearly bring in "students" who graduate less than half the time. It could be very well one of those folks trying to say "look over there!" rather than here. Dumb, but possible. More likely it is a random journalist looking to make it big by taking down a Lion.

I should say I am a big fan of taking out organizations where pedophilia is a systemic problem. The Catholic Church being a fine example of system that had this issue for decades and swept it under the rug. Eventually they paid off big and the priests were mostly dismissed. But here we have a "one off" case from the last century and the parallel remedy to that being proposed would be to remove the Pope.

You can see where I'm having the issue between the owl and the shower cases. In one, the guy who did permanent damage to another creature will be back. The guy who was the boss of the guy who did temporary damage is going down within days I'm thinking.

My guess on this is we are still paying for the puritans who started this country. That may be oversimplifying, but it does go to some degree to the "hide your body" approach to life that we still seem to struggle with here. Not to say the euro model of nude beaches or the Japanese model of co-ed baths is the answer, but it might not hurt.

My point of reference for this is...well, surfing at Black's Beach in San Diego. I've only been there half a handful of times, but the "weird factor" does drop off pretty quickly. There are dozens of naked people mixed on the beach with clothed people of all ages. All pretty much ignoring each other as best as I can tell. 99% of the naked folks are guys. Of those maybe 10% are body builders and 90% are belly builders. That is to say, it's not a pretty sight by and large. It's just part of the background there, like the seals and dolphins and pelicans. The only things I really worry about seriously are the sting rays in the water. As long as we keep our distance from each other we are fine, but occasionally I'll step on one of them or they will swish a tail at me and hit me with some brutal poison. And even that is only temp damage as they hit me in the foot. I'm more likely to break their back by stepping on them by mistake. I guess my point is this-there is a beach where naked guys are jogging around and kids are building sand castles isn't really a problem as far as permanent damage goes.

I don't know that the coach involved in the Penn State case would have evolved differently had he grown up at Black's Beach. But part of me thinks he may have chilled out a bit under that influence. But if not, he'd a flipped out at a public beach. Where there would have been some immediate and public response that would have brought the issue to a head in a way that would focused on the guy involved...and not his job.

Had it gone either of those ways, it wouldn't have been fodder for the Lion hunters. That is where I'm looking to end this. What really is the take away?

My brother's key take away from this incident is relative to working his job in DC. He learned very quickly that "when I get news that could be explosive, I immediately talk to my boss!". He works in a job where that kind of news is a regular occurrence. And in the end it looks like that may be what Joe gets fired for...letting the assistant coach go instead of going to the Athletic Director of the school.

Maybe that is the permanent lesson we learn from Joe.

Any Comments?


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