Saturday, January 28, 2012

Joe Paterno and Bobby Knight

*For the few international folks who read this blog - I am sorry, I dont think this will make much sense to you, sorry.............

For anyone else, this is not an attempt to change any one's opinion of these two men, the state of sports in America today, or anything else for that matter.  Just a brewing diatribe of mine about the axiology of games and those who make a living playing them. I will address this post in three parts: 1) My thoughts in general about the economics of sports these days, 2) The hypocrisy of Bobby Knight, and 3) The illogical praise of Joe Paterno.
In a very general, abstract view, I think sports are largely meaningless activities -  the individual events themselves anyway. I know they can promote teamwork, discipline, fitness, etc., but in the end, they are simply games where a great deal of activity is expended producing nothing concrete, nothing tangible contributed to the economy other than the odd peripheral concessions. The amount of money we pay grownups to play these games is staggering, and the associated dispensations and fringe benefits border on the obscene. To take this waste to an exponential level, one need only then observe the hundreds and hundreds of hours of talk media that is produced for every minute of each major sporting event! Endless prattle tossed upon artificial activities conducted in artificial environments often analogized to war takes the whole affair to the surreal in every imaginable way. Time, money, and simple opportunity cost alone rival other societal ills such as alcohol consumption and gambling, which ironically, compound the extravagance of sport to an almost unimaginable level. It is no wonder to me in this massively distorted priority we call sports, that we lose all perspective when evaluating those we raise to the pinnacle of this artifice.  Which brings me to the aforementioned gentlemen - Bobby Knight and Joe Paterno.
Bobby Knight is valuable to me in that he alone can reify the horribly self-indulgent sense of preposterism buried deep within my intellect. The term, coined by Barzun, relates to that emotion one feels when faced with a ridiculously simple concept that almost no one else seems to be able to apprehend. It generates a special kind of self-righteousness that cannot be contained and if not checked, often leads to a very lonely existence.  I don't always go to that place, but Bobby "teleports" me there (thank you for the term A.) instantly. I don't really care about his outrageous behaviors, his caustic mouth, or his ability to lead and graduate college athletes.  What completely confounds me is the blatant hypocrisy he practices when he demands total respect and obedience from his players (he is the "general" after all), yet cannot seem to reciprocate with his superiors.  So simple, so overlooked. Maybe he is that medial autocrat that appeals to most people - possessing total control over a manageable body of folk, yet beholding to none. But when he is extolled for his virtues and ethics, it is for those that he demands, certainly not those that he provides. His idol must have been Patton, although laughably, neither could have worked for one another.
Joe Paterno hits so many other sour notes for me however, most probably not of his doing. An octogenarian who has spent his entire life encased in a game, dealing with a group of people (athletes) who as a cohort are not bad humans, but are in no way above the mean by any ethical measure, who somehow has been elevated to the status of a moral icon. He even fueled that ascension a decade or two ago (who can count anymore) when he criticized his peers Jackie Sherrill and Barry Switzer for their lack of integrity. I am not sure how living in an contrived and controlled world free of the traditional constraints imposed on the rest of us like time, resources, reasonable budget, normal supervisory privilege, oversight, system integration, etc. qualifies one as an ethical paragon.  Finally, given all the esoteric accolades heaped upon him over the years, Joe Paterno could not pass the simplest of all tests, the one issue we would all consider a categorical imperative, the unqualified defense of children.  Unthinkable, yet bargainable evidently in this culture, with 409 wins.  Eddie Robinson (a sterling exception who destroys most of the above argument) must be spinning in his grave.