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Rambling Reflections on the Penn State Mess

I don't think I need to spell out all the horrific details coming out of State College, but if you're not caught up, click on over to Black Shoe Diaries, the Penn State SB Nation blog. They've done an incredible job of covering this story since the news broke on Saturday. Thus far, I haven't discussed the story on this site, in part because I haven't had anything to say that hasn't been said by other people who are better at writing than I am. But more than that, my interest in writing anything about college sports has waned as more and more stomach-churning allegations are unearthed in this scandal.

I know that I am not alone in feeling this way. nuftw wrote an interesting piece on Off Tackle Empire about how this scandal has shaken his idealistic belief in major college athletics as a positive for everyone involved. My perspective is a bit different; I have always been extremely cynical about major college athletics and I use this site and my Twitter feed to make jokes about the absurdity of it all. I didn't get upset at the NCAA violations of Ohio State, Miami, and others: I just thought it was funny.

But there's nothing funny about what's happening at Penn State, and the whole situation is so nauseating that I'm having difficulty getting excited to watch college football this weekend, let alone write about it. Sports has always been a way for me to escape reality: on the evening of September 11th, 2001, when I was a teenager, I coped with the tragedy by watching old VHS tapes of Northwestern football victories. Something so absurd yet wonderful helped me temporarily forget what was happening in the real world. Yet this Saturday, college football won't provide an escape, as the Penn State scandal will dominate the narrative even in games not involving Penn State.

Explaining the massive popularity of college sports in America to someone completely unfamiliar with the concept is a challenging task. I recently attempted it with a friend of mine from class who is from China and had several questions for which I had no answer:

- "Why do people watch college sports, aren't the professionals way better?"

- "How do they have so much time to spend on practices and games during the school year, shouldn't they be in class?"

- "They don't get paid, what?!? [Jaw was near the floor at this point] People are getting rich off them while they don't make any money? That's ridiculous!"

And that conversation was before the Penn State story broke. College sports are completely absurd, but I  love it anyways, the way I would love a family member even if he were a complete idiot. But the cover-up of Jerry Sandusky's rapes in the name of protecting a college football program? My love isn't unconditional. Obviously, Penn State is just one school of hundreds, and we can only hope most schools wouldn't have acted the way Penn Stat's administration did. But for now, I can't continue to write a silly gambling column full of jokes about college football.

Luckily for me, I will soon be able to process this mess and  get back to my normal writing. Sandusky's victims will never get that opportunity to go back to normal, and my thoughts and prayers are with them and their families.

If any readers of this site, old or new, wish to share their thoughts on this matter, I encourage you to use the comment section. Hopefully through discussion we can help come to terms with this terrible tragedy together.