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Chan Lowe: The Penn State scandal


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It isn’t all that surprising that an athletic program like Penn State’s, which prided itself on its pristine record of “victory with honor” should experience such a profound fall from grace.

When a record of any kind is created, it becomes an institution in itself, a sacrosanct entity to be revered. It develops its own imperative, which is that it must be safeguarded at all costs. In this case, the comparison that has been made with the priestly abuses in the Catholic Church is an apt one: The preservation of the institution and its image becomes even more important than the furtherance of its original purpose. In the case of the Church, that purpose is to save souls. In the case of a college football program, it’s to win games and, second, to build character in young men.

Ironically, had Penn State’s program had a checkered history similar to those of many scandal-plagued football factories, the coach’s original heinous act might have been reported the first time it was witnessed, since there would have been no institutional record of purity to protect with a cover-up.

In a perfect world, the same virtuous qualities that contributed to Penn State’s enviable stain-free record would have prompted the witness to report the crime immediately, regardless of consequences. Instead, a university’s hollow reputation was deemed more important than the fate of the subsequent victims.

It is said that the greatest sin is that of pride. Maybe that’s because it can so easily derail our conscience.

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Comments

Chan, NFL refs don't do college games.The rest of the PSU season should have been canceled but because the money and TV ratings are much more important the show must go on.


Chan says:

Thanks for the comment, Jimbo. I intentionally drew the couple watching an NFL game, and the NFL ref doing the signal for "Illegal Contact" as the setup for the man saying that NCAA rules didn't include such a penalty. That was the point.


This is not a Penn State problem. It's a problem which happened to occur at Penn State. It all comes down to the phrase which I believe is the basis of all ethics today:

"Win, and everything else will be forgiven."

Just look at Ben Roethlisberger. Just look at the steroid era in baseball. Just look at what *could* have happened with the Duke lacrosse team. And it's not just sports. Think back to Richard Nixon in the forties and fifties--and to the entire Watergate scandal. It's enough to make one heave.


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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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