Boom. Penn State Fires Joe Paterno (w/ a VIDEO chronology) & CNN Kicks ESPN's Butt
They are...Penn State
"Joe Paterno is no longer the head football coach, effective immediately." -- John Surma, Vice Chair, Penn State Board of Trustees
Nothing is forever. We all knew there would be a day when Joe Paterno would no longer be the coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions. However, if there were a Vegas-style big board for odds on what would end JoePa's tenure as the lead man in Happy Valley, it probably would have had "Dying on the sidelines -350" as the odds-on favorite.
I'm fairly certain that "Child rape scandal cover-up" wouldn't have been on the board. But sadly and (as I pleaded in my post yesterday) correctly, that ticket paid last night when the board of trustees announced that Paterno, along with university president Graham Spanier, would be relieved of their duties effective immediately.
Once the announcement was made, then all hell broke loose.
It started in the board of trustees press conference where the small-town media went into fullblown torch-and-pitchfork mode on the university's board members with Surma as the lightning rod to take all of the hits. The questions, by and large, centered around the board's thieving of Joe Paterno's dignity by not only preventing him from finishing the season, but notifying him of his ouster over the telephone (as if Joe Paterno leaving his house to go anywhere publicly to receive his firing was going to be a safe option for the media or a convenient option for Paterno himself).
Not surprisingly, the yokels in the Happy Valley press corps failed to bring up Paterno's main lieutenant thieving the innocence of what will end up being dozens of young boys, nor did they mention the dignity of the ten year old Jerry Sandusky raped in the shower.
While the so-called journalists at the announcement of Paterno's fate were conducting a verbal assault on our ears, a faction of the Penn State student body took to the streets, conducting a physical assault on the streets of State College. The enduring symbol of the carnage will probably be this television van, which was flipped over and torn apart by the mob...
The story of this mess begins and ends with Sandusky, Paterno, the Penn State administration's blind eye, and most importantly (and most often trivialized) the victims. Secondarily, I will always remember the coverage of this night on television. With the firehose of media resources at our avail in 2011 and our continued desensitization to what constitutes "shocking and compelling," nights like last night are more and more rare, surreal nights where you're glued to the television wondering what could happen next.
Last night was one of those nights -- newsworthy, historical, legacy-changing. It was tailor-made for a media outlet with hustle and with no agendas. So needless to say, ESPN failed in cataclysmic fashion.
Up until last night, most of ESPN's failures in covering Penn State had been centered around what appeared to be a willful passivity toward the story, perhaps to help protect the Penn State brand, which in ESPN's world amounts to one of the main characters in their on-air drama called "College Football." In other words, their failures in coverage until Wednesday were strategic in nature, as the ESPN ombudsmen pointed out in a scathing piece on ESPN's website.
Unlike the first few days of the story, ESPN's failures Wednesday night were entirely in execution. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, they were calling the wrong plays. Wednesday, they were dropping the ball. These gaffes included but were not limited to:
-- The board of trustees press conference. While ESPN was carrying a clunky, static-laden audio feed of one of the most important press conferences in the history of college football, CNN (an actual news organization) was carrying a video feed with crystal clear audio. In theory, ESPN should have lost every interested consumer of this story to channel changing while the press conference was going on, and because even the audio was better on CNN, they should have lost the blind demographic as well.
-- The beginning of the riots. CNN had cameras stationed throughout State College and feet on the ground in the middle of the riots. ESPN had nothing, and it appeared that any correspondents they had near anything dangerous consisted of local journalists doing ESPN's bidding. With the largest army of people and technology in the sports broadcasting business, ESPN was stuck giving viewers another round of Trevor Matich's thoughts in studio while CNN was showing us what was transpiring. (Two thoughts on CNN's coverage: First, the fact that the riots and CNN coverage were being narrated by a female anchor with a British accent made the event seem even bigger and more transcendent, and if that sounds stupid, well...I'm stupid. British accent for humor? Overrated. (See: Python, Monty) British accent for news? Underrated. Second, CNN was handing ESPN its lunch for the first thirty minutes after the announcement. Then, they inexplicably decided to go away from riot footage and British accents and gave viewers Anderson Cooper interviewing Dr. Phil, perhaps the worst play call since Gary Kubiak decided to let running back Chris Brown throw an option pass near the goal line against Jacksonville in 2009. That pass was intercepted, and to be sure, the Cooper/Doc Phil interviews was a red-zone pick that ESPN took back into plus territory. At the very least, it was the worst heat check ever by CNN.)
-- Tom Rinaldi. When it comes to stories about sick kids who are having their final wish fulfilled, or sports stories that are cloaked in human tragedy, no one is better than Tom Rinaldi. I merely look at Tom Rinaldi and my tear ducts begin to flow, kind of like how your salivary glands start to ooze spit like Pavlov's dogs when you smell buffalo-wing sauce. (You know what I'm talking about.) However, when it comes to covering riots, Rinaldi frankly sucks. On CNN, we're watching vans get flipped over and mace being sprayed on students. Meanwhile, Rinaldi is standing outside the stadium near the Paterno statue with about 50 people around him saying that it's fairly calm. Well yeah, it's fairly calm because you're, well, NOWHERE NEAR THE RIOTS, TOM!! It was fairly calm in a LOT of places last night, and NONE of them were interesting.
-- Stuart Scott and Steve Levy (but mostly Stuart Scott). It's always dicey when you put news anchors (a position where your entire on-air life is scripted and read off of a telestrator) in a position where they have to improvise. VERY few can do it. I personally could give two shits about Stuart Scott so if ESPN wants to keep trotting him out there to make a fool of himself during historic, real-time events like last night, have at it. If your goal is to get everyone watching to laugh at him and make him a punchline on Twitter, it's working, ESPN. However, if your goal is to provide something beyond amateurish, junior high school newspaper questions, then you've failed. At various points, Stuart Scott asked if students were chanting Paterno's name, asked if there was alcohol visible, and asked how big a rock it was that hit a reporter's leg. It's like Stuart Scott had no idea how a riot worked. Up next, Stewart Scott goes live to Treasures Cabaret and asks stripper Amber if there is nudity, Def Leppard music, and crumpled up one dollar bills. Just an embarrassment all the way around.
Eventually, as with most riots, it all started to blend together and I had to go to sleep, but not before seeing this clip of the one student with a brain who attended this fiasco. To all employers out there, please accept my reference for the kid in the gray hoodie. As for the Asian kid who bumbles his way through his defense of Paterno in the last part of the clip, I just hope you're not a public speaking major, kid. That 1.2 GPA would be tough to deal with.
So the Joe Paterno Era is over, but the aftermath of what he could have stopped continues, and if some of the rumors that have bubbled up today are true, the aftershocks may be even worse than what we already know. Mark Madden, a journalist in Pennsylvania who was on the Sandusky story seven months ago, dropped a bomb on WEEI in Boston this morning about Sandusky "pimping out Second Mile kids for rich donors":
Awful, awful, awful.
Hopefully, Mike McQueary, the current recruiting coordinator who witnessed a Sandusky rape of a ten year old in the shower in 2002 and didn't report it to the police, will be fired next. Like Paterno, he had his chance to stop all of this and didn't.
In the meantime, count it down with me...14:58....14:59....15:00. Scott Paterno, it's back to the buffet line. Your fifteen minutes are up.
"Daddy"...sorry, "JOE" is fired, Scott.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game and Yahoo Sports Radio weekdays noon to 3 p.m., and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCalinasian.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.