The reaction to Joe Paterno's decision to punish the players involved in the April 1 apartment fight has been mixed. (On a side note, check out EDSBS, who advises the players what to expect from visiting fans.). Rival fans are obviously crying foul saying Paterno is too soft on the players. Others are calling Paterno's move "brilliant".
His move to punish is a classic where, if one member of a group misbehaves the whole group is punished. Most of us have been there either as a member of a team or a class or a scout troop.
It is also a calculated move to undercut the Judicial Affairs office by taking matters into his own hands and meting out his own punishment. That will make anything Judicial Affairs decides to do look like overkill and further advance the perception that Judicial Affairs has some vendetta against the football team.
I have to say I hadn't thought about it in this light, but now that Ron Bracken points it out, I have to agree. The timing, location, and wording of Paterno's announcement could not have been crafted any better.
Now let's be clear. What these kids did was wrong. But I've said from the beginning this incident wasn't as big a deal as everyone was making it out to be. It was just a fight. Some poor decisions were made in entering an apartment uninvited and rounding up half the team, but the bottom line is at the end of the day it was just a fight. An old school coach like Joe Paterno is smart enough to understand that fights don't warrant ruining a kid's future. And he's also smart enough to know that the office of Judicial Affairs at one of the most politically correct institutions in acedamia does not understand that.
Had this incident happened to any other students, Judicial Affairs probably wouldn't even get involved unless there were serious injuries. But these are football players, and the 21st century feminist movement has hardened our views toward high profile alpha males. Society views jocks as spoiled thugs who deserve to be held to some mythical higher standard. We like our men to be confident and strong, but we want them to wear turtlenecks and write poetry too. When they fail to live up to the latter, we are led to believe we must tear them down.
I, along with Paterno, feel this isn't fair. Like I said before, when you mix testosterone and alcohol in the body of a 21 year-old male they do stupid things. They got a little rough, but nobody got hurt. Do they deserve to miss an entire year of football for this? Do they deserve to miss an entire semester of school or kicked out altogether for this? I should hope not. How would you like it if your employer fired you because you got in a fight at a club on a Saturday night? How would you like it if they cut your paycheck after finding out you got a speeding ticket? Nobody's future should be ruined for an impulsive decision. I believe in probation and second chances most times.
Paterno's punishment is appropriate. The entire team is being punished. Obviously those that threw punches will learn their lesson from this. Those who had nothing to do about it will no doubt be pissed. Those who knew about it and chose not to stop it will make a better effort to keep their teammates in line next time. This is what Paterno does best. He's not out to crack the whip over the backs of young males and ruin the lives of those who get out of line. He's molding boys into men like he always does. If Judicial Affairs gives these kids anything more than probation it will be too much.