Paterno shows us perhaps the most disturbing element of college football culture.

Marky Billson, host of Tri-Cities Sports NOW

On Saturday HBO premiered Paterno, the long awaited film on former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno’s fall from grace in the final days of his coaching career.

Al Pacino is the actor of our times. His portrayal of Paterno was spot on. Even with the passing of time, going from a Cuban thug in Tony Montana to elderly Italian in Paterno and truly believing the actor is the character he’s playing is incredible.

The physical resemblance is good. Real good.

In the film, Paterno is portrayed as a confused old man who can only function as a football coach at 84, and even then there is a separation as he is not on the sidelines and cannot address his team directly during games. This, again, is spot on. There was a feeling as Paterno continued to coach year after year he felt he would die if he stopped, which, just like Bear Bryant, is what happened.

But because he is so tied up in football, Paterno cannot relate to the world outside of it. Sure he’s heard rumors about Jerry Sandusky. But his brother George, a fixture on Penn State football broadcasts for years, never married, so Joe Paterno dismisses pedophilia claims about his assistant coach the same way he dismissed knee-jerk homosexuality rumors about his brother.

It’s said there were tasteless running jokes in State College about Sandusky for years prior to his arrest. How do you think he went from being Paterno’s heir apparent to retiring 13 years before Paterno was ousted?

This is a disturbing element of college football culture. No matter what happens, protect the program.

Even today, many Penn State fans do not wish to learn from this ugly incident. They ask it be ignored.

Instead of making right by the pedophilia victims, Paterno is defended. Some even claim Sandusky is innocent.

But a Penn State fan asking you to ignore Jerry Sandusky is like a Buffalo Bills fan asking you to forget about O.J. Simpson. To do so requires a serious breach of personal integrity and means nothing was learned from the situation.

When the former Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, actively worked to get NCAA Sanctions lessened for Penn State, and was successful, nothing has changed.

But the “protect the program” philosophy isn’t just limited to central Pennsylvania. Here in Johnson City, there was disturbing demonizing of Tyree Robinson, allegedly the player new head coach Randy Sanders slapped.

Here are some online comments:

“What a wuss.”

“The dumb ass should have got down.”

“Send that crybaby back to Georgia”

“I would pay for a one-way ticket.”

Doesn’t this follow the same path we saw in Paterno, where one of Sandusky’s victims is beat up in high school by teenage Penn State fans?

Protect the program!

Never mind Robinson has actually been with the program longer than Sanders has.

If you aren’t aware, Sanders slapped Robinson because he ran out of the end zone during a Hail Mary drill, and after Robinson said he would not do so in a game.

To his credit, Sanders did apologize for his actions immediately, but with ETSU’s former offensive coordinator leaving for an entry level position at Baylor at the same time, not all is right in Sanders’ Denmark.

But we can’t say that! Protect the program!

Credit ETSU athletic director Scott Carter for handling the situation the right way, save for making a reference to ETSU’s “beautiful stadium” during the press conference reinstating Sanders..

It was an inappropriate time to do so.

But Sanders was given a letter of reprimand and docked a week’s pay. Further, though not complete, light was given on the situation that previously wasn’t reported.

Naturally, one of the reasons Sanders has been defended is because of his role as an offensive coordinator at Tennessee.

Certainly, “protect the program” is the letter of the law in Knoxville.

Take Drae Bowles. How is a person who comes to the aid of a rape victim demonized?

Answer, when the people accused of rape, A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams, are Tennessee football players.

How is it that it will take almost four years for Johnson and Williams to come to trial?

Protect the program!

How is it that the overwhelming image of that entire circumstance are 16 coaches coming to the podium saying “nothing to see here!”

Protect the program! Even when the woman Johnson and Williams have been accused of raping is a Vols athlete.

Butch Jones is an idiot, unless, of course, he is accused of calling Bowles a traitor. Then he is to be believed.

You think its coincidence Bowles transferred to Chattanooga?

Protect the program! Protect the program! Protect the program!

But if Penn State had fired Sandusky and called the police, if Robinson wasn’t made to be the bad guy by ETSU fans and now is in a very uncomfortable situation, if Tennessee handled the accusation of rape in a manner where the one hero of the situation, Bowles, was praised instead of scorned; the Penn State, ETSU, and Tennessee football programs would be in a lot better shape than they are today.

Marky Billson hosts Tri-Cities Sports NOW, heard weekdays 12–2 p.m. ET on 1420 NBC Sports Radio Tri-Cities. Watch it on Facebook here and here.



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