Sandusky is pinnacle of generation shaped by scandal

I never understood what people meant when they said “it’s a different world.” Different from what? When I was growing up, all that meant was my mom never let us buy anything from the ice cream man.

Slowly but surely, I started to get it. I was 10 years old in August 2002, when Major League Baseball was hours away from canceling the remainder of the season. A strike? I thought that was when you threw a pitch over the plate. I didn’t know you could go on one.

The players and owners reached a last-minute agreement to save the season — and my elementary school faith in the world.

I was a little bit wiser by September 2004, when the NHL announced the cancellation of the entire season because of the lockout. I still didn’t know anything about labor unions or collective bargaining, but my middle school brain was able to understand that there was some type of problem that both sides needed to work on.

I remember December 2007 like it was yesterday. I darted out of ninth-period math class and missed my shot at asking a pretty girl to the winter dance because I was in a hurry to get home and read the Mitchell Report — 409 pages of never-before-seen information about illegal use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, the result of a commission led by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.

I obviously didn’t read the entire thing that afternoon, but I remember it being the first time I seriously thought ESPN was lying to me. I couldn’t believe how many “good guys” were connected with the stuff. In total, seven former MVPs and 31 former All-Stars (covering all nine positions) were named in the report.

I sat at my computer and kept hitting the refresh button. I wanted the page to change, but every time it gave me the same grave report. Roger Clemens’ MLB-record seven Cy Young Awards? Reported to be helped by steroids. Eric Gagne’s consecutive saves record? Tainted. Barry Bonds’ and Rafael Palmeiro’s record-breaking home run totals? Those were in question even before the report, but this really did them in.

Living through the Steroid Era changed the way sports fans view the world. We question every accomplishment and second-guess every athlete. If someone has a breakout season, my first thought is “What’s he on?” The Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista had never hit more than 16 home runs in a season over the first six years of his career, then exploded for 97 over the last two seasons. I want him to be a cool story about a hard-working guy, but “naive” isn’t even beginning to describe someone who isn’t at least considering PEDs.

College athletics were the last haven in all of sports — and then those crumbled too. USC and Ohio State headlined an extensive group of programs with major violations that went all the way to the top of the institutions. Not trusting professionals was one thing — it’s all money, money, money with them — but college kids weren’t supposed to be that way.

We’re drawn to good stories in sports and we flock to athletes who manage to retain their innocence. People have mixed feelings about Duke but everyone respects Coach K. and what he’s done for that program. Tebow Mania swept the nation as he ran through SEC defenses while staying humble and devoted.

Joe Paterno’s Penn State football program was the last of a dying breed. It had character. It had respect. The Nittany Lions’ no-nonsense uniforms were a reflection of the discipline that was the backbone of the program.

And now it’s dead.

A new story comes out about Jerry Sandusky every day, about the children he abused and the adults who didn’t do enough to stop it. It’s not going to get any better. I won’t understand any recruits who still choose to attend PSU in the fall — recruits can be released from their NLI’s if the coach is fired — and I won’t understand any current players who stay with the program instead of transferring.

I tried to read the Grand Jury report on Sandusky, but I just couldn’t do it. It makes me sick. I got to page 2 before reading that he performed and received oral sex from an 11-year-old and had to stop.

Penn State finally hired a PR firm that specializes in dealing with dire situations, but it’s a little too late for that. That should have been the first thing the school did. I’ve already talked to students in public relations classes who are doing projects on how not to handle a situation: the Penn State story. The school just needs to start over; clean house and rebuild from the top.

Joe Paterno had coached Penn State since 1966, being a beacon of character and honesty through the murk of big-time college athletics. And in a matter of days, his school and his reputation crashed and burned amid a scandal that keeps getting worse. The last program we thought we could trust went up in smoke — and we won’t be trusting anyone again any time soon.


Week 17 NFL picks: Devil’s advocate

Here we are, Week 17. After everything we’ve been through this season I can honestly say I’m a little sad it’s coming to an end. I’ll have more of an assessment of the year after the Bills close out the schedule this weekend, but all things considered, it wasn’t that bad of a year.

Shawne Merriman signed a two-year deal with the Bills on New Year's Day.

Before we get to picks, here’s a look at the season standings with the Buffalo News guys. After a terrible start on my first season picking games against the spread, I’m back in contention with the guys who pick every year. It took me six or seven weeks to really get the hang of things, but I’ve done fairly well since then.

Season Standings (best bets)
Northrop 124-101-5 (11-5)
Sullivan 122-103-5 (11-5)
DiCesare 119-106-5 (9-7)
Wilson 110-115-5 (12-4)
McKissic 108-117-5 (8-8)
Gaughan 107-118-5 (8-8)
Game Seven 100-124-5 (11-4-1)

I’m pretty good at my best bets, and if you’re wondering why I have one less game, it’s because I didn’t pick last week’s Saturday game. You don’t have to tell me that my record isn’t very good. I’m aware. But I hate losing. This week is my best shot to gain ground, and I’m considering taking drastic measures (picks continue in the playoffs, but there are far fewer games).

Gaughan, McKissic and Wilson are the three I’m closest to catching, and really the only three I have any possible shot of catching. So with my picks this week, I’m going to include their picks as well. I may have to pick some teams simply to play devil’s advocate, opening up a chance to gain ground.

That’s not cheating, that’s pulling the goalie.

Bills (+1) @ Jets–Jets
Guaghan- Bills
McKissic- Jets*
Wilson- Bills

Oakland (+3 1/2) @ Kansas City–Oakland

Miami (+4) @ New England–Miami

Tennessee (+10) @ IndianapolisTitans

Jacksonville @ Houston (+3)–Jacksonville

Pittsburgh @ Cleveland (+5 1/2)–Cleveland
All- Pittsburgh

Cincinnati (+9 1/2) @Baltimore–Cinci
All- Baltimore

Minnesota (+3 1/2) @ Detroit–Joe Webb
G- Detroit*
M- Detroit

Giants @ Washington (+4)–Washington
All-NYG (W*)

Chicago (+10) @ Green Bay–Bears
M- Chicago

Dallas (+5) @ Philadelphia–Eagles*

Carolina (+14 1/2) @ Atlanta–Carolina. I hope Jimmy Clausen throws for 800 yards.
All- Atlanta

Tampa Bay (+7 1/2) @ New Orleans–Tampa

St. Louis @ Seattle (+3)–Rams (sorry #7and9divisionchamp)

Arizona (+6) @ San Fransisco–49ers

San Diego @ Denver (+3 1/2)–Tebow
G- Denver

Last week:

New England at Bills (+8)–Pats.
New England 34-3. Win
Dallas at Arizona (+6 1/2)
Detroit (+3 1/2) at Miami–Lions
Lions 34-27. Win
Minnesota (+14 1/2) at Philadelphia–Vikings.
Vikings 24-14. Win
Washington (+7) at Jacksonville–‘Skins. Sloppy one.
Washington 20-17 (OT). Win
San Francisco (+2 1/2) at St. Louis–49ers.
Rams 25-17. Loss
Seattle (+6 1/2) at Tampa Bay–Tampa
Bucs 38-15. Win
Jets (+1) at Chicago–Bears
Bears 38-34. Win
Baltimore at Cleveland (+3 1/2)–Remember last week when I asked if a line was serious and I lost? Maybe I learned something. Browns.
Guess not. Ravens 20-10. Loss
Indianapolis at Oakland (+3)–Colts
Indi 31-26. Win
Tennessee (+5) at Kansas City–This is where I usually lose on KC and other people make money on the Titans. Titans.
Yea well people are stupid. KC 34-14. Loss
Houston at Denver (+3)–Like Tebow and Lloyd, dislike everyone else. Texans.
Denver 24-23. Houston is a joke. Loss
Giants (+3) at Green Bay–GB
Pack 45-17. Win
San Diego at Cincinnati (+7 1/2)–SD
Bengals 34-20?? Trying to help the Bills draft selection I guess. Loss
New Orleans (+2 1/2) at Atlanta–Saints
Saints 17-14. Win
Needed a good week and went 9-5.