'Tough' guys are talking about Sandusky

Posted: November 11, 2011

When I'm King of the World . . .

People who say they would have pounded the snot out of Jerry Sandusky had they been alerted by the alleged shower-room assault will remember Kitty Genovese . . . Everybody says he will do the right thing, get involved, put his own ass on the line before or after the fact. But the moment itself has a cruel way of suspending our fearless intentions. Suspended fearless intentions was the fate that befell a pretty, 105-pound, young New York woman named Kitty Genovese, whose walk home from work through her Kew Gardens neighborhood was ended on March 13, 1964, by a serial killer named Winston Moseley. He picked her out at random and stabbed her to death in front of her apartment building during a horrific assault that lasted nearly a half-hour and took place at three locations outside the sprawling building. As many as 38 residents heard all or part of her shrieking, pleading attempt to ward off a man who stabbed her multiple times. Only one of them called police and that was after calling a friend for advice on what to do. None made any attempt to intervene. Some thought it was a domestic dispute and didn't want to interfere.

The Genovese case has been widely studied as a classic example of an eyewitness behavior social psychologists call "The bystander effect," "Genovese syndrome" or "Diffusion of responsibility." . . . Dr. Dave Joyner, a captain of Penn State's great 1971 team, was one of the Penn State trustees who voted to terminate his former coach and sack president Graham Spanier . . . Could the Trustees' handling and timing of the firings have been botched more badly? I'm surprised they didn't pull up to the Paterno home in a stretch limo with opaqued windows and hand him a blindfold and cigarette. But these guys didn't even have the guts to whack him in person. Instead, they sent a messenger to deliver a note with a phone number on it for Paterno to call, then two Trustees informing, "You are relieved of your duties." Maybe they feared a college football Libya, with Paterno, surrounded by loyalists, refusing to surrender the football palace.

Then, they convened the press conference after 10 p.m., just as beered-up students were gathering downtown to stage an Arab Spring moment that resulted in arrests, injuries and a flipped TV station van. Could have been worse. They could have waited until halftime tomorrow and had JoePa led out of Beaver Stadium by the same campus security that turned a blind eye to so much football team mischief over the years.

So where does this rank on the scale of American tragedies and disruptions in our time? Watergate? Charles Manson and the Tate-LaBianca murders? The Lindbergh kidnapping? O.J. Simpson? More recently, the Casey Anthony trial? This is right up there with any of them. And if the media coverage is any measure, it is bigger than any of them . . . One more thing the Trustees could have done: Having failed to cancel the Nebraska game, which they should have done, the money generated by the final home game of this blown-up season should be placed in escrow and distributed to the victims once what will be a torturous and bizarre legal process runs its course. That will be a down payment for the huge hit the university will take when the civil awards start coming down. Fortunately, Pennsylvania trial and district courts are still off limits to TV coverage. We will be spared a Casey Anthony circus.

Who would I like to see getting the mops, buckets and playbooks to clean up the biggest mess in college football history? Al Golden might have an escape clause in his University of Miami contract tied to the former Penn State co-captain not being informed his new team was about to be hit by suspensions and sanctions. Golden is young enough to weather the storm of the A.P. (After Paterno) years, is a brilliant recruiter, and bottom line, he's a helluva football coach. Urban Meyer? Nah. Great coach, but he and his wife are too close to Joe and Sue Paterno. If he had health problems coaching a national champion at Florida, imagine him wading into this mess.

When I'm King of the World . . .

 There will be a statue of Joe Frazier erected next to the Rocky statue on the Art Museum steps . . . Joe will be in the pose he struck after the 15th-round left hook he brought "from the country" that floored Muhammed Ali in the most anticipated sports event of all time. I was lucky to have covered about five of Frazier's early fights during his 11-bout sprint through his first pro year. The one I remember best was against a palooka named Abe Davis in the Hotel Philadelphia Auditorium. Abe retired with a professional record of 5-27-1. He was the classic "shipped body" and was knocked out in the first round. Frazier stuck his head against the guy's chest and dug a thunderous left to Abe's midsection that produced an "oooooof" you could hear outside on Broad Street. Joe caught him on his glass chin and Abe went down in sections and stayed down. Frazier was the closest I have seen to the relentless, crowding style of Rocky Marciano. Like Marciano, who retired unbeaten, Frazier was a stubby, tank of a man who absorbed a lot of punishment during his career . . .

It is less than a month to baseball's winter meetings in Dallas. Ruben Amaro will have dropped at least one bomb before then. Maybe. Probably. Perhaps. I've never been a Jonathan Papelbon guy. It might be that sucked-a-lemon pucker the former Red Sox closer screws his mouth into while staring in for the sign.


Send email to bill1chair@aol.com. For recent columns, go to

www.philly.com/BillConlin.

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