Ray Ratto

Protecting 'The Brand' at Penn State


Protecting 'The Brand' at Penn State

People keep asking how Penn State, as the scandal is now unfortunately being referred, could have happened -- how so many spent so long doing nothing in the face of such monstrous behavior when only one phone call was required.Well, its easy, and theres a lesson here for everyone.Its the notion of protecting The Brand -- an insidious and hateful phrase itself that immediately makes the company all-powerful and its workers mostly cattle waiting for the hammer.
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And it goes on in every company, and every sports organization, and most assuredly and most stridently in football, where the head coach is the be-all and end-all of all things -- and the successful head coach is the right hand of God.Football was God at Penn State, Joe Paterno was the high priest, and his reach extended from the Welcome To State College sign to the You Are Now Leaving State College sign. He was feared, and loved, and feared. So much so that even sodomizing children was not a serious enough crime to risk damaging The Brand.What were saying here is that this is not Penn State, The Scandal. This could have happened anywhere where The Brand is more important than the people under its protection, and that is everywhere. So fuel your outrage if you must, but chill that smug.Football is just the most obvious place for a sports analysis of the problem to take place, because it generates the greatest amount of money and the most deference from those touched by it. Most university presidents cower at the sight of the successful football coach. They take no stand on excesses, because The Brand must be protected. And athletic directors are in charge of generating more money to keep the engines churning, so his or her role has nothing to do with his or her place on the table of organization.RATTO: Regaining trust all that matters at Penn State
And coaches, the smart ones anyway, know how to fill a power vacuum. It happened at Ohio State, and Michigan, and Miami, and Oklahoma, and USC. And every other place where a real scandal has taken place, because when confronted by the right thing to do, the coach couldnt be bothered, and the people above him didnt want him to be bothered.Protecting The Brand. Or as it used to be known, institutional cowardice. Dont forget Baylor, where a basketball player was killed by another, and the coach, Dave Bliss tried to cover it up. A murder, for Gods sake. That was protecting The Brand, too. And even those who can now minimize the Ohio State and Miami and USC and Notre Dame scandals because nobody got sexually assaulted miss the point, because it still points to the idea of taking care of the football program and those within it. Ohio State wasnt about Terrelle Pryor tatting up -- it was about Jim Tressel trading in his word and responsibility to protect the brand. Miami had Nevin Shapiro running rampant, and the school keeping quiet to protect the brand. USC was all about protecting The Brand. Even Notre Dame, when a student died when a camera crane he was standing on to film a practice blew over in high wind, took care to protect The Brand first.And then people wonder why the players think theyre getting jobbed. It isnt that theyre not getting paid enough. Its that everyone gets paid BUT THEM. And that when it hits the fan, as it occasionally does, The Brand is protected BUT NOT THEM.PHOTO GALLERY: Biggest sports scandals ever
Penn State happened not because people thought Jerry Sandusky was behaving properly, but because what he did might damage the Penn State brand. They made a value judgment that the brand mattered more than the safety of children -- and that would be a less shocking development if it was the only place where that decision was made.But theres still Baylor, and Ohio State, and Miami, and all the other places where The Brand was defended in ways that it would never occur to people to defend the humans, or where protecting the humans that shine up The Brand became more important than those in their care.In short, Penn State isnt Penn State. Its everywhere, ratcheted to a revolting extreme. Its why when college athletics holds itself up as a noble enterprise, smart people say, Yeah, if you have the good moral sense not to make money at it.The real end-game here is not what happens to Paterno, or Graham Spanier, the somnolent president whose only real skill here seems to be running from his duties or even the gaze of others, or even Sandusky, who looks like he will spend the rest of his days in prison. Or the Penn State football program, or the recruiting damage done.The end-game comes if the people who take in children to be educated and cared for -- in exchange for rapidly escalating tuition costs, we might add -- actually say, Screw The Brand when something goes wrong. This isnt about the superhuman task of eliminating scandal; thats going to happen in a society that is slowly but surely becoming a kleptocracy.This is simply about minimizing the mistakes and the horrors, and by protecting the victims when those things occur, and defending The Brand by showing its true place in the list of priorities.And if this concept seems foreign to you, take a minute and look around the house. You have misplaced your soul.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

If eclipse ends life on Earth, it's bad news for fans of one Bay Area team


If eclipse ends life on Earth, it's bad news for fans of one Bay Area team

If the lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe is right and the total eclipse of the sun is actually a harbinger of the end of life on earth . . .

- It’s good news for the Giants, who have been eliminated from the National League West race for less than 24 hours, or that they will not have to watch the Los Angeles Dodgers put their feet up on baseball for the first time in 28 years.

Besides, there won’t be any more years, so time becomes meaningless.

- It’s good news for the 49ers, who won’t have to endure a harsh week of practice from freshly irked head coach Kyle Shanahan, who finally saw exactly why the job came open for him in the first place.

- It’s good news for Raiders’ fans, who won’t see their team move to Las Vegas, and because they won't be soul-crushed if they can't beat the Patriots -- who will also die en masse despite Bill Belichick's entreaties to ignore the noise of seven billion terrorized shrieks.

- It’s bad news for A’s fans, who will never learn in what location their fabulous new franchise-saving stadium will not be built.

- It’s good news for the Warriors, who can say in their death throes that they were the last NBA champions ever, and that the Lakers will never get LeBron James.

- It’s good news for the Lakers because they cannot be found guilty of tampering with Paul George. It’s also good news for Jimmy Kimmel because he can’t lose a draft choice (some faceless F-list actor as a guest) as a result.

- It’s good news for the Kings, because they’ll never have to have the difficult meeting about Zach Randolph.

- It’s good news for the Chargers, because they won’t have to answer any more questions about why only 21,000 people were announced as the crowd for their second practice game, or to confront the very real possibility that they could become the NFL’s Washington Generals.

- It’s good news for the Jets, Mets, Nets and Knicks because the end of the planet is the only just solution for them all.

- It’s good news for Cal because it can stick its middle finger to the sky and say, “Here’s your $400 million debt. Try to collect it while we’re all dying.”

- It’s good news for Kevin Durant because he doesn’t have to slalom through the Internet trolls any more.

- It’s bad news for Roger Goodell, because he sure left a boatload of money on the table as he was hurtled into space like the rest of us.

- It’s bad news for Nick Saban because he will have never seen it coming. On the other hand, it’s good news for the people who cover Alabama football because they’ve endured their last journalism lecture from Prof. Nick on why they do their jobs so poorly.

- It’s bad luck for Jim Harbaugh because he will feel like a complete nitwit as he learns just what “an enthusiasm unknown to mankind” really means – the end of mankind.

- It’s bad news for all the sixth graders in America who are being offered scholarships that they will never be used by college coaches they will never meet. Of course, that would have been true even  if the world doesn’t end.

- It’s bad news for the hackers who have been spoiling Game Of Thrones because this is Game Of Thrones, only the dragon is the sun incinerating us all.

- It’s bad news for Kyrie Irving, because he will have died a Cleveland Cavalier.

- It’s good news for America, for the obvious reason that the planet will expire before our current political class can murder it.

- And finally, it’s good news for dignity, because the Mayweather-McGregor “thing” will never happen, and that alone means that even as we are torn asunder, we will know that the deity loves us all because both McGrogor and Mayweather are being torn asunder too.

Of course, if you’re reading this Tuesday, you’ll know the world didn’t end, and we’re just as screwed as we ever were. Oh well. Try to find your happy place, and drink like there’s no Wednesday.

Phrase that Matt Joyce left out of his apology is key to talking the talk

Phrase that Matt Joyce left out of his apology is key to talking the talk

Matt Joyce said the word, he did the apology, he’ll do the time, and then we’ll see if he’ll get the forgiveness he asks.
Joyce’s two-game suspension by Major League Baseball for using a gay slur at a fan during Friday’s Athletics-Angels game in Anaheim is well within industry norms (though it might have been more tactically impressive if the club itself had issued the suspension), and his apology did not deflect blame or contain the always-insincere caveat “if I offended anyone.” He did offend people and he knew it, so he didn’t couch it in the phraseology of “I don’t think what I said was improper, but I’ll do the perp walk just to get this over with.”
He even offered to do work with PFLAG, the support group that supports the LGBTQ community, thereby putting his time (which is more meaningful than money) where his mouth was.
In other words, he seems to have taken his transgression properly to heart, which is all you can really hope for, and now we’ll see if he is granted the absolution he seeks.
You see, we’re a funny old country in that we talk forgiveness all the time but grant it only sparingly, and only after a full mental vetting of important things like “Do we like this guy?” and “Is he playing for my favorite team?” and “Do I feel like letting him up at all?”
In other words, forgiveness is very conditional indeed.
Joyce said what he said, but his apology seemed to be given freely and unreservedly rather than crafted to meet a minimal standard of corporate knee-taking/arse-covering. If he follows through on his offer to do face-to-face work with PFLAG or an associated group and absorbs the lesson of not using other people as a weapon for his own frustration, then he ought to be acknowledged for doing so. That’s what forgiveness is.
But if the principle you adhere to is “once guilty, forever doomed,” then you’ve succeeded at giving in to the mode of the day, which is jumping to a conclusion and never jumping back because it’s just easier and more convenient to do so.
It’s up to him. But it’s also up to you.