We Were Penn State: After Unprecedented Scandal Penn State May Not Recover For Years, If Ever

Joe Paterno’s statue is down and the NCAA is reportedly on the verge of handing down unprecedented sanctions against Penn State. We are dealing with an unprecedented failure of leadership at Penn State as University officials showed far more concern with covering up the scandal than they did for those abused by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.  There has been speculation that the penalties, to be announced at 9 a.m. tomorrow, might  include the “death penalty” which would prevent the school from playing football for one or more seasons. ESPN says they won’t get the death penalty, but the penalties “are considered to be so harsh that the death penalty may have been preferable.” The death penalty might not have been an option according to an AP report:

The last time the NCAA shut down a football program with the so-called ”death penalty” was in the 1980s, when SMU was forced to drop the sport because of extra benefits violations. After the NCAA suspended the SMU program for a year, the school decided not to play in 1988, either, as it tried to regroup.

Current NCAA rules limit the penalty to colleges already on probation that commit another major violation. But NCAA leaders have indicated in recent months they are willing to use harsher penalties for the worst offenses. That includes postseason and TV bans, which haven’t been used extensively since the 1980s.

”This is completely different than an impermissible benefits scandal like (what) happened at SMU, or anything else we’ve dealt with. This is as systemic a cultural problem as it is a football problem. There have been people that said this wasn’t a football scandal,” Emmert told PBS. ”Well, it was more than a football scandal, much more than a football scandal. It was that but much more. And we’ll have to figure out exactly what the right penalties are. I don’t know that past precedent makes particularly good sense in this case, because it’s really an unprecedented problem.”

USA Today quotes former NCAA investigators as saying that “Penn State is eligible for the death penalty even though it is not a so-called repeat violator because all punitive options are on the table in cases involving major rules violations.”

It is likely that the penalties will prevent Penn State from attending bowl games for one or more years. Ohio State is ineligible for bowl participation next year, leaving Wisconsin with a pretty open road to represent the Leader’s Division in the Big Ten’s second championship game next year.

Even without the impending sanctions, it is questionable if Penn State could recover from a scandal of this magnitude in the near future to become a major football power again. The stigma will probably keep away many potential recruits, and might also impact hiring of coaching staffs. Sanctions which might keep Penn State out of bowls, off of television, and limit recruiting will make rebuilding even more difficult. It also doesn’t help Penn State that they do not have a football tradition to fall back upon beyond the now tainted Paterno years. I do not think that there will be much happiness in Happy Valley for years to come, and there will be strong economic repercussions beyond the loss of a winning football team for the region.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who (and Jenna) News; Green Lantern Gay; Spider-Man; Kathryn Joosten Dies; The Doctor and Captain America

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkP8W4D2k68&feature=player_embedded

Above is the Doctor Who mini-episode, Good as Gold.

Pictures have been spread on line of filming for season seven of Doctor Who. Unconfirmed but apparently reliable reports claim Jenna-Louise Coleman’s character will be named Clara. Steven Moffat has said in a recent interview that he hasn’t completed the script for the Christmas episode which Jenna’s character first appears in. Presumably the reports of filming are of episodes from later in the season.

Steven Moffat  continues to object to Elementary copying his idea of a television show based upon a modern day version of Sherlock Holmes.

A remake of Room at the Top has been sitting on the BBC’s shelf for a while but perhaps now that Jeanna-Louise Coleman has become a major actress throughout space and time there are finally plans for BBC4 to air the show. Jenna plans Susan Brown in the dramatization of the novel. Apparently the release has been delayed due to contractual problems.

DC comics are relaunching the concept of an Earth 2 with the original versions of its super heroes, but with some changes. Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, will be gay. I wonder if the new origin story will include a scene where Mitt Romney pins Alan Scott down and tries to cut off his ring.

Above is a new trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man

A common storyline in science fiction has time travelers change the past. I09 considers the question as to how we know whether our own past has been changed.

Kathryn Joosten, who has died at least three times  on television (Mrs. Landingham on West Wing and Mrs. McCluskey on Desperate Housewives and on Scrubs) actually died on June 2 of lung cancer.

SciFi Weekend: What the Awake Finale Means; Doctor Who News; Warnings of Daleks and the Tax Implications of a Zombie Apocalypse; House and Holmes Fake Deaths

Following the series finale of Awake I found many sites were interpreting the final scene as meaning that it was all a dream, and the accident did not occur. I posted my disagreement with this interpretation. Subsequently interviews with Kyle Killen  (such as here) verified my interpretation and answered additional question. The finale went into a different form of dream after Britten was in jail in one of his realities. In this dream, Britten actually met with his self from the other reality, was followed by both of his psychiatrists, and had an unusual meeting with his wife. It might be argued the Britten in jail was the real Britten, having dreams of solving the crime and being the hero in the other reality, and developing a new dream to cope with the reality of being in jail.

Regardless of whether this was the real Britten or a dream within a dream, the episode ended with Britten speaking with Dr. Evans. She attempted to convince Britten that the world with Hannah was just a dream, but Michael then questioned what the “rules” were. Britten never had been interested in finding which reality was true–his desire was to have both his wife and son back alive. His mind coped with the death of one by creating a second reality in which the other survived. His mind now realized that he could create an even better fantasy in which both his son and wife were alive. The immediate feeling upon watching this episode was that this was a happy ending with Britten getting what he wanted. It is also an ending in which Britten is even more out of touch with reality.

Killen described it this way:

Some fans saw the final scene — Britten (Jason Isaacs) seeing both Rex and Hannah in the house — and mistook it as a copout ending revealing the detective had dreamt the entire 13 episodes. “The idea that we’re saying nothing happened, this is St. Elsewhere, was something we actively fought against. You can still hate the finale, you just can’t say that that’s what it did. It’s just wrong and can actually be disproven watching the last four minutes,” Killen says. The show was always conceived as the way that one particular man dealt with grief that he was completely unprepared to handle. “That’s how the season ended — while he’s able to see his wife and child together, if you take a step back, what it really represents is a further fracturing of his psyche,” he says. “You understand that you don’t see your partner in a penguin suit in any version of reality — that grew directly out of the red world in which Hannah is alive [seemingly] revealing itself to be a dream. He just can’t accept that, and then [in the conversation with Dr. Evans] backs into the idea of, Wait, what if I fell asleep in my cell and then everything that happened after that was a dream? What if for the first time I had dream-like dreams in between being awake and being asleep? Once he does that, it’s almost as if his brain seizes that moment and creates precisely the thing that psychologically he’s dying for — and that is a moment with everyone together.”

One big question all season has been whether one reality was true and the other a dream, if there was some sort of quantum universe explanation in which both were equally valid, or whether there would be a conclusion like on Life on Mars in which nothing was real. Watching week by week I found that the evidence was contradictory as to which reality was real and suspected they were equally valid or both unreal. In interviews leading up to the finale Killan had said that one was real and the other was a fantasy which Britten developed due to the horror of losing either his wife or son. The reason that there was such contradictory evidence now appears to be that Killan and the writers did not have a conclusion in mind which settled this:

The show’s producers all had their own pet theories, but nothing was written in stone. “Most people felt like the red world was more likely to be real, just from a logical basis that the death of a child is something that’s out-of-order with nature and much more difficult to deal with than the death of a spouse. It felt like the death of a child is one that you might create a world to undo. So it felt a little bit like the balance was tipped in the red world’s favor, but we constantly adjusted that. One of the things we talked about was if ultimately the green world with his son was real and the red world was his imagination, was it that he couldn’t let his wife go until he’d psychologically worked out something that was unresolved with Hannah? There were arguments for why he simply could not let go of one or the other. We didn’t feel it was necessary to decide which one was his imagination now. We didn’t have a big sitdown and say, ‘This is what Rosebud means.’ We just didn’t approach it that way.”

Watching the finale I had also wondered whether this was written after Killan knew the show was cancelled and was intended to be the ending, or if this was written previously with plans to move on from this point in a second season. Killan revealed that he planned to pick up the second season from this point if the show was renewed:

The finale was written and filmed before the show’s cancellation. “I don’t know how the show could have gone on if the fundamental thing that made it work was taken away,” Killen says. He believes you can make the argument that the world in which wife Hannah survived — the red world — was the real one with just as much vigor. “Look at the state that Britten is in [there]. He’s lost. The woman who destroyed his family has gotten away with it. He’s in prison and he seems to have no hope of getting out of there. He’s essentially indicted himself with his own behavior. So if ever there were a place where you could reach a low that would cause you to create through a psychic break a world in which you do solve all the problems, and you do get the bad guy, and everything does turn out okay… I would think that would be an argument for the red world actually being real and requiring the green world as a dream to make going on seem possible. We, at least internally, made sure we could argue it both ways because going forward, we didn’t intend to have that mystery sewn up in this episode.”

Killan went on to describe how the second season would have picked up the story:

“The discussion was always that that’s where he finds himself when he woke back up in red world. It would be as if all of the dream-like elements had in fact been a dream, and he’d closed his eyes just before the guard knocked on the door and told him he had a visitor [Harper], and we’d treat it as that was the moment he went to sleep. He would know that he’d caught Harper in the other world and that he seemed unable to do anything in red. Ultimately, he would have relied on Vega to help him extricate himself from that situation.”

At that point the narratives would have proceeded in both realities (or technically one reality and one dream state) we saw in the first season, with the addition of the third state seen at the end of the finale:

“You still would have had red and you still would have had green,” Killen says.”We left ourselves open to the possibility that [producers/writers plotting out season 2] would have had a really interesting pitch for what to do with that third space, and whether there was an ongoing narrative we wanted to tell there or whether we wanted to use it as simply a surreal dream space that we could access when we wanted to and how we wanted to that let us bring other weirder elements into the show that we’d always wanted to try.” He suspects it would have been the latter. “Twin Peaks being a show that was very close to my heart and a seminal thing in my childhood, the third space was sort of our Black Lodge. It was a place where almost anything could have happened. What happened initially was he found himself in his house with his wife and his child, but there were a lot of other places we would have taken that dream space. I don’t know that it would have always been that linear or happy. I think it would have been a place where he had a lot less control than he thought.”

If the show continued, Britten would have also had a relationship with Rex’s tennis coach, Tara, as was hinted at in the first season:

“It always felt too soon and difficult to explain. If it’s about a man overcoming the loss of his wife, he’s only overcoming the loss for 12 hours a day. So most of us deal with that by not needing to get into another relationship. What ultimately was needed to really jump-start the alternate relationship was some sort of fracturing in the Hannah-Britten story. That’s exactly what you see us building to at the end of the season,” Killen says. “Once he’s imprisoned and he’s considered essentially a mad man and there’s not really a clear way out, we would have used that and Dr. Evans to really try to convince him that that was his imagination and there was a psychological reason that he was holding himself there. That would have opened the door enough for us to begin something with Tara. And then by the time the red world resolved itself and he was extricated from prison, without really meaning to, he would have gotten himself in two different relationships. By the time things were repaired with Hannah, he would have already begun a relationship with Tara because he had been leading himself to believe that Hannah wasn’t real and it was something that he needed to get over. By the time that flipped on him, he would have been a man divided. That was something we were really eager to explore in the second season.”

Benedict Cumberbatch and Matt Smith presented Steven Moffat with a well-deserved special BAFTA Award. Video of the presentation, including clips from Moffat’s work, is above.

Matt Smith carried the Olympic Torch this week. Pictures and an interview with Smith were posted here, and above is another news clip.

If you every wondered how all eleven Doctors would look if they were dinosaurs, an entire set of pictures can be seen at I09.

Christopher Eccleston continues to insist he will not appear in a 50th reunion episode. He has previously explained this by saying, “I never bathe in the same river twice.” This never sounded like a satisfactory reason, and he has subsequently elaborated without much detail saying, “I know what went on and the people who were involved know what went on. That’s good enough for me. My conscience is completely clear.” Obviously there were problems which have not been made public.

Karen Gillan on her final script for Doctor Who:

I literally couldn’t read it without crying … It was the most highly-charged read-through I’ve ever experienced. But I couldn’t have asked for a better exit. I don’t think it’ll be what people expect.’

Gillan leaving means that Jenna-Louise Coleman has started filming. Her initial filming was behind closed doors so we do not yet know how her character will look.

Merlin is filming season 5.

Sign seen in Colorado above. If Daleks were there, it would certainly be good to warn people. Last year the same area had a sign warning “Zombies Ahead.” That would be another important warning. Besides the obvious hazards, there are serious tax implications to a Zombie Apocalypse, as is discussed in this paper, and summarized here.

House concluded last week with House and Wilson being compared to Holmes and Watson. The series ended in a manner similar to  how Moffat’s version of Sherlock ended its second season, with both House and Sherlock faking their own deaths. In addition, Moffat’s other show also ended with the Doctor faking his death. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss discussed the finale of Sherlock with The Guardian but gave no clues as to how Sherlock survived. Moffat simply says, “He did it cleverly. Very cleverly. And we know, we’re not telling – next!!” I suspect that there will be aspects which were not clear  on screen so I have not worked on a full explanation as to how Sherlock survived, but here are my comments after The Reichenbach Fall  originally aired on the BBC.

It seems strangely appropriate that the big war scene which this season of The Game of Thrones has been leading up to will be airing this Memorial Day weekend.

When I Say Run, Run (Olympic Torch Edition)

Matt Smith carried the Olympic Torch in Cardiff:

It’s the early hours of May 26, 2012 and when the sun rises across Cardiff Bay there’s already a huge crowd gathered to greet the morning and Matt Smith.

Because today, Matt Smith has the honour of being the lead runner in the Olympic Torch relay, carrying the world’s most famous Flame for part of its journey from the Temple of Hera to London.

Matt’s used to early starts and is in high spirits when he arrives at the Norwegian Church Arts Centre. His mood is further bolstered by the masses of people who have come along to enjoy the occasion and lend their support. It’s great to see so many well-wishers and the whole team is very grateful to everyone who has managed to make it to the event. As he walks towards the Church which will be the mini-base for the morning, he greets the crowds. ‘What are you doing up so early?’ he jokes.

First things first! Matt meets the press and enthuses about the Torch Relay. He also finds time to talk to us. So, how’s he feeling?

‘I’m very excited about the run,’ he reveals. ‘It’s a huge privilege.  A once in a lifetime thing.’ A slight pause and a grin. ‘Let’s hope I don’t trip over!’

Matt clearly can’t wait to get going and his time with the Torch quickly arrives. He begins his run at 6.29am in sight of BBC Wales’ Roath Lock studios where Doctor Who is filmed. (‘It’s nice to be doing it in the Bay,’ he comments). The atmosphere is as sunny as the weather, but there’s also an awareness that this is part of a historic tradition. Matt takes the Torch with pride, running to the Senedd whilst being cheered on by the frankly fantastic crowd.

The Flame is then passed to the next runner – eventually it will reach the Olympic Stadium where it will light a cauldron symbolising the start of the Games. But for today, Matt’s job is done and he has played his part.

Of course, his leg of the relay was a short one, but this has been about symbolism and people joining in. ‘I love the whole sense of the Olympics,’ Matt reflects. ‘I mean it’s so early in the morning but there are so many people here with bunting and there’s a great atmosphere and everything’s so celebratory…’ He looks across the crowds. ‘I’m excited to be part of it!’ And his over-riding emotion? ‘Thrilled,’ he tells us. ‘Really thrilled.’

Exactly five years ago today an episode called Human Nature saw the Doctor, in the guise of John Smith, comment that ‘Mankind doesn’t need warfare and bloodshed to prove itself.’ In fact for almost fifty years Doctor Who has depicted a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey uncovering and celebrating humanity’s very best traits. Endeavour, co-operation and a sense of striving towards better ways. Carrying a torch into the darkness.

And this morning the message of the show and the reality merged into one as Matt Smith – our brilliant Doctor – held the Olympic Flame aloft and cheered on by an amazing crowd, blazed a trail towards the Games that epitomise those qualities.

For a few minutes in the Cardiff sunshine, the hope of the Olympic Games and the spirit of Doctor Who seemed to burn strong and bright. Moving. Magical. Indomitable!

BBC News interview with Matt Smith below (video):

Quote of the Day

“March Madnesss…the only place where you hear ‘Kansas is advancing.’” –Bill Maher

Quote of the Day

“March Madness goes from 64 teams to 32 to 16 to 8 to 4 to 2 and then 1. It’s how Rush Limbaugh loses sponsors.” –David Letterman

Romney Gets Ugly Win, Perhaps Enough To Make It To Championship Game But Not To Win It All

The primaries in Michigan and Arizona left the GOP nomination battle at pretty much the same place it has been in for the past few weeks. Mitt Romney still is the most likely nominee but questions about him remain. The victory was probably enough to silence talk of bringing in a new candidate, at least until we see the Super Tuesday results, but not enough to keep Romney from still looking weak. This football analogy from First Read is quite accurate:

If this were college football, last night’s Michigan contest was akin to the No.2-ranked team in the country winning on a last-second field goal (the score 41-38) against an unranked opponent at home, on Homecoming. That No. 2 team survives, gets to regroup, and keeps its championship hopes alive. But the way it won — UGLY — despite all of its advantages raises doubts among the sports writers and even fans about its chances against the No. 1 team. Then again, the goal is to make it to the BCS game and see what happens. And Romney essentially did that by winning in Michigan last night.

I think that it is also notable that if New Gingrich, who didn’t campaign in Michigan, wasn’t on the ballot, Santorum might have scored another touchdown and had the victory.

As with virtually every other Republican event this year, Barack Obama was again the winner. It is hard to see a Republican winning in Michigan after all the repetitions of their opposition to the auto bail out. No matter how Romney tries to spin his previous views and rewrite history, a majority of voters in Michigan realize that failing to bail out General Motors would have been devastating to the state’s economy. Joe Biden’s pitch that bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive will be effective in Michigan, and beyond.

Now its time for Mitt Romney to tie his dog to the roof of his car and move onto new states (or at least this might be the case if the dog hadn’t run away and had an exceptionally long life). He has the money and organization to probably win more delegates that Santorum, aided by problems for Santorum such as not being on every ballot, but he remains in danger if Santorum can regain his momentum next week. At present Santorum leads Romney by eleven points in Ohio. Santorum might be forgiven for losing a big lead in Michigan due to Romney’s advantages in the state. If Romney can repeat his Michigan come back in Ohio, and otherwise do well next week, he will probably be unbeatable. The way this race has been going, it is not hard to see Romney making another error to keep Santorum in the race.

Update: CNN projects that Romney and Santorum will split Michigan’s delegates equally. Santorum calls it a tie.

Quote of the Day

“Congratulations once again to the world champion New York Giants. They played a great game. Eli Manning now has two rings. Two! But that’s still one less ring than Newt Gingrich.” –Jay Leno

Poll Finds 43 Percent Believe God Helps Tebow Win

There are certainly a lot of ignorant Americans. A recent poll found that 43 percent believe God helps Tim Tebow win football games.

I wonder how they explain the games in which Tebow doesn’t win. Did Tebow (or his fans) do something wrong to cause God to make him lose, or does God lack the power to control everything in a football game?

Even more importantly, if they believe that God is interested in football to the point of intervening, why doesn’t God intervene in more important areas which might reduce human suffering. Do they really believe that intervening to determine who wins a football game is more important to God than intervening to prevent the Holocaust?

Tim Tebow And The Fall Of Western Civilization

The New York Jewish Week finds both religious and political significance in this week’s game between Denver and New England:

Next Sunday, the Broncos host the New England Patriots in a game coveted so much by the networks that NBC and CBS sparred in unprecedented fashion over who would get to broadcast it.   And why not?  While the Patriots are adored by their fans (myself included), to many nationwide they are regarded as the Sons of Darkness, with their perfectly coiffed Hollywood quarterback and their brilliant – one might say diabolical – hoodie-clad coach.  And, oh yes, the most identifiably Jewish owner in sports.  Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Bob Kraft are all upstanding citizens, moral exemplars in their home communities, but in this Oberammergau of the Rockies, they are playing the role of Pilate.

People are always looking for signs of God’s beneficence, and a victory by the Orange Crush over the blue-clad Patriots, from the bluest of blue states, will give fodder to a Christian revivalism that has already turned the Republican presidential race into a pander-thon to social conservatives, rekindling memories of those cultural icons of the ‘80s, the Moral Majority and “Hee Haw.”  The culture wars are alive and well, and, if the current climate in Washington is any indicator, the motors are being revved up for what will undoubtedly be the most cantankerous Presidential campaign ever.  When supposedly well-educated candidates publicly question overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change and evolution and then gain electoral traction by fabricating conspiracies about a war on Christmas, these are not rational times.

Into the middle of it all rides Tebow.  Absolutely confident that God is on his side, he comes across as a humbler version of the biblical Joseph, who, in this week’s Torah portion, audaciously lays claim to being the Chosen One, and then goes out and proves it.  Tebow’s sanctimonious God-talk has led even pious peers like Kurt Warner to suggest that he cool it. Joseph could have used the same coaching.

If Tebow wins the Super Bowl, against all odds, it will buoy his faithful, and emboldened faithful can do insane things, like burning mosques, bashing gays and indiscriminately banishing immigrants.  While America has become more inclusive since Jerry Falwell’s first political forays, a Tebow triumph could set those efforts back considerably. 

This all makes it sound like a win by Tebow will be a win for the religious right, meaning bad news for the civilized world. Personally I think it is just a game and Tebow’s religious beliefs are not very important. There is a culture war, but it will not be fought on the football field. I’ll be rooting for Tom Brady and New England but not for any religious reasons. I’m rooting for Tom Brady because he is a Michigan man. Go Blue!