Thanksgiving, I flew to London for five days to see my older son, Sam, 22, studying there this fall. I found his tube stop—Farringdon—easily enough, but from there, the walking directions to his flat that he’d emailed were sketchy. I had to find Sir John’s—that was his key landmark. A bar.
The tabloid hacking scandal in Britain is beginning to put a new spin on Janet Malcolm’s neat little thesis on journalistic ethics. Malcolm is the New Yorker writer who began her book, The Journalist and the Murderer, thusly: “Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.”
It may seem like a pretty crooked train of thought to start out wondering who the hell Joe Paterno is and work through Muhammad Ali, but that’s where I’m going. I’m thinking about myth-building.
Paterno, well, it’s pretty obvious why I’m thinking about him. And I didn’t realize it, not until the Sandusky mess hit, but I’ve been obsessed with the JoePa thing for about 40 years, from the first day I landed at Penn State. There were two goons in the dorm room next to me. One was an offensive guard. The other, the more lively of the two, was a linebacker with a bad back. Eddie couldn’t play. He was in JoePa’s doghouse a lot. He also liked to tell me if I was going to smoke dope, I better be sure I put a towel under my door, because RA’s were sniffing out guys like me.
It is the same story. The Penn State scandal is identical to what we’ve been learning about the Catholic Church over the past decade. Not in scope, of course, but in its fundamental nature. When an institution becomes larger—more important—than the ideals it is supposed to stand for, that’s when the institution is in dire trouble. Because those at the top, and those who work for them, will do everything they can to protect that institution, which fundamentally corrupts those ideals. That’s the story we’re seeing again, out at Penn State.
Ray Didinger, Comcast football analyst and one-time Bulletin and Daily News sportswriter, is not exactly a guy of the times. For the longest stretch, he didn’t have a cell phone—and for all I know he still doesn’t. He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t get mad or excited or rant. He is a man who looks and sounds like he might be running for county commissioner. In 1957.
For presidents and mayors, second terms often mean a reshuffling of the deck when it comes to administration personnel. So as he’s reelected this month, is Michael Nutter likely to ask for resignations from any high-level members of his team?
I’ve been hanging out at the Melrose Diner in South Philly, talking to people about what’s on their minds these days and how they’re doing. It’s pretty amazing, what people will tell you—and you barely have to ask. I can’t decide what’s more strange: The lives that people lead, or their willingness to tell you about them.
How about it, Mr. Mayor? Can we hear from you on this one?
Earlier this week, an 84-year-old man named Jim Shea was attacked by four young thugs on Forbidden Drive in Wissahickon Valley Park. He said the four guys appeared to be between 16 and 20 years old. Shea is white; the attackers are black. They jumped him for fun, apparently, because they didn’t bother stealing his wallet, keys or cellphone. No, they kicked him around and laughed as they were doing it. Shea spent four hours in the hospital. He’s got a broken nose and stitches in his face, but he’s going to be okay.
Joe Banner, as smart as he is, should have seen this coming. I sure didn’t. I was snowed by the blizzard of new talent that arrived as the Eagles training camp was getting underway. So I’m as dumb as everyone else who thought we could sit back and enjoy the ride to the Super Bowl. But Banner should have known better.
Before the season started, Howard Eskin asked the Eagles’ president whether holes the team still had—at linebacker, for example—meant we should temper our expectations.
"All Super Bowl teams have flaws," Banner said.
Message: Look at all the talent we’ve put together! We’re gonna roll ...
In fact, Banner and Howie Roseman and Andy Reid did a brilliant job of setting up this year to have the financial room to spend money and then spend it. Free agents clearly wanted to play here. No NFL team has ever had an off-season of talent landed so fast and furiously.