Saturday, January 07, 2012

You Can't Coach Up Delusion

Any trip to State College, Pennsylvania is a long and arduous one. That's a good thing for Bill O'Brien, as it means he still has time to tell Pennsylvania State University he won't be taking that head football coach job after all.

The semi-organized rebellion against O'Brien's appointment by former Penn State players should tell the Pats' assistant all he needs to know and send him running back to the cozy comfort of sideline screamfests with Tom Brady. The job he's been offered is a career and sanity-killer. He can't succeed. He shouldn't want to try. O'Brien may know more than enough football to beat Ohio State, but no coach ever lived who could beat Denial State.

That state is where Penn State football and Penn State the school obviously still live. The former Nittany Lions and their allies on fan message boards are angry because Penn State did not hire current assistant Tom Bradley or some other coach with ties to the school. It's as if November, 2011 never happened, and a successor to Joe Paterno is needed because JoePa retired of his own free will, not because he's at the center of the sickest scandal in college sports history.

The slightest effort at rational thought would show the O'Brien critics the folly of that stance. Anyone associated with Penn State football from the day Jerry Sandusky was hired until the day Paterno was fired cannot possibly be the next coach. He'd spend more time being deposed than in the film room. The school's unspoken recruiting pitch would be "we're keeping all our traditions -- except one, we hope."

But the anti-O'Brien crowd isn't capable of rational thought. The Sandusky charges, the cover-up and the firing of Paterno have fried their synapses. This is not really their fault. One of the experiences of their lives in which they have the most pride, an association that's as dear to them as family, has been revealed as having a considerable degree of culpability in monstrous crimes. That is a major burden for the human mind to bear.

So the Penn State folks who can't bear that burden are dropping it on O'Brien instead. If the school's coach was from its old boy network, then members of said network could more easily pretend that some people in that network enabled a child molester. O'Brien's presence will make that happy fantasy an impossibility. As a result, no matter how many games O'Brien wins at Penn State, there's going to be a significant subset of fans, faculty, administrators and alumni who hate him.

When those people look at O'Brien, they won't see a coach. They'll see a badge of shame with a headset. They'll see Reality.

Run away, Bill. Let some other ambitious leader of large young men become the unhappiest man in Happy Valley.


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