The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

GRESKA: When sports don’t matter

Andrei Greska

Sports are everything to me. And nothing.

I have been a fanatic of a multitude of teams in my life, living and dying by final scores since I was old enough to talk.

Ask my mom about how I cried myself to sleep at age 4 when Mexico lost to the U.S. in penalty kicks during the quarterfinals of the 1995 Copa America.

Ask me about the Cubs’ epic 8th inning collapse to the Florida Marlins in the infamous Alex Gonzalez game of 2003.

Ask me about Maxi Rodriguez’s wonder-volley from 40 yards out to eliminate Mexico from the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

I like to think I live sports in a way that few do. Losses crush me to a pulp. Wins lift up my very core.

It takes events like the ones that occurred last week in Pennsylvania to put things into perspective. When it comes down to it, sports don’t mean squat.

I won’t go into the details of what is going down at Penn State. There are millions of tweets and thousands of stories out there to educate you on the details. There’s also one excruciatingly graphic 23-page grand jury testimony, if you so choose.

This column is not about the details. It’s about sports. And how we sometimes make them more important than they should be.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say we shouldn’t root for our favorite teams, or that sports are a waste of time. That’s not what I’m saying at all.

What I am saying is that sports should never become larger than life, or we risk them becoming more important than at least eight children who were victims of former Penn State coach Gerald Sandusky’s heinous crimes.

It sounds much easier than it actually is, though.

Former Penn State coach Joe Paterno knew this better than anyone else. A statue of Paterno outside of Beaver Stadium reads: “They ask me what I’d like written about me when I’m gone. I hope they write I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach.”

He gave $4 million of his own earnings to the school over that time and helped raise over $13 million for an expansion to the library that bears his name. He truly lived what he preached and made football just a part of the collegiate experience.

A coach as clean as there has ever been, who had been a head coach for 45 years without a sniff of a major violation, made a decision to put sports ahead of the truth by not taking the Sandusky matter into his own hands. He’s gone now.

And rightly so. Paterno is not a bad person. He broke no laws. He simply made a decision to protect the reputation of his program and his former coach. The wrong decision, and he will forever pay the price for it.

There are a number of young men who will never get a chance to live a normal life because of the mistakes made at Penn State.

Let this be a warning to the Marquette athletic department, which has had its fair share of negative publicity both due to last year’s unsavory sexual assault allegations and the subsequent suggestion that the university mishandled the cases. There is no substitute for the truth.

The university did a good job of acknowledging the mistakes it made and how it is working on fixing those errors. It must stay this way.

As much as it pains me to say it, Marquette athletics are not the heart and soul of the university. They may be its best public asset, but this institution is and should continue to be a place for learning, first and foremost.

Sports are a great way to escape from reality, but they must always come second — both at this university and in life.

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