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Blogging about college football by an Oklahoma Sooners fan.

The danger of false idols

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"Influencing people is dangerous. Their acts and thoughts become your illegitimate children. You can't get away from them and Heaven knows what they mayn't grow up into." – Elizabeth Bibesco

The actions of Penn St. authority figures brought forth by the Freeh Report are unfathomable only if you are not intertwined with every verbal commit, donor pledge, spring practice, touchdown and bowl win your beloved team achieves. We know who we are. We are the people who live and die by the success and failures of our gridiron heroes. We are the people whose every livelihood is dependent on the success of our university's team. The university name might as well be our own. To insult it is to insult us, and victory validates our very existence on this earth.

This type of entity worship is commonplace not only in college football, but in all of society. I don't know what the term is that some social psychologist surely coined a long ago for this type of behavior, but I know that this is prevalent everywhere. I've felt blind allegiance to my alma mater when I went to college. Perhaps we have a desire to be part of something special, something important, but once we adhere to that idol, without gaining some self-awareness, or some objectivity, then it will be us. And we'll fight to the death for us. We'll willingly become a slave to this influence.

Universities have to take pause at the bloated influence that football has on institutions of higher learning and the influence that can pervade those underneath it. Universities are entrusted to keep our children safe, to groom our children to contribute positively to the betterment of society. That's what they tell us anyway.

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In an article that he wrote for Grantland in November, Charles Pierce hit it on the head:

It happens because institutions lie. And today, our major institutions lie because of a culture in which loyalty to "the company," and protection of "the brand" — that noxious business-school shibboleth that turns employees into brainlocked elements of sales and marketing campaigns — trumps conventional morality, traditional ethics, civil liberties, and even adherence to the rule of law. It is better to protect "the brand" than it is to protect free speech, the right to privacy, or even to protect children................It is not a failure of our institutions so much as it is a window into what they have become — soulless, profit-driven monsters, Darwinian predators with precious little humanity left in them.

Don't kid yourself that this couldn't happen in Norman. Oklahoma's emphasis on football is as strong as anywhere in the country. The pressures to succeed and to uphold an image are more immense than can be imagined by people on the outside.

Thursday, SI.com's Stewart Mandel gave a warning to every big-time program: "Hopefully every coach, athletic director, president and administrator in the country read every page of Thursday's report and absorbed the horror of their counterparts' mistakes."

Hopefully indeed.