Mandy Mitchell

Stop building statues of people

Posted July 10, 2012

I was left wondering something the other day as I read over some of the reporting on the Penn State scandal. What exactly happens to Joe Paterno's statue if we find out he was really involved in some massive cover-up? It got me thinking about if it is really wise to build a statue of someone who is still coaching at a school. The simple action of building a statue of someone is literally putting that individual on a pedestal. If you go to Penn State's stadium, you will see JoePa there, on a pedestal. I'm not sure he belongs there at this point.

I will give you another example that has nothing to do with Penn State. Florida State put up a statue of Bobby Bowden before he "retired". I went to a Florida State game shortly after the thing went up and couldn't help but laugh at the situation. For one, the statue was of an older Bobby who looked as skinny as he did when he was a very young coach. It was there, on a pedestal, in front of a stained glassed window. It truly had the feel of the "church of Bobby Bowden". I stared at all of this, while I was standing outside of "Bobby Bowden Field". I remember hoping his time would end well or that statue would look pretty silly. Hmmmm. If you remember, it didn't really end well. He was pretty much shoved out the door, past his statue and stained glass window, and out of Tallahassee.

Nothing that happened at Florida State is even in the hemisphere of what's going on at Penn State, but wouldn't it have been nice if FSU waited on the bold tribute? You can still say thank you to a coach without such a display. Take two schools in the Triangle for example. Mike Krzyzewski coaches on a floor named after him. Dean Smith coached in a building named after him. In the very unlikely event Coach K does something to tarnish his legacy before he retires, it will be very easy for Duke to quietly and discreetly remove that name from the court. It's not nearly as easy to take a hammer to a statue.

I know how much we love our coaches and our sports stars. I am totally onboard with thanking a person for his/her longtime service to a team or University. I just think it would be smart to hold off on putting anyone on a pedestal before their time on earth is done. It puts the people left in charge with a no win situation of leaving it there in scandal or taking it down. That is not a position I envy at all. It's just not worth it. Keep tributes to something easily changed.


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  • VT1994Hokie Jul 17, 2012

    I think that Bobby Bowden stated it pretty well in regard to the statue of JoePa. It's only going to be a huge distraction to the University and the Paterno family. "Just take all of this stuff down." This wasn't an itty bitty thing." I agree with Bobby.

  • Objective Scientist Jul 16, 2012

    I agree with Mandy... only I'd take it a step further - don't erect statues of coaches and athletes PERIOD. As Mandy states - we "love" our coaches and players! I agree and see nothing wrong with that - as long as the person we "love" is not only a good athlete/coach, but is a person without criminal record or other serious "short-comings". Nothing wrong with "loving", but there is a BIG difference between merely "loving" someone and IDOLIZING them! Erecting a statue of JoePa and painting him into a mural... then putting a "halo" over his head is OVER THE TOP!!! Respect our athletes/coaches (when they deserve the respect), even "love" them, but IDOLIZE to the point we put them on that "pedestal" as if they are truly a "deity" - that needs to stop! NOW! Parents - teach your kids that NO athlete, NO coach is a deity!!!

  • VT1994Hokie Jul 15, 2012

    View quoted thread

    Nice job Ken. I especially liked the 2nd and 4th paragraphs.

  • StunGunn Jul 15, 2012

    View quoted thread

    Excellent points by Ken and gtr.

    I still don't understand the timing of Dean Smith's retirement - RIGHT before the basketball season in '97. IMHO this was very unfair to the recruits who came to Carolina to be coached by The Dean. Since Baddour was the AD at the time, I don't mind Dean picking his sucessor, because who knows what Baddour would have done, but I don't think Coach Gut was the right person for the job. Dean was being loyal - to Gut - but not to his team. If he announced his retirement for the following season, not the current season, it would have given recruits time to pursue other shools.

    I DREAD the day that K and Roy step down, the rivalry just won't be the same without these two HF coaches.

  • Ken D. Jul 14, 2012

    View quoted thread

    I think Coach Smith did Carolina a great disservice with the timing of his retirement. And while he may have had some understandable - even laudable - motives for doing what he did, I think there was some hubris in his case as well. In essence, he usurped the power of the AD to pick the next head basketball coach. It was an act of great personal loyalty that Smith insured that Coach Gut could receive a much larger pension by being head coach for three years. And Smith didn't leave the cupboard bare of talent for his longtime friend.

    But Gut surely left that cupboard bare for his successor, and Matt Doherty didn't have either the experience or the temperament to overcome that. I think Paterno wanted to name his successor as well (he told Sandusky he wouldn't be considered for the job, not the AD), and I expect that Coach K will have a strong say on the matter when he steps down. And I don't think that is a healthy thing for any institution.

    All these men had many wonderful qualities. At some point in their careers, humility might have been one of them. But not at the end.

  • gtr Jul 14, 2012

    View quoted thread

    All excellent points. I have to admit that when this story first broke, I wondered if Paterno's inaction or maybe just disbelief that such heinous acts committed by a longtime friend and colleague actually were occurring could be attributed to his age. These latest revelations, however, wipe this out as an alibi IMO.

    As for Coach Smith, I always have lamented that he probably had 2-3 more good seasons in him post-retirement, but looking at the bigger picture in hindsight, I can recognize that he left the game at the right time for him. It wasn't necessarily the best thing for the university at the time as it ultimately took us six years to fully "recover", and even that required some luck in getting Roy to say yes the 2nd time.

    I still see Coach K as being capable of leading the Duke program into his early seventies. The only problem is, the longer he stays, the more difficult the eventual transition will be. You already have almost two full generations of Duke fans who know nothing else besides him as head coach, as was the case with Carolina fans and Dean Smith in 1997. It will be interesting to see how both Duke and Carolina approach their next Head Coach searches.

  • Ken D. Jul 13, 2012

    I have finished reading the Freeh Report. I'm disappointed that out of more than 100 recommendations, Mr. Freeh failed to make the one recommendation that might actually have helped to prevent this tragedy and the resultant damage to the reputations of Penn State and Joe Paterno.

    I believe all universities engaged in big time sports should have a mandatory retirement age for their coaches. Had Paterno retired 15 years earlier, we likely would not have seen the cult of personality inhibit efforts to deal effectively with Sandusky's criminal behavior. I believe that if Paterno had retired at 70, Bobby Bowden would not have overstayed his welcome at Florida State.

    I think both men stayed on for the self-aggrandizing purpose of amassing more wins than the other. That coaching arms race put the interests and egos of these two men ahead of the interests of their respective schools. Both have paid a heavy price.

    The Freeh Report refers to the negative effects of "The Penn State Way" that echo the problems of fostering similar cultures at Carolina (The Carolina Way having become a term of derision on these forums) and Ohio State among others. Continuity in coaching is useful to a point. Beyond that point it can become a cancer. Schools like Carolina and Duke would be well advised to look beyond the "coaching trees" of their incumbents when it's time to search for a replacement. Let Penn State be a lesson to them.

  • George C Jul 13, 2012

    Excellent article. The Rocky statue in Philly might be the weirdest of them all.

  • ACC22 Jul 12, 2012

    If the statue stays trouble will follow. Right or wrong people will make a point to deface the statue. The statue is a fight waiting to happen between fans on game day. The first time a jopa supporter sees someone spit on the statue trouble will follow. I am not condoning this kind of thing. I just know reality.

  • VT1994Hokie Jul 12, 2012

    Mandy Mitchell has certainly done a great job on WRAL in my opinion. I'll bet that she researches as much as any on WRAL. I enjoy listening to her as much as any reporter on WRAL Sports. She projects a total professional attitude. And, she delivers in a fashion that is full of energy and enthusiasm that some can't deliver. She doesn't miss a beat when reading either. Some need to go over names and difficult pronouncations before they go on the broadcast. I'm glad that WRAL elevated her to a higher status for us viewers.




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