How many yellow journalists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
None. They don’t need to see the light. They just cobble together some flimsy he-said/she-said factoids to make two plus two equal five. It’s all sleight of pen. See, no wires, just sheer magic.
Such is the case with the recent Sports Illustrated article entitled “Do athletics still have too much power at Penn State?” This is just another cheap-ass shot at Penn State, which has proven to be fertile ground for sports hacks who have nothing better to write about.
If you haven’t read or don’t want to read the article, its premise is that by “firing” Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli, the long-time team physician for Penn State football, the University has demonstrated that yet again, football rules the roost. Huh? Say whut?
Since when does any administrator not have the ability and right to choose personnel for his or her organization? The article attempts to blame Sebastianelli’s “firing” on athletic director Dave Joyner’s purported long-standing grudge against Sebastianelli. The evidence of such a feud is flimsily presented. Even if the conflict existed, so what? Doesn’t Joyner have the right to run his ship the way he sees fit? The author tries to discredit Joyner as being underqualified (or unqualified) to do the job of athletic director. I have no problem with opinions about proper qualifications, as they’re subjective. But what does this have to do with athletics having power at Penn State?
Furthermore, Sebastianelli wasn’t actually fired. He was kicked upstairs. “Percussive sublimation” is what Lawrence J. Peter called it in “The Peter Principle.” What is wrong with that? Highly respected and revered offensive coordinator Fran Ganter was given the same treatment by the sainted Joe Paterno and we all accepted the move. Sebastianelli is still at least titularly in charge of sports medicine at Penn State. Why is it necessary to have an orthopedic surgeon at every football practice? Isn’t a sniffle doc good enough? If someone breaks a leg, they go to the hospital, where there are lots of ortho guys and gals. Sebastianelli is still there if they need him and will still perform surgery on players as needed.
Here’s a good one:
“O’Brien hired Penn State alum Tim Bream, who worked with Joyner at the ’92 Olympics, as athletic trainer in February 2012. Sources involved in health care for Penn State athletics who spoke with SI on the condition of anonymity say they saw Bream, who does not have a medical degree, engage in practices normally reserved for doctors, such as giving players anti-inflammatory drugs without a prescription and lancing a boil on a player’s neck. University medical sources also said that Bream told physicians to stop talking with the parents of players and that doctors should not spend as much time with the team.”
Turns out that Bream might have been dispensing Voltaren, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Although it is prescription only, so was ibuprofen at one time. This class of drugs includes aspirin, ibuprofen, relafen, etc. The same side-effects and precautions apply to all of them. I suppose we’re getting into spirit of the law versus letter of the law issues here; however, I doubt that handing out anti-inflammatories to guys with sore knees with blanket authorization by a doctor somewhere in the chain is something to be particularly concerned about. Lancing a boil isn’t exactly major surgery — it’s usually done as self-surgery. Come on, SI! Find something really wrong.
The folks in the Lasch Building unfortunately dignified this hit piece with a response or two. I think that’s reflexive after all the crap that has been slung at Penn State during the past year-and-a-half; nevertheless, I find it somewhat unsettling. Whether or not there is any substance to the allegations made by SI, Penn State should not feel obligated to defend itself. The University we know and love should keep a stiff upper lip and do business as usual.
The bottom line? Making personnel moves in the medical staff does not imply that athletics have too much power. It merely means that executive decisions are being made internally, not at the behest of the ever critical, mud-slinging press.