Weekly Roundup 11/15/2011

Joe Paterno, and the end of the iconic, eternal college coach
John Feinstein, The Washington Post, Nov. 13, 2011

Climate of secrecy led to crumbling of Camelot
Ron Bracken, Centre (Pa.) Daily Times, Nov. 11, 2011

Synopsis: The firing of Penn State’s legendary coach Joe Paterno last week (Nov. 9) in the wake of a child sex-abuse scandal involving his former assistant Jerry Sandusky dominated not just the sports sections but the front pages. Noted sports journalist Feinstein opines that the dismissal helps confirm the end of the “iconic” coach. With the pressure for success intensifying, even a revered coach may be vulnerable after a losing season, much less a national scandal. Meanwhile, Bracken, former sports editor of the local newspaper in Penn State’s home county, recalls a climate of secrecy on the Penn State campus that long antedated the current controversy.

Takeaway: “The attitude that prevails at Penn State,” Bracken writes, is “[p]rotect the image at all costs, and if the truth has to be whitewashed to hide it, well, break out the buckets and brushes.”

For a broader look at gridiron controversies, watch for my report, “College Football,” being published later this week.

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


The Tweaker
Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker, Nov. 14, 2011

Synopsis: The vast tide of recent post-mortem hagiography to the contrary, Steve Jobs was less a creative genius than an editorial expert – gifted at picking just the right configuration of details to make uniquely user-friendly products. As the saying goes, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal,” and Jobs was an artist-thief who achieved techno greatness. Apple’s graphical user interface – the screen icons and mouse – were invented by engineers at Xerox, where Jobs saw and appropriated them to create the then-unique Macintosh computer, in whose mold virtually all user interfaces are made today. But others borrowing Apple’s ideas made him furious.

Takeaway: When Bill Gates saw the Macintosh and knew that it was good, Microsoft Windows, a somewhat clumsier but obviously Apple-derived new system, quickly appeared. Jobs “summoned Gates…to Apple’s Silicon Valley headquarters…. ‘You’re ripping us off!’ he shouted. ‘I trusted you, and now you’re stealing from us!’ Gates looked back at Jobs calmly….’Well, Steve,’ Gates responded. ‘I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.’”

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer