Brandon Short, LaVar Arrington Only Add to the Shame in Happy Valley

Paul WardContributor IIIJanuary 8, 2012

Brandon Short in 1999
Brandon Short in 1999Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Among the revelations to be learned from the horror in Happy Valley is that the Penn State notion of "family" was a large part of the problem, above all, the notion of blind loyalty.  

All you can say now is that the Penn State football family is dysfunctional.  Divorce is the only alternative.  The dept. of social services needs to step in. Look for foster homes immediately.   

And try to place Brandon Short first.  He’s the Penn State alumnus who spoke up the other day to say, “Penn State is a family and it is real and if they choose to get rid of (Tom) Bradley and not hire a Penn State coach, then they've turned their backs on our entire family." 

He’s also been quoted to say, "It is the view of the vast majority of the Lettermen that they've been marginalized and their family is being destroyed." 

Before we get to family destruction, you may not remember Brandon Short’s place in football history.  He was an all-American selection in 1999 along with his Penn State teammate, LaVar Arrington, who was also upset with the coaching decision.  Short was a fourth-round pick who played for five seasons with the NY Giants, including an appearance in Super Bowl XXXV.  He also played two more seasons with the Carolina Panthers.  

He will be best remembered in the footnotes to the footnotes of NFL history for the time he tackled Chad Pennington during a preseason battle of New York, causing Pennington to miss six games with a broken wrist. 

Short will also be remembered for the time he got into a fistfight with his Giants teammate, Jeremy Shockey, who refused to participate in a hazing ritual in which rookies had to sing their fight song. Incidentally, Shockey’s fight song begins this way:


Miami, Miami, Miami, Hurricanes

Drive, drive you hurricanes

Keep right on goin’, up that scorin’

Drive on over the goal and on to victory…

Perhaps Shockey couldn’t remember the tune or the lyrics, or he felt they were just too stupid to recite, or more likely, he was not one to take orders. His tattoos suggest the iconoclast he is. 

About those tattoos, he once said, “I'm proud to live in this country, to have the right to express anything you want...I'm very American." 

No doubt Brandon Short feels he’s very American, too.  And no proof more than his allegiance to The Letterman’s Club, a Nitany Lion booster organization that helps with recruiting and otherwise keeps the ra-ra at maximum decibel.  Here’s how the organization describes it’s beginnings:

The Football Letterman's Club began in 1980. Buddy Tesner, class of 1975, was in medical school and visited State College in his uncle's Winnebago for one of the few games he was able to see since graduation. He and his wife, Candy, drove to the game in the Winnebago and arranged to meet and tailgate with former teammate, Tom Donchez. Throughout the course of the game Buddy and Tom met up with several other former players in the stands and/or in the restrooms and gave them directions to the Winnebago. After the game, Buddy Tesner, Tom Donchez, Buddy Ellis, Tommy Hull, Jim Rosecrans, Greg Murphy and others congregated in the parking lot. After some celebrating, the guys decided to call some of their former coaches.


It makes you think of the scene in the Barry Levinson film, Diner, when one of the characters remarks at the music at a wedding ceremony.  “What is that music?” she asks.  The Paul Reiser character replies, "Colt Marching Song. Sounds good, huh?"

As a member of Letterman’s Club, you get access to the Letterman’s Lounge, club merchandise, tickets and sideline passes.  You get parking permits, a membership card and a Ginsu knife.  Not to mention the exquisite pleasure of sitting around with your brothers and sisters to discuss family values and jokes you heard in—which was it?  The restroom, or the Winnebago?

The website history of the club includes this, 

Throughout the entire history of the Football Lettermen's Club, they have had great support coming from Sue Paterno down to Joe, throughout all the administrators and athletic directors, including our current athletic director, Tim Curley. 

In December, Tim Curley was placed on leave after having been arrested and charged with lying to a grand jury and failing to properly report what he had been told about in an incident involving Jerry Sandusky and a young boy.

All of which is to say that the Penn State "family" needs to be disbanded.  It has fallen into dishonor. Tom Bradley may be a great coach.  In any other circumstance, he might be the best choice.  But in this circumstance, he was with the program long enough that it seems incredulous that he didn't know something of the Sandusky affair. If he honestly didn't know, then he is an unintended victim.  But he still needs to go.

In the end, this program needs to be burned down and rebuilt.  And that should include the Letterman Club as well.  It's a wonder that no one in that organization hasn't more sense of what happened here and what the true consequences are.  This is not a family, it's a fraternity of tailgaters who do the greatest disservice to Penn State by their comments.  They only add to the sense that this is a community of people with no moral compass at all.

The hope is that the NFL would use its leverage in a situation like this to help programs reestablish themselves. That doesn't seem to have happened yet.

The hope is also that individual NFL players, present and past, would play a positive role in helping an institution come through a crisis. It's a great shame that the loudest voices to come out of Happy Valley these days are the most irresponsible.