The college sports myth machine definitely needs a new gear. Because even cranked all the way up to max for Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s record-breaking 903rd victory Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden — with all proper hype machinery in place to coat him in heroism — it still wasn’t strong enough to overcome the feeling that the mountain Krzyzewski just climbed is a pile of dirt that has been heaped for many years on the top of a sinkhole. And that sinkhole is giving way.
Krzyzewski even played his part in reminding us of that when he tried this week to form some sort of defense of the ousted Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, calling him a great man and insinuating that shifting cultural expectations had something to do with massively mishandling child sexual abuse allegations. It felt like a bit of college coaching wagon-circling, which made even people who like Krzyzewski cringe. And this all comes so shortly after we were supposed to be celebrating a milestone Paterno victory too, back when he seemed above reproach. And it happens amid frantic N.C.A.A. reform efforts attempting to stave off the demise of the whole system.
I see no reason to think that the sinkhole is giving way. I see no evidence that “the demise of the whole system” is imminent or even on the far horizon. I have said it before and will say it one more time: Americans’ love of college sports is so great, and so thoroughly trumps all other considerations, that I cannot imagine any scandal large enough to put a significant dent in fans’ enthusiasm.