Andrew Taglianetti, with a brief and unscripted display of instinctive character, yesterday provided a moral example for the adults who have so calculatedly diminished college football and educational institutions in recent months.
Taglianetti (left), a fourth-year junior at Pitt, spent the first week of this semester's academic calendar not in class but instead in Alabama, learning that football trumps academics at Pitt. He was in Birmingham to participate in low-grade television programming masquerading as a bowl game, a farce whose result was not only deemed unworthy of mention on the Post-Gazette's main online sports page this morning but indeed was listed fourteenth -- of fourteen stories -- on the P-G page devoted to Pitt athletics.
Long after it had been determined that Pitt would lose to an unranked team from a lackluster conference, Andrew Taglianetti was still playing hard in the fourth quarter against Southern Methodist University. He tackled SMU runner Jared Williams with a clean, low, shoulder-first hit that, by gruesome happenstance, snapped Williams' femur. Taglianetti knew immediately that Williams had been severely injured; the break could be heard along the sideline. Taglianetti was responsible, but not culpable, for Williams' injury, but that distinction did not diminish Taglianetti's vividly displayed anguish. Taglianetti did not calculate; he immediately put his hands to his head, fell to his knees, touched his forehead to the ground, and rose to curse fate. Despite the apparent emotional devastation, Taglianetti approached Williams in an obvious expression of regret as trainers assisted Williams for several minutes. When Williams, prone on a gurney, was ready to leave the field for a hospital, Taglianetti stood with Williams (right), empathetically tapping the injured man's chest. Taglianetti seemed shaken for several minutes after play resumed.
Taglianetti's exhibition of sportsmanship, accountability, perspective, and decency would deserve credit in any circumstance. Its purity and context, however, created a striking, instructive comparison with the self-serving, substandard conduct of the grown-ups overseeing the seedy business of football at Pitt and Penn State. Penn State administrators, who focused on public relations and money after it was revealed that their institution's deplorable conduct had concealed and facilitated the rape of children, and Pitt officials, who have poorly served the student athletes they are ostensibly educating, could learn much from Andrew Taglianetti.
There is scant evidence that Penn State or Pitt has learned the appropriate lessons yet, but so long as our Andrew Taglianettis -- who deserve better from their elders -- are better than their elders, we are hopeful.
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