by Damion White
Jerry Sandusky is allegedly a criminal, sexual predator, pedophile. Mike McQueary is allegedly a coward. The Penn State University board of trustees and those who blindly support the board’s decision-making are, in my opinion, acting hypocritically.
The society in which we live, where the celebration of mediocrity is rampant (have you seen an episode of Jersey Shore?), where we have become obsessed with validating our own shortcomings by uplifting the shortcomings of others, and where the fall of a star validates our defense of never achieving such success in the first place. This Penn State issue is a tragic example of our collective inability to be reverent, compassionate, and responsible in tandem.
The fall of Joe Paterno and its subsequent celebration is the societal washing-of-hands; a reflexive attempt at exonerating ourselves from living amongst friends, family and neighbors who commit acts of pedophilia.
Mine is not a point of view meant to be provocative. Mine is a point of view of one who has been abused and who got through it alone (I’ve never said this publicly, and only once have I said it privately). Mine is a point of view of one who grew up the son of a nationally acclaimed high school basketball coach, and who has competed as a member of an NCAA Division I football program. I think I understand, better than most, the dynamics of relationships forged among coaches who spend upwards of 80 hours per week completely immersed in football, breaking down film, architecting game plans and tending to player-personnel issues for 7 months of the 10 that school is in session.
Straightaway it seems unlikely that Joe Paterno – a significantly older man than Sandusky – would have had a deeply personal relationship with Sandusky. Joe Paterno was the CEO of the Penn State football program; Sandusky a mid-manager. How many CEO’s do you know that maintain deeply personal relationships with mid-managers, much younger mid-managers, no less?
In no way am I attempting to trivialize what the victims have endured, nor do I condone being silent and doing nothing in the face of terrible acts such as child molestation. However, I do mean to take issue with the mob antics, opportunistic morality, celebrity poaching, stereotyping collegiate coaches, and outright deflection characterizing this case (by design) that has occurred as a direct result of the way this was handled by the PSU board of trustees.
It seems unfathomable to me that the Penn State board could not foresee that the very public spectacle created by announcing the firing of Paterno and PSU president Graham Spanier would set off a media firestorm (and the now infamous knee jerk reaction on campus) putting on trial Paterno’s name, Penn State’s football program and top tier Division I football as a whole. It seems more unfathomable that the general public could not foresee that the PSU board would be motivated to deflect the gaze in this way. Where was the recourse for eyewitnesses McQueary and the unnamed janitor? Where was our contempt for those who allegedly saw Sandusky in action and didn’t hit him in the head with a lead pipe? How is it that so few people are dismayed that Joe Paterno has made more headlines and talk shows than: “Child Molester Discovered on Penn State University Campus?”
So to those who are reveling in what is the fallen star of Joe Paterno and to those who are wishing for the Penn State football team – most of whom were pre-teens when this allegedly transpired – to lose, you are wrong. Those athletes are innocent; they have even less to do with this than Joe Paterno.
And simply because Joe Paterno was powerful, the measure of his integrity cannot be whittled down to a decision to report a second-hand eyewitness account told to him by a completely adult, completely capable Michael McQueary.
Finally (and this may come as a surprise): university administrators – though they are not as publicly visible – have just as much, and in some cases far more clout in a university’s community – than even the most famous football coaches who tend to be less public figures on non-game days and when outside the confines of the sports complex.
Damion works independently as a social media and social media analytics consultant. He is experienced in creating mass marketing campaigns for musicians and Fortune 500 brands alike. Damion was a letter winner in Football and in Basketball while studying at Davidson College in Davidson North Carolina. He was also a two-year starter at quarterback and participated in the 2002 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.