Probably protecting himself, former Penn State University Joe Paterno gifted his home to his wife for $1 – because he knows the anvil of the law is about to crack him down. Meanwhile, ten more victims came forward earlier this week, more victims Paterno and a whole host of others could have helped by exposing Sandusky. Instead, he took faster action to protect his property that what he did to protect innocent kids.
It is baffling that sensible adults jumped out the gate defending Joe Paterno, joining sides with worshipping, insulated and naïve kids. Those who love PSU football, admire the program and played football – or had any remote connection to it – decided to hop on the “Joe Pa” bandwagon.
Last weekend, Penn State played its first football game. It had to continue with its last game of the season without the “beloved” Paterno, the “winningnest” coach in college football history, disgraced and fired for failing to report the disturbing rape of a child to police.
There is happiness in PSU’s 17-14 loss to Nebraska. Not because I revel in another’s loss, but because this particular loss was symbolic. Still, it’s not enough vindication to the victims for the abuse they suffered and will sustain for the rest of their lives.
However, the loss triggered the dismantling of an institution which bred the type of atmosphere where its members felt compelled to do anything and everything to protect it, even shield knowledge of sexual abuse and rape of minors.
The reason why most of those named in the State of Pennsylvania’s charging document against Sandusky remained quiet is because they had loyalty to that institution, putting it first over standards of decency. Football first and by any means necessary.
To those who say students and players shouldn’t suffer because they are innocent casualties to the scandal, I say: tough luck. Such is life. Games are lost. In all this, people still forget that we are still talking about a game. With Saturday’s loss, the Joe Pa supporters were left to deal with the reality that everyone else outside of State College understands human suffering takes priority.
If not for football worship, the Joe Pa empathizers would have fully appreciated the gravity of the allegations. Penn State athletic program inhabitants, described as “Happy Valley” grew up idolizing Coach Joe Paterno. So much so that they became desensitized to the situation.
Football worship clouds the ability to have the same level of outrage, disappointment and disgust over the cover up as every other normal person who learned of it had. Those who protested seemed to have substantially little to no sympathy or compassion for the victims. If they did, passionately rioting over the dismissal of someone who was in a position to do something about it is the wrong way to go.
They were willing to make any and all excuses for Joe Pa’s personal culpability, arguing that JoePa did the bare minimum required administratively. Never mind his moral duty to call the cops. They apportion different levels of blame and assign minimum blame to Paterno compared to Assistant Coach Michael McQueary who witnessed one incident; a couple of janitors who also saw inappropriate contact; prosecutors who let Sandusky go with a slap on his wrist in 1998; and the university for being aware of the 1998 charges but not doing their part to make sure Sandusky got investigated.
Each party in this scandal is independently culpable of his own act or omission.
JoePa apologists ardently and fervently defended Joe Pa with the very limited information they have about the one incident named in the complaint. The investigation is still under way. It may very well be revealed that Joe Pa knew of other incidents.
How can one really argue the case for a man who sanctioned the ongoing abuse of boys by turning a blind eye?
Now is the time for PSU’s athletic program to go on hiatus, a time to smoke out all the problems and to uncover how deep and wide the scandal is. To do anything less is permitting the continuance of a culture that encouraged the Mafia-type atmosphere that appears to exist there now, a place where others were forsaken so that a code of secrecy could flourish.
From janitor to junior coach to whomever else may have witnessed one of Sandusky’s horrific acts on young boys, they each decided that the football program was valued more – or they simply feared the repercussions. The only way to dismantle a twisted and misplaced value system is to tear the house down completely and build it anew – similar to a crack house or a brothel in a neighborhood needing revitalization.
After it is demolished, the neighborhood will look disheveled. But, it will eventually come back to life, a stronger, cleaner and brand new structure erected in its place.
The block has a chance to shine once again.
Penn State will rise again. But, in these early stages, the last thing its occupants want to do is make excuses and appoint blame. Going on the record in defense and support of wrongdoers – without knowing all the facts – may not be the best thing to do. PSU students might want to watch what they post on Facebook and tweet up live, perhaps considering a name change if they were caught on camera rioting for a misguided mission. Do you really want to put it all on the line defending this guy?