Sadness, Multiplied

November 8

“If we can’t protect our kids, we as a society are pathetic” — Matt Millen on ESPN Sportscenter Tuesday.

If you believe that, Penn State has become Pathetic State. As the story continues to unfold, the repeated lack of courage among those involved is stunning.

That lack of courage began the first time Jerry Sandusky was allegedly caught in the shower of the school’s football facility with young victims in 1998. Then, with the school allowing the retired defensive coordinator continued access. Then, the well-publicized events of 2002. And now, nine years later.

As the story unfolds I am having a change of heart in one regard. Mike McQueary, the graduate assistant who witnessed the 2002 sexual abuse, must shoulder some responsibility. He was not an authority, but he was an adult.

Under the letter of the law, he did the proper thing in reporting the incident to another authority in Joe Paterno. Paterno then went to Tim Curley, and Curley to Gary Schultz. All along, nothing was reported to police, and no one — including the man who witnessed the attack — followed up or inquired about the young victim. All bound by protocol or institution, incapable of critical or moral thinking.

The rest is sordid, disgusting history.

I’ll give Curley and Schultz this much credit: they quit when it was obvious they couldn’t continue their jobs. If Paterno and school president Graham Spanier really care about Penn State they will do the same, as will others. Somehow, I don’t count on that happening, based on the way they’ve acted up to this point.

When I was a child, my Dad used to talk about “short-term thinking.” He said it would often get you into trouble. Failure to see the big picture or the long-term consequences of our actions is a universal human failing.

Penn State’s now out-of-control scandal is a classic case of short-term thinking: everyone worried about their job, worried about trouble or publicity, worried about little past their own noses, just wanting the whole thing to go away. Ostriches with their heads in the sand, unable to see the dune buggy bearing down on them.

In a world that barely knows what a moral compass is anymore, we are seeing more and more examples of how people do wrong, try to cover up or ignore the problem instead of nipping it in the bud. It almost always ends disastrously.

As a result of short-term thinking by so-called authorities, a couple of Jerry Sandusky’s alleged victims became three, then four, then eight, then possibly more if you believe the latest reports. Young lives ruined because too many people lacked courage and couldn’t be bothered with Sandusky or his alleged proclivities. They wanted to keep their jobs, but nine years later, everyone must go.

It’s so sad for so many people, especially the alleged victims, who when they were young couldn’t be expected to fight back. Now adults, one after another has summoned up the courage to finally say something. God bless them.

It’s sad for anyone connected with the university — student or alumni, football player or professor — who had nothing to do with this depressing chain of events. A university with a previously good reputation that is forever stained. ( By the way, the students rallying in support outside Paterno’s home aren’t helping that reputation. )

It’s sad for Paterno, a relatively good guy in the world of college football who at the very least suffered a cataclysmic lapse in judgement. At worst, enveloped in his college football cocoon, he is partly responsible for allowing Sandusky to continue ( allegedly) molesting kids.

If the victim was a child or grand-child of Paterno, would he have followed a “chain of command ?” Would he have conferred with an attorney, or with his superior a day later ? Would he have followed protocol ? HELL NO.

If McQueary witnessed Sandusky abusing a family member, would he have gone to Paterno ? HELL NO. He would have beaten the crap out of Sandusky. Part of me wonders why he didn’t anyway, or at least intervene.

Perhaps because he knew Sandusky, he was reluctant to take such action. The same could be said of other Penn State officials, although a previous incident had been reported on campus. Maybe they didn’t really believe Sandusky would commit such a heinous act. Whatever.

This is not a rush to judgement. It’s a rush to necessary quick action. Not by appointing a committee, as Trustees plan to do, but by at long last demonstrating courage and cleaning house, before the stench overtakes everyone in Happy Valley.

For those whose professional lives at the school may end, I can’t summon any sympathy. Not even for Paterno. Their woes are nothing compared to those of the kids, and they are likely to leave financially secure.

As for Sandusky, the legal system will run its course and we’ll be forced to listen to some very gruesome details unless he decides to plead guilty and spare the victims the agony of testifying. If found guilty, he will hopefully be spirited away to a societal cave, never to see the light of day again.

This case is a reminder of something else, too: we have to stop deifying college coaches. They can be role models at best, but they are human beings like everyone else, and in major college sports they are paid way too much money.

It’s the saddest chapter in what has been a very bad year for college football, a sport that has almost become too big for its own good. Soaked in money, it is co-opting coaches, athletes, and certain media outlets.

Dad was right. Short-term thinking gets you into trouble. As sports fans and human beings, we need to open our eyes to the bigger picture, and act accordingly more often in the future.

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2 Responses to “Sadness, Multiplied”

  1. The Mimster Says:

    The loss of a moral compass ……… you are right. These students/football players take lessons from college and doing the right thing regardless is always the right thing. It is no wonder that some CEOs and Management of big companies have no morals – perhaps they were shown examples in college and have carried that lesson on in life.
    Anyone and everyone who had the slightest knowledge of this situation should have been outraged – and they absolutely should have taken giant steps to see that the police were notified. Worrying about the alumni and their job is no excuse to not be a man who does the right thing – especially when children are in danger. Penn State will forever be a sad pathetic example.

  2. Jim from Napa Says:

    Great Job Ray; I love it. Very sad day. I think 2 things are shown. College football is too powerful and too big sometimes; extreme dirt on the sport. I also see how society still doesn’t protect kids.

    I just read an article on starlets as young as 8 doing sexual photos in famous magazines. Ambercrombie and fitch with sexy bathing suits for 8 year olds; and women putting little girls in beauty pageants dressed very sexual. Many commented in the article that kids of today are adults at 16 and it’s not a big deal.

    Well some of the victims were 15-16. Society can’t have it both ways. I also say where some of the parents. They had to know. ESPN said that they were lied to by the school. Well if my kid says someone did something, screw the school. I call the cops.

    I just think NO adult protected these poor kids. Very sick, and very sad. thanks

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