Who is Penn State?

The abuse scandal at Penn State has new findings. Former FBI director, Louis Freeh, interviewed hundreds of people, went through millions of emails and came to the startling conclusion that Paterno, Spanier, Schultz and Curley, the four highest posts at State College, blatantly covered up Sandusky’s behavior, thereby making them culpable via sin of omission. Whatever minimal effort they may have put into alerting child safety officers or police, they didn’t solve the problem. Several boys were raped after the “four heads” learned of Sandusky’s deviant sexuality. They knew that to fire him, and bring criminal charges against the architect of “Linebacker U” would be accepting a deathblow to the football program and ultimately the university that was built through that same football revenue. They allowed Sandusky to retire in 1999, leaving him with keys to the Lasch building, a 170K$ severance payment, and “emeritus” status. This child predator was given a license to perpetrate his heinous sickness. I don’t believe the “four heads” knew exactly what was happening with their actions, which would be a malicious act against the children who were harmed. I do believe they wanted to sweep as much as they could under the rug, hoping nobody would ever check for dust.

The culture of capitalist America, the idea of making and selling your brand can be a successful idea. However, it rarely comes without a cost. Nike sells 100$ shoes, made for quarters in sweatshops in Indonesia. Martha Stewart listened to stock tips outside the general knowledge and served time for it. Their brands were damaged but not ruined. Penn State’s brand of hard-nosed football and strong defense, pioneered by the legendary JoePa, is now a brand that is showing the detrimental effects of what protecting that brand over natural morality can do. I’m wondering if PSU can come out of this.

I’m becoming rather numb to the ridiculousness of modern life. The mortgage scandal of 2008, the lies of explanation for the Iraq War, this new LIBOR problem that I definitely haven’t wrapped my mind around are all part of rich or powerful people thinking, while isolated in their own warped worlds, that something is a good idea and in their best interest. People will always act according to their best interest. Bankers thought they could make a pile of money on credit-default loan gambling, Bush thought he could make a name for himself as “the great liberator” of Iraq, ensuring a 2nd term, and I’m certain LIBOR is about some wealthy idiots trying to make more money than they already have. Paterno probably thought he was protecting his image by hiding his knowledge and sticking his head in the sand. The point is that people are flawed individuals. Sandusky is flawed, Paterno is flawed, government, banking, even society is flawed. We are all imperfect and trying to live our own way. Sandusky, in many of his interviews, admits to naked “horseplay” with showering pre-teens the way someone might admit to eating sardines, they know it might sound weird to others but it’s normal to them and they like it.

It’s a terrible story; it’s a story that should never have existed. It’s a story that could have ended back in the 20th century when the patriarch of Pennsylvania found out that his creepy eyed, vampire toothed LB coach was accused of sexual impropriety with children and removed him from the PSU program in all forms. Granted, it’s hard to see someone you’ve known as a friend to be such a pervert, but sometimes people pull their wool over you. JoePa’s responsibility was to make a good football team; he did, with two national titles and over 400 wins. His responsibility was to make sure his student-athletes graduated from school, he did, PSU has the highest graduation rate of any major D-1 football program at 89%. He also has a responsibility to set a good example, which he did not do. All the millions of fundraising dollars for the campus, all the wins, all the bowl games do not forgive this oversight of justice. People are furious on ESPN, people are furious who read the Freeh Report, people are furiously writing about a dead man who has never given his complete side of the story. Joe’s son, Jay Paterno, when interviewed, came across in a rather stuttering, lawyer-speak version of “Let’s wait until all the facts are in,” type of manner. Joe will never get to speak and that may be a good or bad thing. We are left with only questions to his part in this mess, the worst collegiate scandal we have ever seen. He had a long, prolific, honorable sporting career, but as two wrongs don’t make a right, two rights can’t undo a wrong.

Penn State students, who rioted back in 2011, after the unceremonious firing of their hero, look quite foolish in retrospect. The video, only nine months old, looks so tragic to see smart, energetic young people filming and cheering with extreme delight in the fatuous mind of herd mentality. Screaming their chants in confused rage while flipping news vans interspersed with support for Paterno was only an emotional response to an emotional subject. They were wrong to blindly support based on faith. Would those students ever come in such numbers to the aid of one of their teachers, or priests who were fired by phone? He was the face of Penn State and by firing him in such a hasty manner it was like the students were told all of Penn State is to blame. It is important to remember that Paterno was not the perpetrator of the crimes, merely a subdued ally.

We are Penn State is the rallying call of “Happy Valley.” They should remain so. The good people who teach, coach and run that school should feel no shame for their institution. It was merely a failure of that institution’s former leaders to stop this ball from gaining the momentum it has now accumulated. Unfortunately, this hideous ball of undeterred child molestation is now rolling over the entire university. Criminal and civil cases will be part of the campus news for the next 20 years, if not longer; and that is if the school can handle the negative press that will be thrust upon it, not to mention the financial strain inherent in such scandalous occasions.

Having dozens of friends and family who graduated from the great institution of Penn State, I can only imagine the pain they feel seeing their alma mater being dragged through such a muddy, disgusting road. I can only imagine the pain of Sandusky’s family knowing he was so troubled and injured mentally. I can never imagine the pain of the children whose lives are forever changed after their encounters with that grey-haired, twitching wretch of worm excrement. Lives, careers, legacies, universities and ultimately sports, will be changed now.

I have long believed that morals, all morals, are subjective. There is a long list of things you can say are intrinsically wrong, yet the prisons are filled with those who commit those very same crimes. Do they all believe what they did was wrong, not all of them. We all must act according to our own morality judgments. We must all be judged by our actions. If we judge on conscious action, we must also judge on conscious non-action. There is only what is done and what is not done. Joe Paterno, in one chapter of weakness and egoism, set among a lifetime of strength and charity, falls under the not done column.

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