It's been one week, though it feels like it's been a month. It's been only one week since the initial reports began to come from the place nestled among the quiet Pennsylvania hills known as "Happy Valley." One week since we first heard the initial reports of an ugly, horrible, 'I-still-can't-believe-it' story about the lives that had their innocence ripped from them unwillingly. A single week in our lives that shook the foundation of a proud university and living legend. I refuse to say a "once proud," university - they remain proud. They are, like the rest of us, shocked and astounded, yet they remain proud. They are proud of the institution - not of the man that perpetrated these vile, horrific acts. That, quite simply, is what makes this so difficult. In the past week, we have all been bombarded with news reports by media from around the country. We've heard reports on television and radio, read things on Facebook and Twitter. Stories have gotten twisted, facts have been askew, and we have, without benefit of hearing from some of this involved, rushed to judgement. Before I go any further, I want to point out one thing that I DO NOT want to be in question:
I believe that sexual abuse of a child is a horrible, despicable, nasty, vile act that needs to be dealt with immediately.
Now....I felt that needed to be said because of the comments I've had leveled at me during the week for expressing an opinion. Please know that I absolutely feel that way and offer a quick story as demonstration of how I feel. While living in Virginia, my next door neighbor was a State Trooper. On several occasions, we discussed people that perpetrated these crimes. My daughter, at that time, was three-years old and I gave my neighbor specific instructions. "If anything, God forbid, should ever happen like that and it involves my daughter, you need to come to me first immediately. I want you to handcuff me to a chair...then tell me what happened. If you don't...and I find out while you aren't around, you'll be investigating a homicide." To this day, I cannot imagine a parent that would not feel that way...which makes parts of the story coming from Penn State that much harder to imagine. This didn't just happen once, allegedly, it was reported to the police years ago. I don't though, want to get a head of myself. As I said earlier, a few friends have questioned my comments earlier in the week regarding the situation and Coach Paterno. Let me say this - I have read the Grand Jury report which, truth be told, is not for the faint of heart. I have read previous articles regarding the earliest accounts of this monster's (Jerry Sandusky) acts. I have read several blogs, as well as many media reports, that want to crucify JoePa, as he is affectionately known the world over. For everything I've read.....and for the reports that will, most certainly, be forthcoming....I am trying to figure out why we've become fixated on what seems like Joe and only Joe. Granted, he has been on the coaching staff for 61 years and the head coach for 46 years. I get it. I understand why, with a "living legend" such as he, it's the biggest part of the story. The fact that this man first announced his retirement, then was fired a short time later, is bound to be the focal point of the reports. With that said, let me lay out the facts as I understand them. If I am incorrect, please feel free to let me know. As I said, trying to muddle through the "news" as compared to the opinions has been trying at best. I realize, too, there are events other than what I will write about, however these are the ones that illustrate my "big picture," and where I have difficulty with this.
As far back as 1998, two detectives were part of a "sting" operation where Sandusky admitted to the mother of a boy that he had showered with her son. He admitted it was "inappropriate" and asked for her forgiveness, though he knew he would not get it from her. At that time, the detective and a member of PA's dept of Public Welfare interviewed Sandusky, well aware of the admission to the mother. The Centre County District Attorney decided there would be No Charges Filed. Okay, that appears to be a huge red flag for me. There were no charges filed? He was allowed to remain at the school until June of 1999 when he retired. Even then, he still held 'Emeritus' status and had access to the school...as well as the charity where he met his victims, The Second Mile. In 2002, Sandusky was witnessed, not once but twice, performing sexual acts on minors. Though my skin is crawling as we speak, I apologize. trust me, it leads to my bigger point. I know, I know...hurry and get there. Bear with me. The first of these two incidents involved a janitor who, though he made a report to his supervisor and was instructed to speak with someone higher up the chain of command, was only a temporary employee who reported nothing after that. The other incident, the now-infamous 'McQueary' incident, involved the grad student witnessing another act in the showers at the football complex. He was seen by both Sandusky and the boy, yet left. he went to his office, phoned his father, then went to see Coach Paterno the following day. Paterno, in turn reported it to the Athletic Director, Tim Curley, and V-P for Business & Finance, Gary Schultz, who, it needs to be noted, was the head of the Penn State Police Dept. the same authority as a municipal police department.
Those facts, for the purpose of this little story, are all I need to explain my earlier sentiments. From there, as we all know now, Joe Paterno announced his retirement and was then, within hours, summarily fired by the Board of Trustees. The PA Attorney General stated, without question, that Coach Paterno did everything he was required to do by law. I know many of you, as I have been told (and Joe later admitted) feel he should have done more. That's part of the quandary for me. As was mentioned in a great piece I read by an attorney, he did report what he was told by the grad student, McQueary who actually saw the event taking place. As the attorney pointed out (hence, my quandary), for Joe to go to the police with information he was told could have opened him up to a charge of libel, not to mention the university to a lawsuit. Now, before everyone wants to scream at me, let me finish. Put yourself in that position - something I have wrestled with all week. Would you want to live in a society where someone can go to the police, based on something they were told, and report a crime against YOU? We've all seen it, too - someone with an ax to grind against a student, or an adult, claims to have been molested. Eventually we find out it was a false statement. Understand - I am not saying ANY of this was false. I'm merely asking - would you want to live in a society where that was possible? On the same note, many are crucifying him for not doing more - he had a moral obligation to go to the police. He did, actually, as I noted above. He should have continued when nothing happened. I understand. He has said so himself. He, however, did not sweep this under the rug or investigate it and close the case as the earlier detectives and DA did. Instead, he got fired for what is perceived as his lack of "doing the right thing." The Governor of PA, too, appears to be grandstanding with this horrific situation. The media is having a field day. Everyone wants to hang Paterno. All I am asking is, "Is that really fair to make him the scapegoat?" It should be noted, too, that the attorney representing a few of the boys involved feels that the Board of Trustees "got it wrong." He feels there was a rush to judgement regarding Coach Paterno which, he then noted, got the University in this mess in the first place.
I will say this - I have many friends that are the Penn State 'Faithful." I grew up, as many of us did, with only one name that was synonymous with Penn State - Joe Paterno. He's the only coach, until today, that ever roamed the sidelines in my lifetime. He has always been the model of class and a strong work ethic. Am I saying he could have or should have done more? Yes, in some capacity he should have continued to push for Sandusky's removal from the school. Trust me, though - there are more people that will lose their jobs and had more knowledge of this than Joe did. My friends, as I mentioned, are "Penn State Proud," and I believe they need to remain so. They will, I know. This has been difficult for everyone involved, most notably the children whose lives were indelibly and horrifically scarred forever. Their innocence was taken and for that, Jerry Sandusky must pay. Still, it has been an incredibly sad week. I will not minimize the victims, the boys, however I believe Joe was a victim as well. Say what you want - and many will - he did not perpetrate the act, reported what he was told had been witnessed, and the system failed these children. I hear the media talking of how his legend is tarnished. Perhaps. I believe, though, that he did more than many others. While he has been fired, Curley and Schultz are still part of the university, their attorney fees being paid by the school. Joe is on the outside. I don't agree with it. My fear, too, is that this will sadly and quickly affect the man. We watched Bear Bryant retire, on his terms, and die a mere month later.
No, this isn't a cheating scandal, it isn't tattoos traded for athletic items, it isn't an agent paying a player. This is far more serious and the man is taking responsibility for his inaction...after he did, in fact, act. We've crucified and vilified him. We've attacked him in the press. We've extinguished a light that, quite honestly, shone bright for many years. Joe won't be the same now...and neither will we. Our support of him is not"blind," as some have written, nor are we following him like lemmings. We admired him for what he did...and does...for the youth of the world. Sadly, they tell me that's what he will be remembered for - what he didn't do. I disagree. Not in my heart, anyway.
Until next time..................