Again, today's post is not funny. I know that this is supposed to be a humor blog, but there are things that are effecting me in the news and if I don't get them out here I just keep thinking about them and researching them and obsessing over them. Today's post is about the abuse scandal that has rocked Penn State University and the nation. I cannot keep obsessing over these kinds of depraved acts because that kind of evil will eat me alive. I needed to get it out. I told you that I blog because I cannot afford therapy and that is apparent by today's post. So close the door and pay attention, therapy is in session.
I wasn't going to blog about the Penn State scandal. I was upset by the stories coming out -- physically sick to my stomach because I have a son who is the age of the victims and I know that I would literally kill anyone who harmed him or my other children. I read Nicole Knepper's blog about this travesty, Nittany Liars, and I thought that it was so well written, so poignant, and so full of truth that I didn't think I could possibly add anything to what she had said. She is a professional counselor, a mother, and her words have more weight than anything I could say. But I cannot sit quietly as the details of the allegations that apparently spanned at least 15 years are coming out and the Penn State 'Family' actually protests against the firing of the university president and Joe Paterno. What I say has no degree behind it. I am not a counselor. I am not an officer of the law. I am not an expert in mental health. I am a human being. I am a mother. And I am OUTRAGED.
If you have been living under a rock, go HERE to see the timeline of events that led to the firing of Joe Paterno, university President Graham Spanier, and the arrest of Jerry Sandusky, the former 'right-hand" to Joe Paterno. There have been 40 counts of felony sex abuse of minors levied against former Paterno assistant Jerry Sandusky and there may be more coming.
I love college football. I love everything about it -- the rivalries, the cracking of helmets as they meet over the ball, the yelling at the TV, the impressive runs by kids just barely old enough to vote, and the coaches. There are some coaches that I love to hate -- Steve Spurrier comes immediately to mind -- but as a general rule, the coaches, especially the long term ones, are part of a teams identity. I love iconic coaches like Bear Bryant, Pat Dye, Knute Rockne and, I thought until this week, Joe Paterno. Paterno has 409 victories -- a record for major college football -- won two national titles and guided five teams to unbeaten, untied seasons. He reached 300 wins faster than any other coach. He is a legend.
But Pa Joe has fallen from grace.
His role in the scandal over Jerry Sandusky's abuse has eclipsed anything that he ever did for his team, his school, or his sport because he knew. This man KNEW what was going on. He had known since at least 2002 when one of his players (Mike McQueary, who now happens to be the wide-receivers coach at Penn State) came to him and told him that he had witnessed Sandusky in the team showers with a young boy of about 10 years old. Paterno simply informed athletic director Tim Curley without looking into the details, and apparently left it at that. He now says that he was unclear on what McQueary had said he saw. He never understood exactly what was going on with Sandusky and the 10-year old boy. I'm sorry, but you knew that an old man had a 10-year old boy in the showers. You didn't need to know anything else. You should have called the police as you were running straight to the locker room to stop whatever was going on, and THEN called your boss. Bill Littlefield with NPR put it best. He said "Another coach at another university might be able to sidestep criticism by maintaining that he'd passed the buck to the appropriate bureaucrat, but it doesn't work that way for icons." No it doesn't. And for me, as a mom and a HUMAN BEING, it doesn't work that way for anyone. And what about McQueary? This guy was a player, but he was a 28 year old graduate student at the time -- not some kid who could blame youth and ignorance on his inactivity. He saw a boy being sodomized by a pedophile and he fled the building and told the coach. He didn't go to the cops. He didn't try to help the boy being victimized. He continued to play and later to work for Paterno and Penn State knowing all the time who and what Sandusky was and knowing that he was still in contact with kids. Was his job a reward for his silence and compliance? Who knows, but it makes me wonder. After the 2002 report, the University officials decided to take away Sandusky's keys to the locker rooms. They knew that this man was making children his victims and their solution was to force him to find a more private place to do it. They didn't want the scandal. They thought if they kept it off of school property then it wasn't their problem. But they allowed him to maintain an office directly across from the Penn State Athletic Complex. By not turning him over to the authorities, they basically gave him permission. They failed to uphold their own creed: "May no act of ours bring shame."
When the Penn State Board of Trustees finally decided yesterday that they would fire Paterno and University President Graham Spanier, Paterno was "shocked" and said "I have come to work every day for the last 61 years with one clear goal in mind, to serve the best interests of this university and the young men who have been entrusted to my care. I have the same goal today." I'm sorry but that's not good enough. Was it in the interest of the university to aid in the rape and molestation of young boys? Was it in the best interest of the young men in your care to subject them to a pedophile? No. And I don't care how shocked he claims to be, he KNOWS it. He failed. He failed at that meeting with McQueary in 2002 to make the right decision, the most important decision of his life, the decision that will now forever define who he is and how he's remembered. And then he failed over and over again for every minute of every day of every week and every year that he stayed silent.
The students of Penn State in their ignorance protested Paterno's firing. They rioted. They overturned a news van. They chanted "We want Joe! We want Joe!" ad nauseam in a vain attempt to get the board of trustees to hire him back. I have a message for them: Don't feel sorry for Joe Paterno. He's had his life. He had a great life and anything that he is suffering now is his own fault. He caused it by claiming to be a man of action and doing nothing to help the children that Sandusky ruined. His sorrow is his own fault -- a result of his own inactivity. Feel sorry for the victims of the abuse that Pa Joe allowed to continue, because they may never have a life. Many of them won't be able to trust. Or be able to love. Some of them won't be able to feel because of the crimes that they endured and you are worried about your football team? Whatever tears you shed for Paterno and his football legacy should be saved for the children that were victims of Sandusky, and ultimately of Paterno and the Penn State powerhouse that failed them in an attempt to protect itself.
What Sandusky did to God knows how many innocent young boys is sickening. It is depraved. It deserves a punishment much worse than anything that the legal system could possibly dish out. But I think that EVERYONE who knew and did nothing should be punished. There is no defense for the number of people in positions of authority who had an opportunity to stop Sandusky and did not. No, this isn't just about an 84-year-old Joe Paterno not taking more steps that might have stopped it. It's about everybody not taking more steps that might have stopped it. Every last one of them should be fired and charged with aiding in this abuse because that is what they did. They allowed it to continue. They swept it under the rug, and hoped it would go away. The victims here, the ones who have come forward, the ones who may come forward, and the ones who may never have the courage to come forward deserve to at least know that those who allowed them to be hurt be held responsible. Unfortunately, the list is long. Unfortunately, there is no way to know exactly how many knew and did nothing. And unfortunately, nothing that the law or the public can do to those involved will ever bring back the innocence that was lost.