I wasn’t sure I was going to write about this, but I guess I am. Wish I didn’t feel the need, or that there was anything to write about. But there you go. I’m not going to recount the details at any level. That’s been done plenty in other places.
I have been fascinated by this story. Not by the crimes, the terrible failures of leaders, the men who stood by and did nothing in exactly the situation where any person with a shred of compassion would have taken marked action. Those things are tragic, but I think speak more to social inertia and to the incredible failure of a system that is supposedly designed to protect our youth. I don’t want to hear more of that than I already have.
I am, though, fascinated by the reaction of those uninvolved, or at least those whose involvement goes not further than their connection with the school, the football program, the coach, or to sports in general. People who have made their voice heard on talk radio shows, ESPN, local newspapers and, of course, the Interwebs. And far, far too many have spoken up in defense of Joe Paterno. (For the record, I define too many, in this case, as any number greater than zero.)
Much of the bickering is over at whose feet would should lay the blame for this tragedy. Some, quite understandably, demand the blame belongs to the perpetrator. No argument here. There’s not a punishment great enough. But many of those people defend the coach, as he reported what he heard through “proper channels.” The administration handed it to the police. The police investigated and decided nothing need be done. Time marched on, as did the string of events and victims. The system failed. Which of the people should take the blame?
Here’s the thing. There’s no need to point fingers in the chain of command. Every last one of these men are culpable. Those who are concerned about the “legend” of JoePa are in arms that he was fired over the phone. Stay tuned. It’s not out of the question that a prosecutor decides to go ballistic on this case and file charges against everyone who knew anything. And I have to admit, I’d be just fine with that. If you knew something, anything, and stood idly by, that in my mind makes you part of what happened.
There’s another aspect that I’m waiting to hear, and that’s the NCAA response. On the same day that Paterno was fired, ESPN ran this story that Ohio State (sorry, THE Ohio State) “will face a ‘failure to monitor’ charge in addition to more allegations of rules violations by its troubled football program.” That big deal about players getting free tattoos seems a little silly now, right? Are you sure that “failure to monitor” note wasn’t intended for someone a little further east?
The NCAA is ready to step in whenever revenue is threatened or there is a perceived inequity in player treatment. Except Cam Newton, of course. How could they consider standing idle in this case? It may be that they are waiting for the facts to come out, then plan to step in. I hope that’s the case. If not, it will be as great a failure as they have ever had. They have handed out their “death penalty” to programs for recruiting and eligibility violations. They take the team off the field, cancel scholarships, take away bowl and television appearances.
If you want to make sure schools, not to mention anyone who works for or with those schools in the capacity of watching over youths who come their way, take this to heart, you need to make a statement. A bold one.
Take away the Penn State football program.
I don’t mean a few scholarships. I don’t mean their bowl rights. I don’t mean their wins. I mean the whole thing. Shut it down. Shut it down tomorrow. Tell the world that there is a price to be paid by anyone who is in any way connected to this kind of crime. There will be no more cover ups or hush money. There will be a much higher standard applied going forward. And it would be voluntary. But it can only be driven home with a sledgehammer. When you are done, stand aside and let them throw the bunch of them, Sandusky, Paterno, McQueary, Schultz, Curley, and anyone else involved, in jail. They each should bear the responsibility of what they have wrought.