Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The PSU Post I Didn't Want To Write

With all that is going on around us, I really didn't want to write about the Penn State debacle. So many people have written so many things so much more eloquently and powerfully than I could ever hope to. It's also not a sports story and that's what we write about here. So I'm even less qualified to have an opinion you should care about. However, one of the gratuities we allow ourselves here is that it's indeed our site and once in a while, we'll go off the reservation and use it for cathartic reasons. This is one of those times.

I've literally lost sleep over this and more than a few times found myself staring out a window, feeling pain and anguish for the victims of Jerry Sandusky's abuses. Like everyone with any sort of moral compass, I've felt anger most of all, but sadness to the point of almost crying (and I'm not a crier) has also enveloped me at times. Maybe it's being a father. Maybe it's that I had someone very close to me sexually abused. But I don't think those two facts make me any more angry necessarily, because the abuse -- especially to such a sickening level -- of children, especially young, impressionable, at-risk children, who Sandusky preyed on within his just so hard to even fathom, that it becomes the great uniting force among us.

We were among the many who relentlessly went after Ohio State apologists when the house came down on Jim Tressel's head and Terrelle Pryor bounced for the NFL. But doesn't that seem ridiculously small potatoes now? I mean, how utterly insignificant is that now? It's sports-related and it's important from the perspective of raising our kids and students to be morally conscious people...but let's be honest. Cheating the NCAA rules is one thing -- the debacle at Penn State had nothing to do with athletic/academic/NCAA improprieties. It had to do with morality of the most basic kind. I may differ from the guys at OSU blogs on bending the rules, but I'm willing to bet that nearly 100% of them would line with me and us in solidarity when it comes to abusing children.

There is no gray area. There is no acceptable explanation for anyone knowing anything about what happened and was happening for years within the Penn State midst and not taking significant action. Not calling bosses, not calling daddy, not running away from the scene.  

You can very easily read the grand jury report here. However, no matter how desensitized you might think you are to abhorrent behavior, nauseating facts and the like, this will be hard to read. I could not read it all in one sitting and I consider myself a pretty hardened person.

If you don't want to read it (though I recommend you do so that you are as informed as anyone else and more so than those defending anyone associated with it) and you trust me instead, I appreciate that and here's what you need to know. Mike McQueary was a graduate assistant in 2002 and was 28 years old. He walked into the Penn State football locker room one evening and saw former coach Jerry Sandusky having anal intercourse with a ten year old boy. He saw it. He immediately ran away and called his dad, who told him they needed to tell Coach Paterno. McQueary then did just that, albeit the next day, and Paterno referred it up the chain of command. The athletic director, Tim Curley, and SVP for Finance and Business Gary Schultz then told McQueary a few weeks later (a few weeks after McQueary saw a boy being raped in a Penn State shower) that Sandusky's "keys to the locker room had been taken away" and that the incident had been reported to The Second Mile, Sandusky's foundation that the district attorney now thinks was actually founded more or less to feed Sandusky's predatory needs. And that was that.

So there you have it -- and that's just the 2002 incident that McQueary witnessed. Which is bad enough, but it is to say nothing of earlier accusations/incidents where Sandusky was seen showering naked with similarly-aged boys in 1998, for example. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 victims are now alleged, as of last night. Knowing this animal was on the loose for literally decades mean we will surely never know the complete depths of his depravity and how many lives he destroyed.

McQueary's reaction is just one of many puzzling/disturbing pieces to this puzzle. His grand jury testimony almost leads me to believe he feels he fulfilled his obligation in this situation, which is also the defense the Paterno apologists are currently using. He did what was required and he is not at risk for legal action. However, I don't necessarily even agree. People keep making the distinction in opinion pieces that while Joe and McQueary did what was legally required, they didn't do what was morally required. But let's back up -- aren't we all somewhat obligated to call the authorities if we witness a crime? If I saw a woman being raped in my office and only told my boss and didn't call the police..... wouldn't I be potentially liable in some way? I'm not a lawyer so I'm sure there's a loophole here, but shit, these are some awful things to be loopholing our way through. And to get down to actual facts, the DA has not cleared Joe completely out of the woods yet. I believe what was said was that Paterno is not a target of the investigation "at this time." It's far from over.

Anyway, McQueary saw what he saw and then he ran away from the scene. He ran away from the mother-effing scene. I don't care about these people saying, "Well, none of us know how we would react." Bullshit. You would intervene. If you're a decent human being with morals of any kind, you intervene. This isn't a married man having sex with his secretary. This isn't money changing hands between a college coach and a prized recruit. If those were the situation, then the steps McQueary took would have been perfectly acceptable. Tell the people you need to tell to cover your own ass and then if they cover it up, so be it. That's life in the big leagues.

But not this. NOT the rape of a child. There is no other acceptable response, in my opinion, than to intervene and, ideally, nearly beat Sandusky to death. I do not say that sort of thing lightly, either. And I am not joking. There are times when someone's crimes are such that I think they should have to be humiliated in court, to hear from their victims, to do hard time in prison. But in the case of an animal who has sexually abused children, I think the penalty of physical beating is the best first step. I know, I sound bloodthirsty and Sandusky has not yet been convicted of anything. Well, as with all opinion pieces, understand that this whole things comes with an, "if he did indeed do it." But hey, there are witnesses. And dozens of victims already lining up. This happened.

Going back to McQueary, there are those who said he perhaps feared for his job. Okay, I get that if, again, we're talking about him witnessing a pay-for-play scheme where JoePa was handing Terrelle Pryor the keys to a Suburban. I get that. But not this. If you lose your job over reporting child abuse, well, so be it. I'm sorry, but you have a higher obligation here and as a human being you have an obligation to protect children. I don't care if you do or do not have children, and I don't care if you even like children. But let me ask the rational ones among you... if you saw a child about to be hit by a car, wouldn't you likely risk your life to save that child? Even if they were a stranger? I think most, if not all, of us would. Children need protection from all of us. Especially people in power who have the ability to make a difference.

Which brings us to Joe Paterno himself. There is this apologists argument that he did everything he should have done and that is patently false. I'm sorry to burst your bubble if you love Joe, but he was catastrophically wrong on this one. I'm not implying Paterno advocated child abuse -- but to suggest telling his superiors was enough is asinine. Joe Paterno is and was the legend in Happy Valley. He is the boss there. He was untouchable. There are actually braindead apologists suggesting that the Penn State administration has been "muzzling" him and hey, maybe he wanted to speak out all along.

Give me a fricking break. If Joe Paterno wanted to talk to the media or to anybody, he could call ESPN and tell them he wanted to speak to any reporter he wanted and they would be on his doorstep in a matter of hours. And nobody could do a damn thing about it. This myth that PSU holds his job over his head is just that -- a myth. Joe has been holding Penn State hostage for years in refusing to exit gracefully and instead hanging on well past the time he should have retired.

We have joked in the past about Joe being a figurehead and "coaching" from the press box without a headset, etc. I had asked openly and to Ben Jones of BSD of what we're waiting for with Joe. Just a few weeks ago on our podcast, I asked Ben if PSU was waiting for him to die on the sidelines because that would be a really traumatic, awful memory of the end of Joe Paterno. I could not have imagined how the end of his time at Penn State will now be remembered.

And that's another issue here. This is the awful answer to the question we've raised before about the risks of a figurehead coach. This is what happens when the CEO is a detached old man who is disconnected from reality. I don't care how much you hate them or how dirty you think they might be with regard to NCAA rules... can you imagine Nick Saban allowing child abuse? Les Miles? Danny Hope? Rich Rodriguez? John Calipari? I actually can't. I think these guys and many others in their profession have questionable morals when it comes to NCAA rules. But not when it comes to the welfare of ten year old children. Or maybe I just can't allow myself to believe this could be covered up elsewhere.

That's yet another sad truth here, though. There are thousands of victims of child abuse that are never heard from. And in some cases, there are those who cannot speak out for even more tragic reasons. To the right of the page, you'll find some links today to foundations and schools that help children who deal with issues ranging from child abuse to developmental disabilities to a lack of proper guidance. If you have even $5 to donate, please consider doing it. Or if you can volunteer (not just at these, but at any shelter, foundation or youth group, etc.), please consider doing that, too. I know so many of you are good and decent people. And if I wasn't around to show my son guidance, I would sincerely want good people showing him the way.

In closing, please do your best to re-focus your emotions from rage at those responsible to empathy for those who have suffered. Admittedly, I'm still working on that myself, but I'm trying.

Thanks for letting me meander this morning.


Roy H said...

Views from an actual lawyer:

Ben C said...

Well said, J. I'd long considered Paterno one of the best coaches in the history of football, not only in terms of his on-field success, but also in the way he ran the program. I don't think of him as a monster, or even a bad guy. I still think that he's a good guy, who made a reprehensible decision and could never bring himself to correct it.

I can only hope that this gives other victims of abuse the courage to speak out. That's the only good that can come from this.

COD said...

Well said.

L2F said...

I am trying to hold judgement until JoePa tells his side of the story. The only way in my opinion that JoePa can be forgiven of this is if he followed up with the AD and was told that a police investigation was ongoing. I think he should have gone straight to the cops, but at least in this case he would have followed up and been given reason to beleive that the authorities were involved.

The sad truth of the matter is that if McQueary had seen a janitor raping a kid, he would have done something then and there. But because it was a coaching legend no one had the guts to take this to the police. And I fear that his close relationship with everyone in the athletic department led to the silence.

Also, the "horseplay" excuse is dispicable. Since when has "horseplay" between a 55 year old man and a naked 10 year old been acceptable?

As a college football fan I love JoePa. And I love everything that he has stood for in college athletics. But even the most ardent fans of his have to admit that he failed those children. If one of the most powerful people in Pennsylvania isn't going to stand up for the victims who is?

Michael R. said...

Does any team really want to win a trophy called the Stagg-Paterno Championship Trophy at the end of the year?

Bloomington.Boiler said...

Agree 100% with this post.

Anonymous said...

Articles like this is why this blog is on my daily must read list. Don't ever lose your passion!

zlionsfan said...

Fearing for your job might be natural when you're young, especially in the moment, but it's not necessary.

If you're working at the type of company that would protect a child abuser (allegedly a serial abuser), you don't want to work there anyway.

If you continue to press the issue and they fire you, maybe you get blackballed. In that case, you don't want a job in that industry. If you don't get blackballed, you'll find a job with another school. You might even get the chance to put pressure on the school from outside: once you aren't fearing for your job, you can go straight to the cops (or to the news, or both).

But if you go along with the cover-up, and word gets out about it, and you were involved, even if all you did was not push the issue ... that's the time to worry about your job.

And all that is only a personal consideration. That should be dwarfed by the moral issue.

Report it. Tell someone until someone does something about it. Keep telling people.

Thanks for writing this, J. It couldn't have been easy.

J_Moore said...

Great post, J. I couldn't have put it better myself.

This situation has caused me to lose all respect for a program that I once revered. I don't know how Penn State will even be able to come back from this and rebuild the reputation they held before all of this came to light.

I hope that bastard Sandusky gets what's coming to him, and is punished to the greatest extent. No one should ever take away the innocence of a child.

Orracle said...

Excellent piece. I don't understand who people can still apologize for the program and the lack of action taken.

Zorak84 said...

Great post, J.

This whole incident makes me sick and I agree with J_Moore about Sandusky.

kristin said...

Keep writing and let it all out. The links and calls to action are powerful and positive.

Mommatried said...


It was as if you crawled into my heart and wrote about my emotions. I too have been so saddened by these events. I too have lost sleep. I too know victims of sexual abuse and know all to well that what is left behind is permanently damaged goods. I pray for the victims of this abuse. I pray for their families. I pray for the counselors who recommended these children to this foundation- only to find out they pointed them directly into the hands of evil.

I want to punch Sandusky in the chest. And the face. And knock out some teeth. And scar him permanently physically in that every time he feels that missing tooth or the scar on his body he might, just might, recognize that the scars he inflicted are much more haunting and painful.

I couldn't agree more- we all have a fight or flight instinct and while I am not in those shoes- I am quite certain Sandusky would be beaten and hogtied, awaiting the arrival of police.

And as you said, as a parent- God help the soul that would violate MY child because I would, without a doubt, kill them. I know those aren't things you are supposed to say and it sounds premeditated but I don't care. There are some things that are not acceptable and this is on top of that list.

Well written- thanks for this piece.

SIDE NOTE- I went to school with Heath Evans, former Auburn fullback and retired NFL'er. He has a foundation- that is set up specifically to help the victims of sexual abuse recover. It is an excellent resource for those looking for help, or for those who want to help others.