Monday, July 16, 2012

Pressure Cooker Overflow

Child molestation and the inverted power structure that surrounds college football are two subjects that a great many Americans are too squeamish to talk about or even read about.

Like a seafood stew that's simmered in a pot too long, the culture of "King Football" as CBS's Dennis Dodd calls it, must be ended. The culture of silence that surrounds child molestation is also one that is long overdue for a swift and final death. For too long, Americans have attempted to ignore both subjects, like a child who insists you've disappeared because they've hidden their eyes from you.

With the trial over, and the official report on the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State finally released, it's obvious that simply closing America's collective eyes didn't make the monsters go away.

The report on the Jerry Sandusky case, as compiled by former FBI director Louis Freeh made that sad fact all too clear when it was released last week. Four of the most powerful people at Penn State - and indeed, some of the most powerful people in all of college sports - protected a child predator and a college football program while they let the real victims suffer in silence for years.

We've watched as story after story has rolled out insisting Penn State be vilified for their blatant lack of responsibility. We've seen more than one call for the NCAA to give the football program at Penn State the "death penalty" as they did to SMU in 1987. We've even read comments from some of the same knee-jerk reactionary fans who raced into the streets of Happy Valley last fall to defend the so-called honor of Joe Paterno, now insisting that Paterno's statue should be torn down right away.

Those foolish people weren't correct last year when they defended Paterno to the hilt -  and they're not right now.

We do agree that the statue should be torn down. Any legacy of goodness Joe Paterno once had has been erased by the sad and disgusting refusal to deal with the multiple acts of child molestation by Paterno's assistant and friend, Jerry Sandusky.

The sick culture of coaches and players as demi-gods should also be torn down, though that's a completely separate commentary all by itself.

We also agree that Penn State should be penalized by the NCAA, by the State of Pennsylvania, and possibly even by the Feds. Finally, we believe the individuals responsible, most of whom are no longer with the university, should be punished most sternly of all.

We don't however, believe the students and professors currently at Penn State should have to suffer for the transgressions of those in positions of responsibility who failed so horribly at being decent human beings. Guilt by association will travel with those students and professors their entire lives, when they hold up their diplomas and resumes with the name "Penn State University" in bold type.

For now, those who are nominally in charge at Penn State will have to struggle through the bureaucratic minefields that anyone else would have to encounter, if they were to challenge a long-held status quo. The troubles Penn State's trustees will face should be no less painful and frustrating than the institutional denial that Jerry Sandusky's victims encountered.

What should also happen in the interim is that both the former and current executives in the school and the athletic department should be marched through the campus at Penn State once a day, regardless of weather, down to the statue of Joe Paterno. They should be forced to scream aloud, at the top of their lungs, the quote from Paterno that is etched there: “They ask me what I’d like written about me when I’m gone. I hope they write I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach.”

When those executives, trustees, and coaches finally have their spirits crushed and can take no more, then maybe some small measure of justice will have been truly served for the kids abused by Jerry Sandusky. Justice for those boys who cried for help for years and received none.

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