Saturday, July 14, 2012

Volume 7, Number 10: Misplaced Priorities, Lies and Ruined Lives

Just under six months ago, when former Penn State University head football coach Joe Paterno died, just two months after being fired, I expressed sympathy for a man who said he wished he could have done more regarding the monstrous behavior of Gerald Sandusky, his defensive coordinator.  In particular, he said he had told athletic director Tim Curley about what assistant coach Mike McQueary had seen involving Victim #2, and had expected things to go up the "chain of command."  I said something about how tragic it was to lose your dream job, get sick and die in such a short span of time.**

However, in light of the report released two days ago by ex-FBI director Louis Freeh following his law firm's investigation of Penn State's handling of Sandusky, I now see that Paterno's fall from grace was no Greek tragedy.  Far from it.  He lied – lied behind the victims' backs, lied to a grand jury, lied to the media and lied to the public – regarding his role in the whole affair.  He did do more than report about Victim #2... but it was the bad kind of "more"; he took an active role, working with Curley, vice-president Gary Schultz (who, incidentally, was once in charge of overseeing PSU's police department) and president Graham Spanier in covering up Sandusky's wrongdoing, and worse, allowing him continued contact with young boys.  Based on the evidence presented in the Freeh Report, all four men cared more about controlling damage to their university, and especially its football program, than about controlling damage to innocent young lives.

There are questions about where to proceed from here, such as what to do with the bronze statue of Joe Paterno (some say to remove it; other suggest turning it around so he faces backward; I personally liked the suggestion that since he was part of the cover-up, that his statue should be covered up as well).  In particular, the debate has already begun on the matter of how the NCAA should punish Penn State.  A few people have said that the football program should stay up and running because the people presently associated with it were neither child molesters nor part of the cover-up; furthermore, shutting down the program theoretically could cause economic damage to the surrounding community.

I disagree. The NCAA needs to send a loud and clear message to all its members about what happens when higher-ups try to cover up a mess. Paterno, Curley, Schultz and Spanier were so concerned about their football program and its image that they allowed–and enabled–Sandusky to continue molesting young boys. The message I hope NCAA sends should be something like:
“If you put your football program so far above everything else that you’re willing to sacrifice your morals, or ignore the cries of innocent people, then you should spend some time without said program so you can re-evaluate your priorities.”
Not to be comparing this scandal to the one that SMU had – their problem was money, not molestation – but seeing as both SMU and PSU allowed wrongdoing to go on repeatedly over an extended period of time, and covered it up as best as they could, maybe PSU should be shut down for two years (as SMU was in 1987-88). Or at the very least, no home games for two years – if PSU wants to play football, it would have to do so on the road.

**As an aside, one of my Facebook friends said Paterno was evil, and in particular, that he covered up a crime (which I refused to believe) and that anyone who expressed sympathies like that was evil as well.  He then un-friended me.  (No big loss – calling me evil was superficial, immature and uncalled-for, and as Obi-Wan Kenobi said, "Only a Sith deals in absolutes.")

No comments:

Post a Comment