Let me start by saying that I grew up idolizing Joe Paterno and the Penn State Nittany Lions. From his classic dark shades, to the "White Outs" in Beaver Stadium, even with uniforms that went unchanged for decades, it all epitomized everything that was right in college football.
Then came the news: Joe Paterno and countless other very reputable and respected men hid a sexual predator around the campus and town for decades.
Although the semantics that surround who and what many people knew add further rage, it doesn't change the fact that many prominent educators turned a blind eye to crimes that are horrific in every sense of the word. In scouring article after article about the events that occurred throughout the time Jerry Sandusky was in Happy Valley, each new allegation leads me to believe that this was an extremely troubled man who preyed on young children for decades.
The initial news of unrest at Penn State took me by surprise. Joe Paterno's Lions were always revered in my book, the anti Ohio State, if you will.
No need to go into my disdain for the Scarlet and Grey, as a Michigan fan, I try to find as much dirt as I can to soften the recent gut wrenching win/loss record my Wolverines have against the hated Buckeyes. The records don't lie (although I like to believe if Sweater Vest wasn't so busy cheating, we'd have fielded more competitive games - that's a LONG STORY - for another day).
Regardless, Penn State would be last on my list of teams to win on the field due to misdeeds and illegal activity off the field. If only that were true now, it would be music to thousands of Penn State alumni and fans.
I'm not naive to the perks many of these athletes receive for playing at a particular institution. Every big time collegiate football program is breaking dozens of rules as we speak. When comparing the events that occurred at Penn State to all of these "lapses in judgement," it all pales in comparison.
The audacity that any person who knew of Jerry Sandusky's crimes had in not going to the police astounds me.
I get, "protecting the program," I get, "what outsiders don't know won't hurt them," but this goes beyond any of that into the realm of decent human morality. While there's no need to get into the specifics of what Jerry Sandusky did, the facts are he was questioned as early as 1999 about time spent with young boys and that alone should have raised red flags.
There's no doubt in my mind that Joe Paterno and many Penn State administrators heard about the allegations and did their best to keep it quiet. What baffles me most is that a lot these men have families.
If I hear a second hand rumor that someone on my block (let alone someone I work with) has any sort of history around child molestation, you can bet every dime that I check this out. Rumors like that need to be taken very seriously and with free access to crime statistics at the click of a mouse, you can be assured I'd do an extremely thorough job.
How do family men in various executive positions look the other way? How do these men that preach integrity, honestly and moral aptitude turn a blind eye knowing full well that they had a sexual predator amongst their midst? These are the questions I'm trying desperately to understand.
You can look at JoePa as the scapegoat for a horrendous set of events. You can even make the case that everyone followed protocol and reported it correctly adhering to the university's chain of command.
What I don't understand is how they could keep a man like this close to their campus, not a mile from the nearest elementary school.
At the very least, with their own children and grandchildren in mind, you'd think they'd ask Mr. Sandusky to leave the state. But no, he's allowed to stay in Happy Valley and further, given access to the Penn State facilities, let alone a current position at The Second Mile (the organization he founded in the late 70's - surely with sick intentions in mind).
Who else needs to go down with Jerry Sandusky? Was the bond forged between Joe Paterno (easily the most powerful man in town) and Sandusky so strong that the former willed his innocence among the witnesses to the point where everyone bought in?
I can't imagine that not a single person that suspected Jerry Sandusky of pedophilia didn't have the guts to stand up to Joe Paterno. Can you imagine the outrage you would feel if you were the president of a prestigious American university having to hide behind a frail 80-year-old man telling you what to do and think? As much as it pains me to imagine it, Joe had to have known the troubles of his friend yet failed to do anything that would keep him from repeating the same atrocious crimes over decades in his town.
Bill Maher rapped it up quite succinctly, "Anywhere there are no women present: football, the Vatican, the Middle East, things go to sh*t. You really do need women around as a moderating influence."
Perhaps it's my new life as a father. Maybe it's oversensitivity given the fact that I'm eventually going to have to send her away to college. Either way, my trust in men of supposed valor and dignity has eroded quicker that you can say "Go Lions." I find no elation in having to admit this. Here's to better times.