Penn State Missed an Opportunity

I can’t find the transcript of what Penn State representatives chose to say to the media last night. Quite honestly, I’m not interested in reading it.  I’m going to let the college students rioting thing be what it is: hopefully in a few years they will understand why it as a dumb move.  I made the mistake of reading the grand jury findings.  I’m not sure what I was looking for when I read the document.

I found myself becoming angry.  Angry at the conversations about the way “Paterno had to leave”.  Joe Paterno sealed his fate: he stated he “regretted” his decision when the graduate student came forward: he had years to speak up, this didn’t happen in June.

Paterno said in a statement he was “absolutely devastated” by the case, in which his former assistant and onetime heir apparent, Jerry Sandusky, has been charged with molesting eight boys in 15 years, with some of the alleged abuse taking place at the Penn State football complex.

“This is a tragedy,” Paterno said. “It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”  So do we all, Joe. So do we all.  Coming forward the day of your firing to try to have one more home game shows, to me, that you can’t do the honorable thing.  You should have walked away.  Penn State, instead of firing you and others involved should have said “We are Penn State University: we do not tolerate this behavior at any level by anybody associated with our school.”  Penn State isn’t alone in this, but any school that doesn’t say when dismissing an individual for ethical violations to crimes against others we do not tolerate this here is just as complacent as those who stood by and did nothing.

Joe Paterno has 17 grandchildren.  Statistically speaking one of them will be the victim of sexual abuse before his/her 16th birthday (actually, probably 2).  How can he look at them and know that he condoned through in action the type of behavior which destroys a life.

It does destroy a life.  The life can be rebuilt but there is always something missing.  Rick Reilly has a sublime article on ESPN: read it.  There is always something missing when you have been the victim of sexual abuse as a child.  You intrinsically learn distrust (and some where Erik Erikson is smiling as it’s one of his flipping 8 stages of human development).  You learn silence. You learn self-doubt.  You are told people won’t believe you.  I can go on but I won’t out of self-preservation.

There are 8 young men who had their lives ruined by an iconic institution.  They came forward and spoke out through the legal system.  They will rebuild their lives.  Slowly.  We all do and at some level the pain never goes away.  I hope they have people around them who will support them and hold them through the difficult days.  They are the heroes.  They said what many adults can only say in a whisper and many years later.

But Penn State? What should they have done. Cancelled the remainder of the football season, cancelled it until they were sure that every member of the Penn State faculty and staff who were involved in the cover-up of the rape of children were no longer welcome in Happy Valley.

Instead? The game goes on – with the witness coaching.

And Paterno? I hope he can find a way to look in the mirror and answer “were those wins worth the lives I destroyed” honestly.  Only then would I think about letting him out of the seat next to Sandusky in hell.


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