Penn State in unrest
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I remember sitting next to my grandfather on Saturdays as a child, eating lunch between sessions of yard work in western Pennsylvania.
As we sat together, we watched the Penn State Nittany Lion football team take on whoever the opponent was that week.
I remember watching Coach Joe Paterno pace on the sidelines and learning what a good man he was said to be. Jerry Sandusky, former assistant coach and current creep, must have been on the sidelines too.
Once, my grandpa leaned over and asked me why I thought the sky was blue and white. I had no idea. He told me it was because “God is a Penn State fan.”
I can’t imagine that God, or any moral being, throwing much support behind the Nittany Lions these days.
When Sandusky was arrested, the Pennsylvania media was abuzz with the story. With outrage, I read the grand jury testimony that described how Sandusky allegedly raped young boys, often in Penn State facilities.
I learned of his charity, Second Mile, that he used to meet and assault at-risk youth. Sandusky is said to have taken volunteer coaching positions at schools just so he could call boys out of class for special “meetings.”
I read that in 2002, graduate assistant Mike McQueary caught Sandusky in the act. Since then, McQueary has risen to the job of receivers coach at Penn State.
Sexual abuse of children is the most heinous of crimes. Naturally, when it is discovered, we can find relief this perpetrator is brought to justice before more children can be harmed. But when this was discovered nine years ago by McQueary, nothing was done. That’s why everyone in any way associated with the crimes must be held accountable.
McQueary reported what he saw to his boss, Joe Paterno. Paterno then reported it to Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz. It stopped there. No police. The only action Penn State took was making Sandusky stay away from Penn State buildings.
When a mother reported a case of abuse in 2009, investigators finally were alerted to Sandusky’s secret and the web of lies that kept it from getting out.
Paterno is an icon. He holds the record for Divison I football wins with 409. But his legacy wasn’t all about football.
His players consistently rated above the national average academically. He has also donated $4 million to various programs on campus.
A statue of Paterno stands in front of the stadium with the words, “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.”
His personal character traits make the allegations seem so unbelievable, but that doesn’t make them less accurate.
Paterno shouldn’t be the focus of this story, but he is a part of it. He fulfilled his legal duty by telling his superiors, but, when nothing was done, he should have pursued it. McQueary bears more responsibility. How did he continue to work every day in the facility where he saw a boy sodomized and the rapist go unpunished?
My grandfather visited Texas this week, and on Saturday, we watched Penn State fall to Nebraska. The players, innocent of the crimes of their administrators, fought hard on the field and the crowd rallied behind it’s team.
I found myself able to root for these people and their healing who loved Penn State so much but were betrayed. Mostly, I prayed for the healing of Sandusky’s victims.
Football and legacy are the least important thing in this story.