Google+ Followers

Friday, July 13, 2012

Penn State: the Unmodified, Unlimited Complete and Total Fuck-Up

Part I:


Well, is this ever going to be a blog.  Honestly, I did not want to write about this, or blog about this; there's been too much written, spoken, gossiped and innuendoed (is that a word?) about the Freeh Report, and the damning evidence at the heart of the Penn State sex scandal.


Let's call it for what it is, folks:  this is a scandal that is not just about Jerry Sandusky.  It could well have remained just about Sandusky, specifically, but it embroiled his long-time employer, and took down a host of high-ranking individuals--especially his boss, Joe Paterno.


More on him later, and those who either continue to whine and moan about his legacy and related conspiracies, plus those who created the myth of "JoePa," and now only want to jab their dull little penknives into the rotting corpse.


The full report, all 267 pages of it is here, courtesy of WITF:


http://www.witf.org/regional-a-state-news/read-the-full-freeh-report-into-actions-of-penn-state-surrounding-abuse-committed-by-sandusky


Now...I have read as much of this report as I can; quite a bit of this is already known to me.  Just a couple weeks ago, Sandusky, the former Defensive Coordinator for the Nittany Lions was found guilty of 45 of 48 of the sexual abuse and related counts against him. He will be sentenced as early as September, and the 68 year old is not expected to see the light of day once it's passed.


The testimony has been horrific and graphic.  Anyone who has ever endured the agony of sexual abuse of any kind knows what this can be like.  While I do think at times the prosecution was overdramatic (the lead attorney's bit of cheap theatre in standing behind Sandusky in closing arguments was unprofessional and stupid), the defense showed it dealt with a weak hand.  I did expect more faux kabuki theatre from Joe "I did the right thing and married my 16 year old baby mama" Amendola and his cohorts, such as Karl "the Situation" Rominger.


Sandusky, who experts say fits the profile of a serial molester remained aloof, silent and generally clueless.  Could this man be so out of it that he actually didn't think he had done no wrong?  No; it was pretty clear to me that Sandusky knew right from wrong.  


Without going into it...I know.  


I know how one can clear their minds of such things and make themselves believe it's okay.


The "Histrionic Personality Disorder" defense was a long shot at best; experts can tell you all about it.  Sandusky didn't fit the mold.  "The Situation's" life-skills tutorial about the shower incident(s) shows how far on another astral plane they all were.  Guess Joe and Karl were angling for their own shows on Court TV.


They also trotted out Sandusky's wife, Dottie...ooh, her nickname is "Sarge."  Ooh, that's so tough!  She also proclaimed her complete and total innocence at all this...one of the victims pointed out that he was attacked right across the hall from her bedroom!


How could she not know?


This was only part of the ongoing dog and pony show.  The media largely rushed to the defense of the Almighty Penn State University, and especially to the Almighty JoePa.  Swirling around the horrid allegations were those who also face charges, partly due to their own poor performance before a grand jury:  (former) President Graham Spanier, (former) Athletic Director Tim Curley (aka, Dumb) and (former) VP Gary Schultz (aka, Dumber).


And Joe Paterno himself.


We know Sandusky's guilty and headed for the final stretch of his life, in more ways than one.  Dumb and Dumber face related charges, and in the wake of the Freeh Report, it now appears that Spanier could be charged as well.


Paterno might well have himself had he not passed away in January.  I rather doubt however that an 85 year old man would be sent to prison, considering his health as well as his (now tarnished) status.


The response to all this has been shocking; to me, I have to admit to being a little, but not a lot, when it came to Paterno.


I was not shocked, when it came to Penn State.


Part II:


Why do I say this?


I have blogged here in the past about the cult of personality that surrounded Joe Paterno and Penn State football.  As it is in most parts of this nation, college football is not a sport.  


It is a religion.


Just as say, North Carolina Tarheel basketball is a religion.  Just as Oklahoma Sooner, Texas Longhorn, and Notre Dame football are all religions.  I do not mean to lump them in with Penn State; they are examples only.


Better examples from the professional world.  The Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, etc., in Major League Baseball; Soccer in Central America and Europe; Sumo in Japan.


Do you get me now?


Howard Cosell often sneered about "big time college sports," when scandals erupted, and there have been plenty of those.  Remember the outrage (much of it manufactured) when some Ohio State footballers exchanged memorabilia for tattoos?  Or the Ponzi schemer who gave Miami Hurricane players money for everything from big hits to prostitutes?  The renegade Sooner program presided over by Barry Switzer?


How about SMU?  Remember that?  The football program that got the "death penalty" for paying players, and which has never recovered?


This is a scandal of another kind, and it is a very difficult one.  It is a criminal scandal that cuts to the heart of Penn State, but on many layers.


It is now proven that Sandusky was covered for and enabled.  The smoking gun was a series of uncovered emails (gee, wherever did they come from?) that prove beyond doubt that Spanier, Curley, Schultz and yes, Paterno conspired to hush the whole thing up.


Paterno told a bold-faced lie in his final interview, when he claimed he did not know of the first incident involving Sandusky, in 1998 when Sandusky was still on his coaching staff.  


The proof is in the emails.  He knew.  And the excuse Paterno's family threw out is lame:  Joe didn't use email.


I'm not even going to dignify a statement so ignorant with a response.


University Park, which is the virtual town that is PSU, and has its own police force shut up about it.  The incident was given a cursory look, and everyone STFU about it.


It could have been stopped, right there.  But no, it was let to go on.  Sandusky used his charity, the Second Mile as a proving ground for vulnerable boys and used his connections to Penn State to entice his victims.


There were more incidents, not all on campus, but the most horrid:  in 2001, former Assistant Coach Mike McQueary saw Sandusky (allegedly or not) assault a boy in a shower.


This incident is the one where the red flags really went up.  The emails prove that after huddles, talks and backroom wrangling, Curley and Schultz were about to head for the police and do the right thing under state law and all known sense.


They didn't.  Know why?  After talking it over, "with Joe," they chose to do none of those things.  They just told Sandusky to stop bringing kids onto campus and took his keys to the gym away.


Now you have to wonder...why would four intelligent, educated and generally smart guys (relative terms I know) would do that?  Why would they throw innocent kids under the bus, and let Sandusky keep up his predatory ways?


That's where we get to the big one, the Golden Goose:  the Football Program.  Not the team, the Program.


Part III:


The Program is what brings in the money.  The Nittany Lions are a money-maker, even when they have losing seasons.  This is the same deal on most Division I campuses that have consistently good, competitive teams.  You get great, exciting players, storied teams come to town (or cupcakes the homeboys can beat up on), fun games to watch (again relative), and you get asses in the seats.


Consider there are 105,000 seats to put asses in at Beaver Stadium (or whatever they call it now).  Joe Paterno helped put a lot of asses in those seats.


The Program funds that freaking school.  Even if no players were involved in Sandusky's actions, the scandal and scrutiny the Program would endure was potentially damaging.  Eyes which turned with nothing but reverence to the wondrous JoePa and the blue and white elan of the Nittany Lions would now look differently.  


"How could this happen?  What's going on here?" They might ask.


Well, they're asking now, folks.  Oh, are they ever.


The four men at the center of the cover-up took a terrible risk, and they knew they were taking one.  But instead of doing the right thing, following the law and their consciences (I assume all sentient beings have one), they covered it up, for the sake of The Program, and Paterno's legacy.


This takes us back to the Cult of Personality that is Joe Paterno.  This has been carefully crafted, built up and nurtured over the years by Paterno himself, the university, the students, the fans, and yes, the media.  The one I'm a part of.


We don't have to belabor the lead-up; Paterno was an excellent coach for many, many years.  He built a great football program, found the best coaching staff, and consistently put good football teams on the field.  His teams rarely if ever got sanctioned by the NCAA; his players graduated, almost to a man, and many made their way to the NFL or other productive careers.  No doubt, he was a man to look up to, and a lot of young men saw something special in him.


That said:  everybody gave Paterno a permanent hall pass.  Players who got involved in fights used to be taken straight to Joe for disciplining, a far better fate than to be jailed.  JoePa wished for the good old days when he could deal with the kids, rather than getting the police and the public involved.


He didn't want bad press.  No one at PSU did; and they made sure there wasn't any if they could help it.


Paterno was the Overlord of the university.  He was the most powerful man on it.  When Spanier and others suggested several years ago that Paterno retire, he said no.


The media rushed to Paterno's defense.  How dare they tell JoePa that he leave, they thundered, after all he's done for the the school, the Program, the community, the this, the that...


JoePa did no wrong, ever.  The few who criticized him were seen as haters, people who had an irrational dislike of Penn State and all it supposedly stood for.  When Paterno was fired, students rioted and howled in protest.


To borrow a phrase, "Let's face it folks, we're talking about God here."


Paterno became God; he was that in the eyes of millions, Penn Staters and non alike.  I do not believe that Paterno ever thought of himself as something like that; but I'm sure he reveled in the power.


So many now ashamedly admit, JoePa is now human to them.  He was not infallible.


Freeh mentioned it in his remarks, that someone said Paterno made "the biggest mistake of his life."


Yes, he did.  Paterno failed to act; he chose to protect himself and his beloved Program rather than get Sandusky off the streets.  He showed, like the others that he didn't give a flying fuck about the potential victims.  Paterno barely mentioned them.  He cared not about the suffering of those kids, he cared about himself; it's a very human thing to do, but sometimes you have to put that aside.


Think about it:  had they done the right thing way back when, sure the university would have been embarrassed.  But it would have been on Sandusky, not Paterno, not the university, not the Program.  They would have been heroes, for getting out front, and taking decisive action.


They would have been lauded to the Heavens even higher than they had ever been before.  At the moment of a moral crisis, they blinked.


And there were more victims.  More tragedy, more damaged lives and now a damaged community, a damaged university, and a damaged Program.


Part IV:


Blame is like manure; you need to spread it about so it does the most good.  Blame is everywhere in this.


At the top, the chief perpetrator, Sandusky.  That is a given; he has been found guilty, and his life is over.  His reign of terror against kids is over.


Curley, long known as Paterno's "Errand Boy," is on the block.  With him is Schultz; Dumb and Dumber could be headed for the slammer, too, but that's for a judge and jury to decide.


Paterno is dead; but his spirit must be wondering, "What on Earth has happened here?"


A friend of mine believes that when the full portent of what was coming down, the scandal that led to his firing, the charges, all of it, that he died at that moment.


Lung cancer is a terrible thing; I watched my father die from it.  Paterno, in his 80's must have had that horrible moment, when he realized that something went wrong, and that he was party to it.


I think it killed him, too.  I want to honestly believe that Paterno realized that he'd gone wrong, and it was too late to do anything about it. 


I indeed am sorry to his widow and his family for his loss. The cancer alone must have been painful.  I just wish his family would stop living in denial, trying to save his image and pretending this was blown out of proportion.


As too many are doing.


Part V:


"Head, meet Sand.  I believe you've met before."


The head in the sand mentality goes beyond Penn State, football, Paterno, the personality cult, all of it.  It goes right to the core of Pennsylvania, and an old-world mentality when it comes to matters like sex.  Especially, sexual abuse and assault upon children.


I know too many people who have been sexually abused and assaulted in this state alone, not to mention elsewhere in this world.  Too many times, the victims are not believed; they are blamed.


One close friend told me of her rape at seven years old by a relative; she said he told her, "she thought too much of herself."


What the fuck does that mean?!?


Seven years old.  Is that some kind of twisted excuse?  I've heard even worse.  I've heard people justify these actions by claiming the child was "sexualized," a word pervs like to use to explain away aberrant behaviors.


Just like adults...they claim the child "came on to them," dressed too sexy for them, "deserved it."


Yeah, right.


In rural parts of America, not just Pennsylvania, this kind of stuff is hushed up.  You don't talk about it, and I'm remembered of lines from of all things, Tommy:  "You didn't hear it/You didn't see it/You won't say nothing to no one/Never in your life..."


And especially when someone of a religious (hah) family is accused of it.  There's always an excuse in religion...look at the Catholic Church.  


Relatives circle the wagons and cry, "He could never have done that, because he's a Christian/a man of God/washed in the blood of the lamb..."


That last one I've heard.  For real.


Americans, thanks to religious intolerance have an aversion to sex, sexuality, the facts of life even.  It is still not well enough reported, and victims are still not believed.


Amendola and "The Situation" were certainly hopeful that what Sandusky was accused of could not be believed.  That they could bank on a jury packed with Penn State students, alums and employees that they could get away with it and get their client off.


WRONG.


Now...back to another "situation," the mess that Penn State has to clean up.  


As a member of the media, I am self-critical of my performance on air, onstage, wherever.  I am not paid to write this blog; I write this because I want to.  The opinions and feelings are my own, and I've a right to them.  They have nothing to do with my job, my employers none of it.


That a good enough disclaimer for you?


I'm pissed off about all this, because of my own personal understanding of this issue.  Let's again examine...


Part VI:


The Media...the closer you get to State College, the more insular it becomes, especially when we're talking about PSU, Paterno and the Program.  Miles of column inches written in print and online could circle the globe a million times about the greatness of JoePa, the wonderfulness of Penn State, the educational opportunities, the small-town atmosphere, all of it.


Paterno has been lauded for decades as the aw-shucks, down to earth guy with the big glasses and the high-water pants who was as tough as nails and put winning football teams on the gridiron.  He also made damn sure those boys went to class, and if they didn't well it was either straighten up or get out.


The sickly sweet story of how he met his 14 years junior future wife at over ice cream on campus that idyllic day so many years ago may well have been true.  But it was made into some kind of love story that Hallmark would've made a movie about.  Just one more chapter in the legend.


Everything about JoePa was calculated to make his image what it was.  Having been in his presence, even in later life the man surely had an aura about him.  I believe at heart, Joe Paternor was a decent man.  Part of me says he made one big mistake and he is being raked over the coals for it.


I've said and done things I wish I'd never...I would hope that my life is not decided by one error no matter what it was.


Problem with Joe's mistake...it led to more suffering, for victims, the school, his family, himself...he tried to cover it up.  


He failed; he lied about it.  Someone once wrote prisons are full of people whose only real crime was not so much breaking the law, but running away from it.  And running from the responsibility.


I have to say I'm very disappointed in human nature.  So many people still believe that Paterno is a God figure...I can just imagine what Jed Donahue is gonna say tomorrow on his weekend sports show.  Used to say he could do one show and re-run it over and over again, and no one would know.  Because it was one giant wank-in for JoePa.


Newspapers, radio, television, the net...so many people lionized Paterno, and in turn Penn State.  He was lauded, loved, fawned over, and anyone who dared criticize was shouted down, attacked and shoved to the side.


Well, so many of those same sycophants are now sharpening their axes and getting ready to take revenge for being played like the fools they are.


That's even worse somehow.


Some in the media are screaming that Penn State football must pay the price...THE DEATH PENALTY, they screech from the highest point of land they can find.  SHUT DOWN THE PROGRAM, BAN THE NITTANY LIONS FOR LIFE, DESTROY THEM ALL!


There's a problem here.  The players didn't do these things.  One man, Sandusky, enabled and abetted by four men, plus perhaps more who knew a lot and wouldn't talk are to blame, especially.


Can the school, and the Program, be hit in some way?


This is gray area; if it is found that a specific law, the Clery Act or others have been violated, the university could be on the hook for stiff fines and who knows what else.


As for the Program:  the NCAA is primarily interested and geared towards dealing with violations by current players, coaches, staff, etc.


As I said elsewhere, I believe the Program could face sanctions for the 1998 incident, because Sandusky was still Defensive Coordinator.  This could be loss of scholarships, post-season play, and a ban from national TV.


That will cost 'em some money, but not a bad hit.


Can the NCAA do more?  I do not know what they can do; I don't believe they're equipped to do more.  


I for one cannot ever see the football team not playing.  The program cannot be shut down, because even in its wounded state, it is a cash cow.  It makes money; it won't stop.


If the NCAA took special action like they did with SMU in 1987, that is the death penalty, I don't think member schools would support it.  If they did, PSU would sue, and it would go through the courts for months, if not years.


All I know is, that the chance to make a clean break was lost a long time ago.  Penn State will have a black mark against them forever; for many who are associated it is unfair to them, but as a full unit, they must bear it.


If "(You) are Penn State," you have to accept the good with the bad.


I don't know if the university is ready for that.  I think many still believe this is all a bad dream or a conspiracy to get JoePa.


And if you believe that shit, you probably believe we didn't land on the moon in '69, that Barack Obama is a Kenyan Muslim activist and Pete Rose didn't bet on baseball.


I love the teary-eyed defenses of their beloved JoePa; some tissues for Matt Millen, please.  All these people still ranting away about how it's all so unfair.


Then there's the bottom feeders of the worst kind:  the crotch-grabbing, jock-sniffing columnists and sports-talk show hosts and co-hosts who tub thump for Penn State, or counterattack with all the testosterone their bodies can muster.


They go on about what they would have done if they'd been there instead of McQueary that night in the shower, or what they'd do if their kid was abused, or what they'd do if THEY ran things...shut up, all of you.  You don't know what you'd do. 


Talking about the issues is one thing...but jock talk, demands for action (where were you at the beginning of all this?) and speculation are too much.


I can't help but be cynical and dark-humored, because if you didn't have that, you'd go mad.  I would anyway.


The next year or two will be painful to watch for Penn State students, fans, alumni, everyone.  Will there be football this fall?  Yes, I believe so.  Will Bill O'Brien be able to move his team past all this and concentrate on the season ahead?


Can the university, from new President Rodney Erickson, the board, the faculty, the staff on down to the students move forward?  Can those with their heads still in the sand remove them, and do what is required?  Can they bear what those above them did?


I don't know.


Oh, and there's one other little bit of business:  the statue.


Part VII:


There is a statue of Joe Paterno, with his usual rig and huge glasses in a running pose.  The calls are to take the statue down, and if not move it, destroy it.


I think it may need to be moved, but I would not say melt it down.  It needs to be moved to a less prominent spot; whatever one may say about that one mistake, Paterno earned his place in the College Football Hall of Fame.  He did great things for the game, for the university and for many, many people.


Just one mistake.  One bad one.  Paterno may not be alive, but I'm sure his spirit is paying for what he didn't do.


Sandusky will soon pay for his crimes; Spanier, Curley and Schultz have had their lives ruined for their complicity and inability to do what they should have done.  Even if they don't go to jail, their lives are over.


The victims?  I doubt any of them (named, unnamed, those who may still be out there) will ever have a "normal" life.  They can have good lives, useful ones, but they need more support than they got when all this happened.


I think Penn State can make a major step in the right direction by doing something.  Reach out to the victims and help.  Apologize, then do what they can to help them, and others.


They have the resources, and the money.  They can make a difference.  I would like to see that.


But that's what I wish to see; I don't know what the future holds.


In the end:  Life goes on; kids will still go to Penn State for a top-class education if they're good and lucky enough to get in.  And for a handful of Saturdays in the fall, they'll don their blue and white gear, tailgate, party down, and enter the 105,000 seat cathedral to watch the Nittany Lions play.


I hope however, that it's no longer a religion.  A passion, sure, but not a faith to make Gods of.



1 comment: