Thursday, November 10, 2011

I have a lot to say...

...about this week's headlines. Well, one headline, actually. You see, I went to Penn State. So yeah, I'm talking about the Sandusky crimes. Which brings me to my first beef. I'm fed up with hearing or reading media outlets refer to the "Penn State Sex Scandal". To me, it makes it sound like some scurrilous, sensational, titillating, juicy story. It couldn't be farther from that. It's a story about the sickening, horrific, monstrous rape and abuse OF CHILDREN!! If you must put "Sex" and "Scandal" in the headline, please at least have the decency to also include the word "abuse".

My feelings have evolved over the course of the week. When I first heard about it, I was mainly confused...details were coming out in bits and pieces and I just couldn't wrap my head around it. I suppose that was largely denial on my part. Sandusky got a lot of credit for the Nittany Lions success during my years at PSU - he was almost as big a deal as Joe Paterno, himself. So to hear of his crimes was really difficult.

 Of course, everyone knows how beloved Joe Paterno is. That's true across college football, but at Penn State, it goes above and beyond. He's widely admired for taking the high moral ground on many issues: making sure his players focus on academics and graduate, not putting their names on the backs of their jerseys because football is about the whole team (not glorifying individuals), he eschewed the helmet stickers many college teams use for the same reason, and he is a big philanthropist. If anyone could be expected to protect children on his turf, it would be him. So, at first, I assumed JoePa was not aware of Sandusky's crimes. Then, I heard he had been told when a grad student saw Sandusky raping a 10-year-old in the football facility showers, but I also heard that the details had not been spelled out for him. So, I was able to rationalize that he didn't understand the seriousness of the situation. Plus, he did report it to his superiors, right? So, he didn't just let it go...

 Except he did. So did at least four other people. That grad student? Why didn't he scream at what he saw? I'm not even talking about heroics here - what about a natural, involuntary response to the horror being played out in front of him? Why didn't he go to the police instead of Paterno? Why didn't Paterno go straight to the police instead of the Athletic Director? Or, barring that - why didn't he follow up when nothing happened? Even the sketchy details he was given were indications that a crime had been committed. Why didn't the Athletic Director go to the police instead of just taking away Sandusky's keys to the locker room? As far as I can tell, the only person who ever reported any of the crimes was the mother of one of the boys - and she got blown off. The district attorney didn't file charges. Why?

 Nobody was looking out for these boys. Somehow, Sandusky knew nobody would be.

 And now they're being victimized all over again. Much more attention is being paid to JoePa's dismissal than their plight. Riots? Really? I get that JoePa is beloved and that he's done a lot of good for a lot of people (both on and off the football field), but he also screwed up in this case, and it's a BIG DEAL. Should it wipe out all of the good he's done? No, but I can understand the Board of Trustees decision to let him go. And to his credit, he's not arguing or making excuses. Even HE knows he made a huge mistake. So, why are so many people defending him? I honestly don't know. Maybe they're black and white types, who can't accept the fact that a person can be good and still do bad things, make bad decisions. Maybe defending him keeps them from facing the terrible nature of Sandusky's crimes. I wish I understood. My heart breaks for those boys and I'm enraged at Sandusky and everyone else who let this happen to them. I wish I could go back in time and somehow stop it. But I'm powerless in my anger and frustrated with people who want to make excuses instead of sharing my outrage.

 There, I feel better. Not a lot, but better...


  1. I hate to say it-- but the totally unfair headlines are going to continue...As a Duke alum, I can tell you, unfortunately, that those headlines will keep coming for a long time. The Duke Lacrosse scandal still haunts Duke, caused immediate damage to its academic reputation. The media raked Duke over the coals--the whole school, the alumni, the administration, everyone-- for years. (I swear, Rolling Stone and The Atlantic devoted entire issues on how horrible of a school Duke was after the scandal.)Even though the accuser disappeared the day after the alleged incident. Even after the "investigation" fell apart, even after the Assistant DA was disbarred for going after the Lacrosse players with virtually no evidence. Even after the players were all exonerated. No matter what happened at Penn State, the media will have their own story, report how they wish, and they will drag all of Penn State through the dirt. It's a shame that a few depraved, disgusting individuals can tarnish the reputation of the entire school. But it's what happened at Duke. And sadly, it's what will happen at Penn State.

  2. My issue isn't with the use of Penn State in the headline, really. Yes, it does damage PSU's reputation, but it's a huge institution and will survive this. My problem is that child molestation (any rape, really) is not about sex - it's about power, violence, manipulation and domination. To call it a sex scandal almost makes it sound like the poor boys were willing participants, rather than victims.