Hard to believe

Those are the three words that keep coming back to me when I think about the Penn State scandal (three more words I never thought I’d write in succession).

If the grand jury report (I won’t link it here, but if you want to read it it’s easily found) is true, the horrors caused by a man (I will never type his name again and from here on out will be called “a man not named above”) are absolutely unspeakable. If the allegations against a man not named above are true, not only did he tear down the walls of trust of those he inflicted harm upon, but of people everywhere.

What troubles me to my core is the evil the kids involved experienced and still do. The grand jury report is sickening. Something like this should never happen. Children give adults they see as people who want help them their trust. After this, how can that ever be again?

What also troubles me is that as time goes on and this story is told over and over and the focus will shift that this ended the career of Joe Paterno, who said Wednesday morning that he would retire at season’s end only to have the Board of Trustees remove him as coach via a phone call effective immediately later that evening. Little will be said that, on that same night as Paterno’s ouster, the eyewitness of a 2002 incident between the man not named above and a young boy who never alerted the authorities was still employed by Penn State. Little will be said that, on the same night as Paterno’s ouster, the athletic director, who has been charged with perjury for lying to a grand jury about the 2002 incident, was still employed by Penn State and having his legal fees paid for by Penn State. And saddest of all, the victims of the alleged acts by the man not named above will become footnotes in the wreckage that is now Paterno’s career.

How could this happen? And not just at Penn State, but anywhere. How could no one have noticed this? And what is the percentage of kids who were harmed who have come forward? The grand jury report details eight victims, but what is the percentage of those who reported crimes? I can’t even begin to wrap my head around a possible number. Whatever the number, they are the true victims in this case. Not Paterno for being ousted by the BoT, not Penn State president Graham Spanier for meeting the same fate as Paterno and not Mike McQueary (the graduate assistant who witnessed the 2002 incident), whose coaching career is most likely over. The children, who put their trust in an adult and were betrayed by a monster, and their families are the only victims here. Make no mistake about it.

This is a tough subject to write about because I’m a Penn State fan. I’ve made no bones about it. I grew up watching the Nittany Lions on Saturdays and hung on every play of every game. I continued that through my college years, first at Penn State’s branch campus near Scranton, then a year at the Hazleton campus before two years and a summer in State College. Even when the Nittany Lions turned out four losing seasons in five years and everyone wanted Paterno gone, I remained loyal to the Nittany Lions and maintained that Paterno should be able to go out on his own accord.

Knowing throughout college I knew I wanted to be a sports writer and figured a day might come where I’d have to write about Penn State. I always maintained that I would show no favoritism (which to any of you read what I write on the Nittany Lions know I don’t pull any punches when it comes to my analysis and thoughts on the football program). That became a reality when I came to the Pocono Record in October 2005. As often as I’ve gave praise when deserved (when Paterno led Penn State to Big Ten titles in 2005 and 2008, a season in which I covered six of the Lions’ eight home games) I’ve also been highly critical of both players and coaches, especially Paterno (when he clearly put himself before the program last year). In this case though, I have a hard time laying blame at the feet of an 84-year-old man.

Until I know the extent of the conversation had in 2002 between Mike McQueary and Paterno, when McQueary informed Paterno about what he witnessed in a shower stall of the football building between a man not named above and a young boy, how can I justly portray guilt on Paterno? And I say that knowing that even if Paterno only knew what he testified as having been told, that there may have been, “fondling or something of a sexual nature,” between a man not named above the young boy, that Paterno could have and should have done more than just go to athletic director Tim Curley. If Paterno knew what happened, from A to Z and everything in between, and didn’t testify with that information before the grand jury, wouldn’t he be facing both perjury and failure to report charges like Curley and Gary Schultz? A grand jury doesn’t stand being mislead or lied to and I highly doubt preferential treatment would be given just because Paterno is an 84-year-old coaching icon.

When I know the exact details of the conversation between McQueary and Paterno, and they’re bound to come out at some point, I’ll know how I should feel. Until then it’s just sadness (for the victims), disappointment (for Paterno being made the scapegoat by so many) and utter disgust (for a man not named above).

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