Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Perspective During a Difficult Week

I am not going to delve too deep into the scandal that has rocked a once proud program. But I do have my opinions and feel the need to share them with the readers.

It's interesting that two weeks ago I wrote an article about Knowing When To Fold. That was right after the Colorado Oregon game and I felt at the time that Joe Paterno should retire at the end of this season. Wow, what a shocker the way his career ended, though.

I cannot say that I disagree with the ruling of the Board of Trustees at Penn State University. After all, I have to believe that they have more information than any of us, the interested onlookers. The problem, though, is I doubt very sincerely that they have any more information than has been reported. If, in fact, this is the case and the Board of Trustees does not have all the facts, are they not acting in the same selfish manner so many have accused the athletics department staff? Are they not firing people as a reaction to public sentiment and outrage? Is this not simply to "save face" for the university? Of course it is. Why else would they make a decision so swiftly before all the facts are gathered.

As an example, we know for a fact that Athletic Director Tim Curley told the Second Mile organization that an internal investigation had been performed regarding the 2002 incident. Curley told Jack Raykovitz, CEO of Second Mile that "an internal Penn State investigation had found no corroboration for an allegation of inappropriate contact by Mr. Sandusky with a youth in a university locker room shower."

What evidence is there that Joe Paterno did not actually ask several people what the outcome of his report was? And, if he did ask, would it not be  reasonable to believe that he would get the same stale line that Second Mile's CEO received? Joe Paterno did not witness the shower incident, he merely heard an account from another person. He reported the RUMOR to his boss who was supposed to investigate. From there, we do not know what Paterno did or did not do, we all merely have an opinion based on conjecture. Maybe the Board of Trustees has more information than we do... but, then again, maybe they simply bowed to public pressure.

The more important question, in my mind, is not what actions a person who had no first hand knowledge of the crime performed, but what actions did the actual witness perform? Upon seeing a 10 year old boy being molested in the shower by an old man, the coach simply finished putting his videotapes (or sneakers depending on the version of the story that you may have heard)  then went home and called his dad. Huh? A 27 year old man sees a 10 year old boy being raped and he is unsure what to do? Wow. Yet, there is McQueary, the most crucial figure in the case, the man who witnessed a rape, waiting to go home and talk to his dad, then deciding the next day to talk to Coach Paterno. A 27 year old man who witnessed a 10 year old boy getting raped never called the police, and there he is, standing tall with a job. How in the world can this be true?

From the mountaintops, I hear those who feel righteous enough to say "Well, if it was me, I would have..." and you can fill in the blanks. But the truth is, people walk by crimes being committed every day in cities all across the United States; and they ignore the crime. "It's not my problem" is their line du jour.

"Oh, but this is different, this crime is serious," they tell themselves. Women are raped in Central Park, screaming for help to no avail... and people convince themselves what they would do if confronted by the situation. The truth is, they are probably wrong. Dateline NBC does a special which shows just how little people really do to help others in need. But no one wants to admit that they would act that way. It's our dirty little secret. We all say we would do something, but evidence suggests that we would do very little. People say what they need to in order to believe themselves to be "good" people.

In reality, few of us know what we would do in a similar situation. What I know is this, Mike McQueary was just as action-less as Joe Paterno; and McQueary still has a job. Personally, I find McQueary more culpable in this mess as he had first hand knowledge and did nothing.

Many have said this will tarnish all of Paterno's legacy. Not for me. The difference, I admire college football coaches and players for what they are: coaches and players. Their accomplishments on the field are not diminished by their actions, or inactions, off the field. OJ Simpson was a great football player. His fluid movements on the field are not jaded in my mind because of his later life.

While Joe Parterno may have made a horrible decision to not do more follow up on an accusation made by a young assistant coach, that in no way diminishes what he did as a football coach. After all, Penn State still has not received sanctions for any major violations in the football program. How many other programs can say that?

Further, I cannot hold myself in judgment on another human being. I am not the person who feels it my right to impose morality on another human being. Morality is not for the masses to determine; morality is an individual choice within the parameters of legality. As long as an American is acting within the laws of the land, his choice of morality and ethics are not my domain.

As the Greatest Book Ever Written says: "Judge not, lest ye be judged." And "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

As I am not without sin, I guess I will leave the casting of stones to others.
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