Monday, August 6, 2012

Misguided Aggression and the Penn State Scandal

For a long time, I've tried to give people the benefit of the doubt when it came to their opinions.

Disagree or not, the fact that most of us share differing views on the many topics that inundate our news-media at the very least means the possibility for discussion and, therefore, growth as individuals. 

However, that does not mean we, as individuals, should hold on to shoddy-at-best positions when facts of the matter are so close to our faces, we can see the sweat working its way out every of pore.  This, to me, is the epitome of self-perpetuated ignorance.

Case in point:  a few weeks ago, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association),  handed down unprecedented  penalties to Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), for their lack of institutional control and the resulting inaction that allowed Jerry Sandusky to sexually abuse children for more than a decade.

Among the transgressions that reaped these penalties is the inaction of head football coach Joe Paterno - affectionately known throughout Happy Valley as "JoePa" - when it became known that Sandusky was behaving in a way unbecoming of a human being.

While one could argue that punishing the school now - with Sandusky in jail, Paterno dead and the majority of administrators with knowledge of the situation removed from the University - is unnecessary to the extent that it has been punished, most people tend to agree with the decision handed down by Mark Emmert, the president of the NCAA (you can find the penalties here), myself included.

That is why I was mystified when my cousin provided me a link to some of the public comments (via Twitter) that were coming out in response to the sanctions.  To give you an idea, I have posted some snippets below from the full post on (Editor's Note:  There is graphic language in the majority of the comments):

It would seem that the individuals in these particular comments cannot grasp the profundity of the actions that took place at Penn State.  What's worse, even as the days p ass and the sanctions have the time to sink in, people still insist that what has happened here is a great injustice to the Penn State football program.  Even the family of Joe Paterno is lobbying to have the sanctions against his former team dismissed on the grounds that he is being dragged through the mud like a criminal.

I honestly thought about writing a letter to these individuals - explaining as bluntly as possible why their idiocy is only hurting the plight of those who are trying to positively support the Penn State family through these dark and rough waters.  But what impact would that have?

There are really only a few things to say about the matter, at this point:

- Joe Paterno is no longer - and should no longer be - a hero.  There are people who would have you believe he is a martyr for a crime he did not commit, but this is not the case.

Despite the ability - and in my opinion, obligation as a human being - to report directly to authorities about what happened at the Penn State football facilities.  Indications are that he passed on word of an incident and then let it be.  However, further speculation supports the belief that Paterno and others decided to handle the incident internally and NOT report it to outside authorities.

A hero does not do such a thing.  A pedophile enabler does.  And that's exactly what Paterno made himself out to be by deciding to keep quiet.

-  You shouldn't be mad at the NCAA.  People are upset with the reaction by the NCAA, shown with the sanctions they have imposed, but this anger is misplaced.  Instead, it should be focused on the causes for the sanctions:  The administration and the atmosphere that proved so conducive to a "football is more important" attitude.  Joe Paterno's wins were taken because he earned them while deceiving not only the public, but his family and the fans and families of the university that has given him so much praise for so long.  I cannot express how much unimaginable disappointment there should be with what Penn State officials allowed to happen.


-  Football is NOT what is important here.  People don't seem to understand this.  This is not a "well, things happen, people need to get over it," situation.  The view of the world  for every child that was impacted by this - every child that was sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky under the guise of a celebrated football coach and foundation that was meant to benefit children who were underprivileged - was forever damaged.

To what extent, it's hard to say.  As a victim of sexual abuse myself, I take no solace in the fact that there are portions of my childhood until age 10 that I cannot remember because of repression.  Why?  Because it came at the hands of someone I was supposed to trust - and did, in my unassuming childlike state.  Just like the children that Jerry Sandusky took advantage of trusted him.

Anyone who believes that football, at this point, is the most important focus at Penn State after what has happened there is a fool.

The most important focus now for Penn State - and for the victims who were hurt under the visage of the Penn State football program - is healing, education and most importantly, a paradigm shift.

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