Monday, July 23, 2012

Why I'm OK if Penn State football gets eviscerated today

I have several friends who are Penn State alumni--good people who not so long ago revered Joe Paterno, good people who have been devastated by the Jerry Sandusky scandal and everything that has followed. I feel bad for my friends today.

On the other hand, I also hope that today's NCAA sanctions cripple the Penn State football program. 

Penn State defenders point out that if the program is hobbled, it will punish students and a new coaching staff and others who didn't do anything wrong, who didn't let Jerry Sandusky molest children. And they're right.

On the other hand, there's this scene from Sunday's removal of Joe Paterno's statue.
Margaret Walsh knelt in prayer before the stumps of metal that remained, tears streaming down her face. An obstetrician/gynecologist and Penn State alumna who once baby-sat Paterno's children, she had driven nearly six hours from Chesterfield, Va., to pay the statue her respects. 
"Everything is being done so fast," she said. "I pray to God that justice be done and that he be vindicated."
Less obscenely, I'm reminded of this:
Janitors who observed Jerry Sandusky performing a sexual act on a young boy in the Lasch Building showers in 2000 kept quiet out of a fear of Joe Paterno and the power he held at Penn State, according to this morning's Freeh Report. 
Individuals cited in the report as "Janitor A" and "Janitor B" both observed disturbing behavior in Fall 2000, and the report points to Joe Paterno's "excessive influence" in creating a chilling effect for lower-level Penn State employees to report football team misdoings. 
"The University would have closed ranks to protect the football program at all costs," states the report as a characterization of the interview conducted with the janitor last week. The incident "would have been like going against the President of the United States [...] I know Paterno has so much power, if he wanted to get rid of someone, I would have been gone."
The Freeh Report concluded that the football-loving "culture" of the university bore some blame for Sandusky's ability to evade arrest and prosecution for 14 years, and Margaret Walsh's bitter tears suggest that that culture resonates yet. And that culture involves far more people than just the few men who are indicted or lost their jobs over this sad, sorry situation.
So destroy it. Tear that culture out of the ground like a diseased tree and set it on fire so that only ashes are left. Punish Penn State so severely that the janitors know the program isn't bigger than their responsibility to save children. Let Margaret Walsh's tears salt the earth outside the football stadium so that nothing can grow in its place. 

If the culture bears responsibility for molested children, then yes, the culture must be punished. It will be painful, and I do feel terrible for my friends who really bought into the Grand Experiment. But the experiment is a farce and a failure, and an example must be made.

UPDATED: A comment from a friend that originally appeared in this post has been removed. 

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