Thursday, November 10, 2011

Making Sense of this Penn State Mess

Making Sense of this Penn State Mess
By Aaron M. Smith

This past Saturday, I read the grand jury report about the Penn State mess involving Jerry Sandusky et. al. I haven't been the same since and I can't even imagine how the last decade has gone for the young boys most directly affected. It has sickened me and has made me question the current state of our society. It has made me loathe the college football machine, the greed, the power that has seemingly -- and unfortunately -- taken a seat at the top of our collective priorities. There is too much to talk about with this horrific and outrageous story, but I wanted to bring up a couple of questions that I can't seemingly wrap my brain around.

On Graduate Assistant Mike McQueary
USA Today photo of McQueary and Paterno
Mike McQueary then a 28-year old MAN, walked into the locker room and heard what he said sounded like sexual actions coming from the shower. He walked into the shower and saw Jerry Sundusky raping a defenseless boy who, McQueary said, looked to be about 10 years old. McQueary walked out of the locker room distraught and called his father. His father and he then went to Joe Paterno's house the following morning to talk about what he saw.

Let me stop right there for a moment. McQueary witnessed a vile criminal act and didn't think to call the police? How is that possible? Secondly, McQueary, a big man and former football player, left the 10-year old boy to fend for himself. He left the locker room without trying to save the child or find out who he was and how he could help. That is the most dispicable thing in this. He walked out on this kid without helping him. He let this child alone with Sandusky after witnessing Sandusky raping him. There is absolutely no excuse for that. None! This is a quote from McQueary's father:

"He's a good kid and tough kid. He did what he was supposed to do, and all of this has been very hard on him. Everything from this and about this (case) has been difficult for him, but he's a strong person and will be OK."

Wrong. On so many levels. First, he wasn't a kid. He was a 28-year old man. Let's be clear on that. He was a 28-year old man who knows the difference between right or wrong. Secondly, he did not do what he was supposed to do. He saw a horrendous crime being committed against a young boy and did nothing to stop it nor did he call the police to report what he saw. He did NOT do what he should have done. And to the father, neither did you. How can you hear that account from your son and not call the authorities? Not only did your son not do what was right, neither did you.

Then there are reports that Sandusky has been a part of the football program for the last decade, often working with players and running a youth football program. I simply do not understand how McQueary could see Sandusky commit such a vile act and then see him working with young boys and not do anything about it. It says a lot about what kind of person McQueary is. And judging by the act of his father, it's easy to see where he got it.

On Joe Paterno
Joe Paterno is the Godfather of college football. At Penn State, he is simply a god. He ran the program and for all intents and purposes, the entire university. He was the equivalent of a CEO for a Fortune 500 company (Penn State makes a $50 million profit each football season). Someone comes to him and tells him that his assistant coach was doing something "of a sexual nature" to a young child. Whether he understood that it was a full-on rape or not, he has an obligation to get the police involved immediately. Take the football out of this. A CEO knows an employee of his has sexually assaulted a child in his office building and then does nothing is usually arrested and charged with some sort of obstruction of justice. That hasn't happened. JoePa is a legend. He's a football coach. He didn't get the police involved at all. And there is no defense for that. All Paterno had to do was make a phone call after hearing about Victim 2. And because he didn't, there are now 20 victims with horrific tales about Sandusky.

I'm tired of hearing about Paterno the Legend. His football accomplishments pale in comparison to the unbelievable lack of humanity in this situation. How you could know what happened and let that man on your campus and in your locker room and a part of your university is beyond me. How you could know Sandusky was raping a child and then see him running his youth camp is disgusting. Paterno, you had an obligation to this child, and you failed miserably. I feel no sympathy for you -- only for the 18 (at least) boys that became victims after you failed to stop Sandusky in his tracks.

On the state of our society
I've heard so many times in the past four days, "As a father of two, I'm outraged ..." or "Being a parent, this sickens me."

How about "As a human being ..."

Why do you only understand how horrendous this crime was if you have children of your own? People are saying that the media is making Joe Paterno a scapegoat. Seriously? Read the grand jury report and I'm sure you'll have another perspective on the matter.

Last night when Penn State officially fired Joe Paterno, students from the university rioted and screamed "We want Joe!" They overturned media vans and set things on fire.

Where was this outrage for the victims?

On college football
College football has gotten too big. There is so much power and money and greed and the people in charge have lost all perspective. It has become "Protect the Program" first and everything else a distance second. Unfortunately, because of this greed, this dedication to the program, sexually abused and assaulted children finished a distant second. Let me say that again. It was the Penn State football program first ... then the kids. Sickening.

When a university puts its football team above all else, this happens. In my opinion, if Penn State feels this strongly about its football program, so strongly that abused children where never even tried to be identified and helped, then maybe it shouldn't even have a football program. Seriously. If a football program is too important to even reach out to help sexually abused children, there should be no football program.

On Jerry Sandusky
I can't even think about what to write about this monster. He is a despicable excuse for a human being. He is the true monster. He is the villain. He is the person who ruined the Penn State name. He is the person that ruined the lives of so many.

But we as a society also failed miserably here. What kind of world do we live in where something like this could happen? People are rioting in favor of a coach instead of picketing and demanding justice for children. This is a horrific failure on our part.

As a human being, I'm appalled by all of this. By Sandusky. By Paterno. By McQueary. By the school president. By the rioters on campus. No one involved has any dignity left. And no on-field accomplishments or budget reports should make anyone think otherwise.


  1. "How you could know what happened and keep that man on your staff is beyond me."

    Your timeline is off. Sandusky retired in 1999. The shower incident that was reported to Paterno was in 2002. He wasn't on Paterno's staff at the time.

  2. He may not have been on the coaching staff of the college football team but he was still working for a satellite Penn State University campus working with young boys in a football camp for Penn State. He was regularly allowed in the locker room and had full use of all Penn State athletic facilities up until last week. That's what I meant by that.

  3. Anonymous -- I clarified my statement:

    "How you could know what happened and let that man on your campus and in your locker room and a part of your university is beyond me."

  4. Thank you. Can't believe I even had to write this post.

  5. Aaron, I've enjoyed your writing on this blog. I visited your website and purchased your book on Marc Edwards -- I'm a Notre Dame fan. I'm really looking forward to reading it.

  6. None of these individuals at Penn State had moral clarity.

    Bernie Maddoff's son exemplefied moral clarity after Mr. Madoff confessed to his crime (Ponzi scheme) and the son turned him in to the proper authorities the following morning.

    There was no ambiguity, there was no thinking that it was his father that he was turning in; eventhough, it would have meant certain financial ruin to the family.

  7. I'm all for justice being had in this matter, but the facts aren't transparent yet. There is ZERO reason he should have been fired in the manner he was.

    The entire situation should have been held with more patience and morals than it was. Joe didn't deserve this, nor would any innocent person who committed their entire LIFE to a good cause.

    At the very least he should have been allowed to coach his final home game of his career!

    Let Joe Paterno go out with dignity, he deserves it.

  8. Anonymous ... I appreciate your comments and respect your opinion. However, I have to vehemently disagree with you here. Did you read the grand jury report? That is what McQueary told the authorities under oath. That is fact. Either McQueary is a liar that made this whole thing up (which is ridiculous to even think), or what he said was the truth. Paterno knew about it and had an obligation to report it. We're talking about child molestation here. We're talking about rape here. If Paterno had any knowledge of the events and didn't tell authorities, that is wrong. He does not deserve to coach his last home game ... football is not more important than this case. Paterno is not bigger than justice.

  9. Exceptional article. Someone pasted the link on an ESPN blog covering the Penn State story. Your thoughts and perspective is spot on!

  10. Interim Head Coach Tom Bradley: "Mike McQueary will be coaching Saturday. Game-time decision whether he's on the sidelines or up in the box."

    I cannot understand how this is possible. But hey, it's a big football game.

  11. A lot of people said the more this story goes deeper, the darker it will get. I think we're headed in that direction with this latest report:

  12. There is too much to this story for it not to become an Oliver Stone or Martin Scorcese film.

    In 1998 there was an official PSU police investigation after a complaint made by the mother of victim #4. She gave consent for the cops to evesdrop on her two conversations with Sandusky where he basically confessed to culpability in that child abuse investigation. Then, for mysterious reasons, the District Attorney closes the case . . . then disappears himself years later . . . never to be seen or heard again.

    Did someone pay that DA off? Who was REALLY behind his mysterious disappearance from the face of the earth?

    The University cops did there job here but PSU may still have some liability to the class of children who were later molested subsequent to that 1998 investigation, an event which was undoubtedly borught to Coach Paterno's attention because Sandusky was his second-in-commmand and hier apparent at the time PSU police conducted this investigation. Paterno HAD to know in 1998, there is no plausible argument to the contrary, he had Sandusky "retire" the following year.

    Furthermore, McQuery HAD to have given Paterno specifics about the sodomy he witnessed in 2002. Why would he give specifics to Schultz and AD but utilize his personal relationship with the head coach who he visited personally with his father in tow? Why not give Paterno the best info possible so he would not have to repeat this info to anyone else, he was clearly troubled by what he witnessed and he knew Paterno was THE MAN. If anyone could take this load off his chest it was Paterno so why no give him ALL the info he would need so he clear his mind of it?

  13. Slow down, please. You're not thinking this through.

    You are assuming that the only way things couldn't have occurred as McQueary said is if he out-and-out lied. There are other alternative scenarios ... scenarios under which Paterno, the PSU President, and the other two PSU officials are innocent of failure to report.

    Imagine this. McQueary walks into the locker room and notices Sandusky and the 10-year-old boy in the shower together. He does not observe child rape occurring. This is why he doesn't intervene, and why he doesn't call 9-1-1 immediately. He doesn't do that because the act observed is not a sexual assault. He is, however, disturbed by what he's seen, and he reports that, doing so in vague language. Since he's using vague language to start with, and hasn't reported child rape occurring, no reports to police occur.

    Later ... years later ... McQueary hears about the rape allegations. Perhaps the sexual act occurred before McQueary entered the shower room, or after he left. In any event, having heard of the allegations, he concludes in hindsight that
    he did see it occur, and that he did report it, explicitly. Why does he say this? Because subconsciously, years after the observation, he believes that. He's persuaded himself that that's what he saw and that's what he did. He has the discomfort of not being able to explain his failure to act at the moment, but he can't come up with an explanation for that, so he goes with what he haves. He doesn't believe he's lying, but he's mistaken.

    (Note, incidentally, that there COULD easily be a scenario for a deliberate lie, too. Same scenario as just outlined. Here, however, the 10-year-old, himself recounting events years after the fact, recalls that someone entered the shower room during the rape. This isn't so, it turns out; the now 17-year-old's memory commingles certain events together, and in fact the person he heard enter the shower room did so either before or after the rapes, not during. Nevertheless, he says it was during. McQueary now has a dilemma, since he's on record as reporting something, and thus he will be said to have entered and saw the rape in progress yet did not report that. What to do? His only choice, to avoid himself being made a defendant, is to say that he saw it, did nothing save report it the next day.)

    Either of the scenarios I've outlined explain why McQueary didn't intervene and didn't call 9-1-1 when he supposedly saw a rape in progress. If he didn't see it, but now only years later thinks he did or says that he did, his failure to intervene and call the police makes sense. I think we should use logic in analyzing the story we have before us.

    The prosecution, of course, wants a conviction of as many people as they can get. They will therefore overlook the problems with McQueary's story and deem him believable since that declaration allows them to use his to go after others. Simple as that.