The Penn State Shame Game

As the Freeh Report was unleashed upon our American landscape last week a firestorm rose from what appeared to be the leftover ashes of the Jerry Sandusky trial.  As more information surfaces about this saga, more and more people are drawn into the many ethical and moral aspects of this craziness.  I’m wondering when it’s going to stop.  It’s not about to stop anytime soon, because there are more lawsuits planned and we will continue to hear the gruesome details of not only a crazy predator but also of a storied university’s failure to regulate and control itself.

Many eyes have been opened during this story.  There have been so many revelations that I am shocked at how such things could take place and how they could continue for so long.  The Freeh Report sheds a new light on college culture from the perspective of the inside instead of from the student culture on the outside, which is more of what we’re used to being exposed to.

When this story broke many people believed Joe Paterno was the victim.  When he was fired by Penn State there was a public outcry and uproar that supported him.  But let’s make no mistake about this: the real victims are the children Sandusky abused.  And when all of the lawsuits are over, when all of the monetary compensation is handed out to these victims and their families, they will still be victims.  No matter what the university and the state compensate them with, they will carry their experiences with them for the rest of their lives, affecting everyone they come in contact with, their families, their children.  There is nothing anyone can do to reverse the damage Sandusky did.  And that is the true heartbreak of this entire story.

On the subject of Penn State and their internal culture that allowed this to happen and continue to happen, I can see how it can happen.  You can see the same type of cronyism and culture in many businesses today.  That’s one thing, but a university, responsible for the education of young people, should never be able to fall into this tragic trap.  A university should never be able to be compared to the corrupt practices of today’s business.  To me, this culture is the backbone of why we’re even dealing with this story today.

I am forced to think about the Penn State football program.  I have followed college football since I was a little kid.  Growing up in Michigan I was a University of Michigan fan first and foremost.  But I always had certain schools shoved down my throat, whether by the networks or simply by my geographic location.  Seems like I was always hearing about Notre Dame, Nebraska and of course, Penn State.  To me, their lore and tradition were right up there with my glorious University of Michigan.  Back in that time, the Michigan football program was run by Bo Schembechler and the school’s athletic director was Don Canham.  Each season the Wolverines competed for the Big Ten championship, usually being decided on the final game of the season against Ohio State.  Michigan expected to play in the Rose Bowl every season, which was the automatic right of the Big Ten Conference champion.

If you don’t know anything about Bo Schembechler, you’re missing something.  He was The General.  He was a man of integrity, fairness and extreme passion for the game of football and for those who played it.  He was intense, fearless and focussed.  He ran a football program that was never even close to any sort of NCAA investigation.  He steered the football program at Michigan into one of the most respected college sports programs in the country.  He steered it with honor and integrity.  He steered it with the ultimate respect for the game, for its players and for the University of Michigan itself.  He was a Michigan man, but most importantly, he was a real man.

I spent a lot of my years following Michigan football.  I have read the Freeh Report and I have seen the findings stated on television.  I keep asking myself, could something like this ever happen at the University of Michigan under Bo’s watch?

The answer is NO.  A definite, no reservation NO.

The fact that the internal culture at Penn State allowed these atrocities to happen and continue to happen makes me sick to my stomach.  How can a group of people, trusted people, enforce such a thing at a major university?  How can they think they are above the ethical and moral standards the university itself preaches?  How dare they think they are above those they serve?  Some have speculated that Joe Paterno allowed this to continue because of his loyalty to Sandusky.  What kind of sick, twisted thought process is that?  How can one justify all of the inhumane actions taken against those kids in the name of loyalty to a football coach?

It’s time for something to be done when it comes to sports and the law.  It’s time for things to be re-examined.  Sports related news stories are now becoming a common occurrence.  Sports used to be a way to get away from the news, now you can’t escape news broadcasts that don’t have a negative sports story!

The NCAA has an opportunity here to set a precedent.  Unfortunately, there is no distinct set of rules that have been violated by Penn State as far as the NCAA is concerned.  It will be interesting to see what they do about this.  It is ironic that Joe Paterno fell ill and subsequently passed away shortly after this story broke.  We will never get to hear his side of it.  All of my years growing up and following college football will now have that fabled “Roger Clemens asterisk” when it comes to what I thought the legend of Joe Paterno was.  The man, at one time, was larger than life.  Now he is larger than nothing, his legacy soiled by the ultimate shame.  The university he represented is forever tainted and those involved in this atrocity are forever tied to one of America’s all-time tragedies.

And we still have countless victims who must suffer for the rest of their lives.  They are the real fallout of this madness.  They are the real tragedy here and we cannot forget that.

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