Everyone is to be blamed for what has happened at Penn State.
I am not a parent. I cannot speak as one.
And I won’t understand what parents across this country are feeling until, God willing, one day I’ve become one myself. But what has happened at Penn State University has shaken me to the core, nonetheless.
On Monday afternoon, I sat at my desk and I read 23 pages of horrifying grand jury testimony. I had to stop on more than one occasion to look away from my computer screen and regain my bearings.
My first reaction was visceral – towards a man who no longer deserves the rights and freedoms afforded to him by this great country. Next, I wrote down a laundry list of questions I wanted answered. Not as a sports writer or radio jock or even a fan, but as a human being.
What would I have done if I was in Mike McQueary’s shoes? How much unnecessary evil could have been prevented? What did Joe Paterno really know? When did he know it? How many more victims are there? How long has this be going on? How important is the game of football to me personally? Will there be NCAA sanctions? Should Penn State be allowed to finish the football season?
And why the hell was Jerry Sandusky walking around Penn State’s campus not two weeks ago as a free man?
Some of these questions have easy answers. The protection of children should come long before the retention of employment, maintaining a prestigious image or winning football games. You would think that is a pretty simple equation. And I am not hoping for probation or sanctions, which would be unprecedented behavior by the NCAA, I am rooting for an eight-by-eight cement cell without chance of parole.
And the current Penn State football players should not be punished for the irreconcilable mistakes of informed adult administrators over the last 15 years. So yes, Penn State fans, players and alumni should be proud to support their university against Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin.
We need to remember not to indict the masses for the disgusting acts of a few. The majority of people who work, attend, play for and support Penn State University are wonderful people who felt the exact same gut-wrenching pain I did when I read the attorney general’s report.
But for those few who are culpable - and you know who you are - there is a dark and special place reserved for you.
Unfortunately, however, some of those questions may never get answered. Paterno and McQueary will have to wrestle with their own consciences for the rest of their lives. They followed the letter of the law, but not the spirit. Honestly, who cares about a tarnished legacy or potential Big Ten championship when dealing with the molestation of children?
Even as I write this I am losing focus. This is not about Joe Paterno. Or Mike McQueary. Or how the Penn State seniors will play in their final contest in Beaver Stadium this Saturday.
This is about the kids – and there are no silver linings.
I cannot expect victims’ hearts to relax now that 40 counts (for now) of child sexual abuse have been levied against one sick human being. The arraignment of Gary Schultz and Tim Curley won’t repair the frayed nerve endings that have been permanently damaged. I cannot expect victims to sleep easier at night because Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier have been fired as head coach and President at Penn State. In fact, the attorney representing the victims, Ben Andreozzi, released a statement claiming that the Penn State “Board of Trustees got it wrong. They should have consulted the victims before making a decision on Mr. Paterno.”
And even when Jerry Sandusky gets what is most-assuredly coming to him in a federal penitentiary, the horrific memories of the past will not be expelled from the furthest reaches of those children’s memories.
I can only hope with every ounce of my soul that somewhere a frightened young child, panicked irresolute parent or morally weak graduate assistant will find the internal strength to learn from what has happened in State College, Pa., and vow to never let it happen again.