In 1992 Sinead O'Connor stood on the stage of Saturday Night Live, held up a photograph of Pope John Paul II, sang the word "evil" and ripped up the photo to protest child abuse by the Catholic church.
And from that point on, her world came crashing down.
The hateful, vitriolic response to her act reverberated around the world. O'Connor was vilified in the media, received death threats and hated by Catholics and non-Catholics everywhere. Her career was never the same.
But the sad fact was she was right. Years later, the Catholic church was embroiled in a scandal of epic proportions that included thousands of molested children and cover-ups.
Fast forward ten years and a young assistant coach at Penn State named Mike McQueary was faced with a similar situation. Having allegedly witnessed Jerry Sandusky abusing a child first-hand in a shower, he had a decision to make. Should he tell the world about this monster in the midst of Happy Valley, exposing a flaw in the pristine image of everything Joe Paterno and Penn State stood for? Or should he pass the buck up the chain of command and then sit on his hands?
Having seen the world's knee-jerk reaction and complete destruction of Sinead O'Connor's career when she took called into the question the Pope, McQueary surely had to hesitate in how he would handle the situation.
Why? Because up until a week ago, Joe Paterno was the Pope of college football.
McQueary knew that going to the authorities about Sandusky would have been the equivalent of tearing up a photo of the Pope on live television. He would have been vilified in the media and by Penn State and Joe Paterno fans everywhere. His career would have been over and he would have been responsible for tarnishing the once-pristine legacy of Penn State's grandfatherly coach.
Witnessing an horrific act and being told about it are two very different things. One would like to think that if you witnessed a young boy being sodomized by Jerry Sandusky, you would have a much stronger reaction than someone who was notified of it.
What Mike McQueary did first, by calling his father and telling Joe Paterno, was completely understandable. No one can fault him for that given the craziness of what he witnessed. Should he have stopped it, ideally. But it's easy to say exactly what you would do if you had seen a person of Sandusky's stature doing that.
But when McQueary continued to see Jerry Sandusky on campus, dealing with young children, the protocol should have gone out the window, and he should have pushed to have Sandusky and his dealings with children stopped.
Mike McQueary had a moral obligation to see that Joe Paterno was not acting appropriately and take action to go around him, as tough as that would have been. But from everything that has come out, from the 1998 showering incident, to the 2000 oral sex incident to the 2002 alleged sodomy and showering incident that McQueary himself witnessed, Joe Paterno, the face and king of Penn State also had to know. Given the number of allegations and Joe Paterno knew and brushed it aside. For him to look the other way and let Sandusky still come on his campus (and it was HIS campus) is sickening.
As much as he was loved, Joe Paterno had lost his moral authority.
It may have meant the end of McQueary's career, but when the truth comes out and we find out that he let the culture of cover-up go on, he's as culpable as Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier and everyone else in the Penn State organization that swept this under the rug.
And I'm not saying this would have been an easy decision to make. Look at the current backlash to the decision to fire Joe Paterno.
Given all the unspeakable facts that have come out and how Penn State fans STILL reacted with riots on campus and overturning of cars, just imagine if all that hate and anger was targeted at one man, with no horrific details of oral sex and sodomy in a grand jury report to point to.
Mike McQueary would have gone the way of Sinead O'Connor. Alone, hated, and his career would be over, until his small vindication when the truth finally did come out.
But there's one big difference in this story. Sinead O'Connor had the courage to speak out against horrible acts of child abuse. Mike McQueary, sadly, did not.