As most of you know, I’m a sports writer. Been one for most of the last decade, with a brief departure into news writing. So like I did with LeBron, here is my take on the current moment.
– People have asked me if this is the “worst” sports scandal of all time. I don’t know, but it’s up there. O.J. was pretty shocking and ushered in a new era of zero innocence when it came to all of celebrity and sport, but by that time Simpson was more known for acting and as a media figure. This involved current sports figures, facilities, a massive cover up, and the systematic and ignored abuse of the most cherished and vulnerable members of our society. I would give that the nod over Pete Rose, gambling Black Sox or anything else. Adding a universally revered figure like Joe Paterno adds another dimension. This is tragedy on another level.
– There was always a common theme to many of the college football scandals. Almost all of the ones that have broken in recent years (USC, Miami, Ohio State, SMU) happened in major media markets. This is important. My contention – for years – is that the real problems exist in the smaller college towns, especially those with entrenched hierarchy. Penn State fit this to a tee. Longtime coach, athletic director, President, and an inbred coaching staff at all levels. All in a town that values football over everything else (if you want proof of that, go review the press conference the other night with reporters shouting insults at the board of trustees). Say this can’t happen in your town, the truth is it can and it might be happening. It might not be involved in something so horrific as child abuse, but there is probably plenty of dirt being buried. Penn State and State College, Pa. match the make-up of most towns with major football programs. This is something to think about and should scare Presidents, boards and faculty into reviewing exactly who is in charge in their burg.
– People ask why the decision making occurred like it did, and I can give you a bit of insight into that. I’ve worked in plenty of high school football factories (towns) and on the whole, outside of size and media attention, they aren’t much different than colleges. Paterno, Sandusky, Curley and the rest answered to who they were used to answering to – themselves. This is the hierarchy of State College. When graduate assistant Mike McQueary walked into the Penn State locker room and saw Jerry Sandusky raping a boy, he went to the highest authority he thought of – Paterno. Sandusky was the assistant coach for two national titles at Linebacker U – that was the only place to go in his mind, and after that it was finished. I’ve seen it too many times, where I’ve asked the school superintendent a question and he replies by saying he would have to ask the football coach first, without realizing what he’s saying. It’s the same mentality. It’s what happens when schools become football schools. It’s the only logical reason why Sandusky could virtually confess within the listening range of State College Police and never face charges. This finally reached the purview of the state police and that’s when things began to happen.
– The numbers for this may be staggering. The grand jury report lists victims going back to 1994, but Sandusky was active in State College since 1969, meaning there could be victims in their 50s. His charity began in the late 1970s. Clay Travis, a practicing attorney who also reports for the college football site OutkicktheCoverage.com said some victims are being represented by lawyers involved with suing the Catholic Church the last several years over child abuse. They think civil suits could range in the 100s of millions. Another figure has legal fees, settlements, loss of advertising and donors amounting to $1 billion for Penn State.
– Numbers and analyzing this situation may be fine, but it comes down to the human toll. As someone who knows someone who was sexually assaulted, I was filled with rage when I first heard the news. I can’t imagine why people sat on this for so long.