Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Freeh Report

My love for Penn State started on January 2, 1987.  It was in the Fiesta Bowl vs. Miami, a team I simply reviled from the kicker to the quarterback and even up to the head coach.  Not one single redeeming character in that organization.  The underdog PSU pulled one of the greatest upsets ever in college football and secured their second national championship.   

Beano Cook: "I had picked Penn State to win. But I was one of the only ones. A few years ago, I saw Joe at a dinner and he told me, 'To this day, I still don't know how we beat Miami.' There's always a game that every Hall of Fame coach loses and wakes up years later at 2 a.m. in a cold sweat thinking about it. For Jimmy Johnson, this was that game."

So in 1999 I enrolled at PSU.  I absorbed the culture including every book about Joe Paterno I could lay eyes on.  I even got to meet him a few times.  Even though the football team went to the basement, I still loved Joe and knew he would make the program right again.  To suggest otherwise was a punishable offense.

And I was right.  The 2005 season was one hell of a ride, starting with Joe throwing the university president out of his house and ending with a victory over Bobby Bowden in the Orange Bowl (I was there).  It was "Success with Honor", something that we as PSU alumnus try to live by.

As fans, we did admire the guy to an incredible extent.  Worship? No.  We all knew Joe had his faults.  He continually promoted his dimwitted son.  His soft zone defense that can be exposed by a marginal qb (see all losses to Michigan) and a shortened drop back.  Sticking with seniors when an underclassman with more talent was due some playing time.  We knew he had a penchant for Old Grandad whiskey.  We knew he had horrible PR; he reviled the media.  We knew he was really getting old, and for the first time he looked and acted like it.

You see, Gods have no faults.  Joe had plenty.  But somehow it made him more real, more relateable.  The guy had principles and he stuck by them.  And yes, whiskey is a principle and a fault.

Early last fall I was at a wedding and checked ESPN on my phone for a score.  The name "Sandusky" was everywhere.  The wedding venue had very poor reception, so I texted my friend, "Did Sandusky die?".  His reply: "Worse".

Sandusky was a monster.  He was every parent and child's worst nightmare.  And I hope there is a hell and he rots in it for what he did.

So we all sat numbly this past fall while the scandal snowballed.  Every new report seemed like it was a Paterno witchhunt, even though many of us thought the attention should be at other levels.  Joe did his job.  He told university officials including the head of campus police.

Then he was fired.  Then he died of lung cancer before he even got a chance to defend himself. 

The Freeh Report was released today.  I read a good portion of it.  I had to put it down.

In 1998 university officials were given notice that there was a report of Sandusky abusing a kid on campus.  The authorities dropped the case because there wasn't enough evidence.  And Joe knew of the incident.  Sandusky retired.

In 2001, a graduate assistant informed Paterno of an incident he personally witnessed one night on campus.  I can only imagine what it must be like to describe how he witnessed a good friend of Joe's sodomizing a kid in the shower.  Paterno contemplated the incident and relayed the information up the university chain of command.

When Joe relayed the information, the report states that he left out most of the graphic details as told to him.  From that point on, "boy-rape-sodomy" became "horsing around with possible genital contact".

And then Joe let the issue go.  He knew of the 1998 incident, and let the issue go.

The Freeh Report asserts "There is no indication that Spanier, Schultz, Paterno, Curley, or any other leader at Penn State made any effort to determine the identity of the child in the shower or whether the child had been harmed".

Joe issued the following statement: "I didn't know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was.  So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have had a little more expertise than I did.  It didn't work out that way....In hindsight, I wish I had done more."

You see, the first quote above completely knocks down any plausibility of innocence the university might have.  Because when it came to helping the victim or covering their shame, the entire chain of evidence clearly indicates the latter was the course of action deemed proper by the university leaders.

The second quote...if you chose to believe Joe at his word, Joe is still guilty as hell.  Simply upchanneling information when a kid could have been harmed violates the personal responsibility and "kids first" attitude Joe always preached.  Especially when it isn't the first time such an incident has been brought to your attention.

And now he's dead.  Lives are ruined.  The image of PSU is destroyed.

So what do you do when your foundation falls apart?  I don't know, they didn't teach me that at college.  The worst course of action I believe that we as fans can take is to airbrush Paterno's role in this while blasting the university officials.  He was a part of it.  Pretending something didn't happen has a bad precedent around here. 

I'm exhausted.  Spencer Hall (as always) puts things in a perspective that I cannot.  Take it away, Orson:
There are ways to write about the long trail of the Sandusky case, but somewhere in this, you cross the Nancy Gracepoint. In the face of atrocity, you look for some rationale, some protocol, a straight, unbroken line in an exploded space. Take a statue down, or put one up, or suggest the insanity of foresight. Throw everything down the memory hole. Demand the NCAA, an organization with no legal or moral purview whatsoever, do insane, unjustifiable things to a team that received no on-field benefit whatsoever from this.
If you mean it, you're just anger-binging, and are well past the Gracepoint. Nothing will ever be enough, and you're half-right: nothing ever makes this better, not jail, not torture, not anything, and certainly not fury-mobbing about the mediocre, spineless evil of something so obviously spineless and evil that was still allowed to flourish thanks to the community's leaders. Good reporting literally helps put these people in jail. Horrendous editorializing does not.
If you don't believe it and write it anyway, you're just trolling for hits from the people lining up for the five minute hate. If it's the latter, good on you for finding a profitable angle in a small crashing heap of humanity's worst failures: subservience to authority above all else, cowardice, and a failure to think past your arm's laziest reach. It's an omelet of atrocities, but at least someone's finding a way to make those eggs work.
As for the statue, leave it up. It'd cost money to move it, and Penn State will need every dime they have. It's not the statue's fault, anyway. It didn't get there by itself. Going back to an earlier theme: if you're the kind of person whose emotions are ruled by erecting and then destroying graven idols, I'm not writing for the 12th century reader, and never will.
ed-received an email addressed to me and my friends:

"Man, what do you think is going to happen to PSU?

They need to start over.  Take down the Joe statue, new uniforms, helmets, and names on jerseys.  No one wants to see our "tradition"".

Point 1: PSU football should go on.  The house was cleaned, and I fail to see what onfield advantage PSU gained from an ex-coach raping kids.  Same for the ensuing coverup.  The NCAA can go....ugh the rage.

As for PSU...When we went into Iraq in 2003 we found caches of American currency all around the country.  I would think the University would be doing the same, because they are culpable.  I would think PSU's lawyer population whould have grown exponentially by now.  And this is from a guy who thinks most lawsuits for monetary compensation are frivolous.

Point 2: Are you kidding me?  The kids that don blue represent PSU, and not Joe Paterno.  Those pink jerseys turned blue decades ago, well before Joe Paterno.  They really didn't change too much under Joe, and there is no reason to change it now.

Statues commemorate triumphs as well as atrocities.  Leave it up.  Never forget what Joe did, both good and bad.

And I'm pretty sure there are worse statues of people who did unspeakable things located smack in the middle of many southern towns.

Oh and Mark May can sukkit.

Last note: between this and professor Mann's work in AGW, there just ain't much to be proud of these days.

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