Sigh. I woke up this morning to the NCAA press conference announcing the punishments for my alma mater and found myself agreeing with Dr. Mark Emmert, NCAA president, when he essentially said no one is happy about the penalty; there is nothing happy about any of this sad, sordid affair.
I have listened to the stories and reports, and have had many discussions with my fellow alumni as well as with those who are not alums or even Penn State fans. As stated in my earlier post, I am not now, nor was I ever a big football fan. I enjoy tailgating, and football watching parties, but I still have no idea what off sides (or is it off size?) means, even though my patient better half has explained it to me many times. I guess it is fair to say that I don’t care enough about football to make it a priority. I say that without apology, by the way.
I get into the stories about football more than the actual game. However I was a Joe Paterno admirer even though my Saturday afternoons were spent at Patee Library, and not Beaver Stadium. No matter how much arguing will go on about how much blame each of the players in this tragedy should assume, and no matter what the courts decide about liability, one thought lingers as to what is the proper response to having knowledge of sexual or other abuse. As a parent, I am concerned with the moral imperatives of this case, rather than the legal ones.
It seems to me that the most upsetting thing was that several adults knew that something was wrong but did only what was required of them by the law, (or in some cases less than that.) It is as if they decided that the sexual abuse of these young boys did not rise to the alarming level that it does for all us parents, alumni, and excuse me but…fellow human beings. And that is the question that I feel still deserves an answer, not what did you do about it, or did you obey the law? I want to know did it bother you at all; did you, as most of us would, lose any sleep over the fact that something horrible was going on at Penn State? Do you understand how devastating, humiliating, and permanently damaging sexual abuse is for these young men, and for their families? I know, people passed it up the chain, told their fathers, and discussed it in emails. That hardly seems to be enough.
This week, we have been immersed in another tragedy out in Aurora, Colorado and we want answers. Why did James Holmes do what he did? What could he have possibly have gotten out of killing innocent people? Was he deranged? Surely he was mentally ill we say. But what of the Penn State staff? They are not considered crazy as has been suggested of James Holmes. The fact that so many were so hesitant to blow the whistle on the atrocities tells me a lot about the culture of Penn State athletics. It seems that everyone knew that the messenger would endure much more pain and suffering than the perpetrator. And in acquiescing to this code of silence, more young boys were sacrificed. As a parent, I do not understand it. And since most of the people involved were also parents, it leaves me stunned.
In my earlier post I suggested one simple rule for anyone who witnesses the abuse of a child–stop it, and call the police. Now I will add one simple question for those who did not act, or who now say they wish they had done more. I want to ask this question to each of the people involved in the scandal.
Just answer this honestly: Did you respond with the fervor that you would have had if YOUR child or grandchild was the victim? I didn’t think so. The harshness of the NCAA decision still seems to pale in comparison to the cavalier attitude of the Penn State powers that be towards the heinous crimes committed against the young victims. I just don’t get it.
Penn State will have a football program again, and it may even be a successful one, although I may not live to see it. However the disgrace of adults who were not willing to prosecute known abuse or prevent further abuse will probably never completely go away. To the victims and their families I offer my deepest condolences. You deserved so much better.