By Frankie O
Once again, Im having to deal with my mental and emotional fallout due to the Penn State scandal. The information coming from the Freeh Report confirmed most of my worst fears. Although, unlike a lot of folks I talk to, I feel this situation is going to get worse as more people go to trial and the Feds get involved and we get closer to understanding the full scope of the cover-up of Jerry Sanduskys actions. The denial that many are living with is going to have to be reconciled. For me, Im definitely in the anger stage and want to see heads roll. My current state seems to be similar to the reactions of the NCAA considering the sanctions that they imposed on the university and the football program last week.
Just about everywhere the NCAA was lauded for its swift and punitive actions. I get that. I appreciate that they didnt drag their feet and take years of investigations in their infractions process to determine guilt. Its obvious that this was a university hierarchy out of control and the school needs to pay for those misdeeds.
Its here where I have more conflict. Im trying to understand who really suffers from the punishments rendered. At this point, the three surviving members of the infamous Gang of Four, former President Graham Spanier, former Vice President Gary Shultz and exAthletic Director Tim Curley are not serving lengthy jail terms, yet. This would help in the healing process. They were the ones who knew and decided not to act, I mean besides Mike McQueary. (Just a question, I know he reported what he saw to Joe, but how did he sleep at night knowing nothing was done about it for the next 10 years?)
Actions against all of the above would be very appropriate. While Im at it, actions against the silent Board of Trustees would seem appropriate also. In the Freeh Report he used the word disengaged to describe them. I read that word as complicit. How this board can survive is beyond me. At least long-time Joe supporter Steve Garban finally showed the decency to step down from his post. His admitting his role in what transpired would be nice, but his failure to do so is the point.
Its all about protecting the golden goose. They hope this will all die down and they can move on. It seems to me theyre as delusional as the press releases coming from the Paterno family. (I understand the point of due process and letting all the facts get out, but just about any attorney I know would tell you to keep your mouth shut until that happens. Ever hear of a thing called a civil suit?)
The NCAA sanctions get to the core of this. Debilitating the football program means there is less money coming in, less in revenue and less in donations. This is not a small consideration. Its the language all these people speak, meaning the NCAA and those who run major universities. Its all about the cash. Always has been and always will be. In that, we are offered a valuable life lesson. Its one that the current players and students might pay attention to and heed. If they learn anything while they are at school, it is being played out in front of them: People will do just about anything to make money, then they will do everything in their power to protect it, whether its for themselves personally, or the entity that allows them to be gainfully employed. Im not being cynical, just stating a fact, one that the sooner we learn, the sooner we are able to navigate our way.
For me this lesson occurred at the start of my senior year of high school. For all of us, this is supposed to be a special time, a culmination of a lot of hard work and a last year of bliss before the harsh realities of the real world. This is the time since either its time to go to work, or go to college to amass loads of crippling debt, but I regress.
My senior year was my return to football after a self-imposed two-year exile. I always preferred playing baseball, but for some reason before my senior year, was overcome with the desire to hit things. Go figure! Training camp long and hot and a lot of fun! It was great being part of a team, better yet being part of one that had a chance to be good. The class that had departed the year before did so with the conference crown and expectations for my class were just as high. Personally, it was with a tremendous sense of achievement that I earned the starting safety assignment. Things were going my way.
Then when school was about to start, all the talk in the local newspaper was about the labor impasse our teachers had with the school district. Strike? That couldnt happen to us could it? Thats how we seniors looked at it. This was our time. Well, maybe a couple extra days of summer werent a bad thing.
Then days turned to weeks, and the weeks turned into a month. Things were not pretty. A lot of angry words were exchanged. I remember a lot of us felt let down by our coaches. We worked so hard for them. Why would they let us down?
One day when a bunch of us went to hang around outside the school to watch the strike festivities, one of the major Philadelphia papers had a reporter there. Of course when asked, a bunch of us gave our opinions. One of them, a fellow who someday would become on overweight bartender in the city of Chicago, was actually quoted in a front-page article voicing his displeasure. Go figure, again!!
Mostly it had to do with a sense of helplessness about being punished for something that none of us students had anything to do with. That those who were supposed to be molding us as young adults were not setting a good example by putting themselves above those who it was their job to shepherd.
When the strike finally ended, the classrooms where a chilly place, especially for someone whose opinions where in print. (Some things never change!) And the classroom had nothing on what occurred on the football field. Our coaches refused to come back to lead us. Instead, a few well-meaning, but in-over-their-heads administrators agreed to take over the team. Well, team in its loosest sense. Nothing was the same. There was no heart. There was no bond between player and coach. And we got hammered in every game we played.
Not to mention, the one teacher who was the most militant in support of the strike, and convinced his fellow football coaches to no-show in football, was the head baseball coach, money he agreed to take. How long do you think it took him to cut the aspiring bartender during tryouts? Everybody on the field! You, in the red bow tie, not so fast.
Like any teenager, I had enough other issues to keep my plate full, but I dont think, at the time, this was the best thing that could happen to me or any of my other classmates. The whole year had a sense of negativity to it. A stifling effect. It would take years for me to make sense out of it.
So its with that eye that I look at the Penn State situation. First and foremost, I think about the unspeakable horrors that the victims endured and the fact that people that were supposed to know better, could have prevented.
But in the ripple effect of life, there are more victims, ones whose only crime was to choose the wrong university to attend. I think about how the players must feel right now, how hard have they worked only to see dreams of a team accomplishment shattered.
About how upper-classmen, who go to every game, can figure out whats going on, on the campus around them. This was supposed to be their time.
Now? They all are going to have to learn about the facts of life. That stuff is going to happen beyond their control for the rest of their lives. The sooner this is accepted the better.
I cant help but feel for so many good kids that have been put in a bad situation. As a parent, you want everything to go right for your kids, for all kids. But you also know that isnt a realistic expectation. Bubbles are going to burst.
But things also have to be put in perspective. Things arent always going to work out the way we want. Everyone doesnt get a trophy. We have to learn how to deal with it and move on. Even it happens in a place we least expect it.
The other thing we learn: Its always easier said than done