We’ve talked about it all to death, and now look where we’ve ended up. Joe Paterno’s statue. Whether or not Penn State should participate in a bowl game. It doesn’t matter.
Jerry Sandusky was wrong for doing what he did. Joe Paterno was wrong for hiding what Jerry Sandusky did. Mike McQueary was wrong for not doing enough. Spanier, Curley, all of them, wrong.
They all deserved criticism, and they all deserved to be fired. But continue talking about these individuals in great detail along with issues like statues and bowl games doesn’t solve a thing. They aren’t the point (aside from Sandusky himself ) anymore.
None of it prevents anything like this from happening again. The list of individuals we can blame is a hundred miles long, and it surely doesn’t stop with where we’re at. There are plenty of people to hunt down and interview, or for Sports By Brooks to rant and rave about to get attention and page views.
Think of anywhere you’ve worked. Now try to remember an indiscretion by one of your co-workers. Even one by someone who worked there before you. Maybe someone got caught having sex in the break room or arrested for drunk driving. Everyone knew about it. Everyone. From the executives to the secretaries to the interns. It goes from a story to kind of an office legend.
Now think about the Penn State football program. You mean to tell me that these few individuals were the only ones who knew something went on with Jerry Sandusky and didn’t say anything? You mean to tell me that Joe Paterno’s secretary didn’t hear something? Or Spanier’s? Or Curley’s?
Out of the hundreds and hundreds of men who have played football for Penn State since those first incidents in the late 90’s, you mean to tell me that none of those players knew that something went on? Wives, friends, concession workers. They saw Sandusky maybe not every day, but often enough to know who he was, or what he’d done.
The root of the problem isn’t in the individuals and the statue didn’t cover anything up. It’s the culture and the atmosphere that these individuals were a part of that’s the issue. Maybe things like statues matter in some small way to the people who are regularly on that campus, but it would seem that media would be better focused on something more important. Individual punishments, statues, bowl games, who cares? The community failed. Let’s find out why. It may make for fewer, less juicy stories, but we’d be better for it.
Only examining the culture will help us from preventing more harm being done in similar situations. It’s not what the people around Penn State did anymore, it’s why. Fear, greed, pride, you could probably find parts if it in most of the seven deadly sins, but that should be the mission. Find it, and do your best to wipe it out.
It gets like that with a complicated math problem sometimes. When you’ve made a mess of the piece of paper, sometimes you’ve just got to rip it up and start new.
With Penn State, we’ve spent so much time worrying about the details that we’ve forgotten what the problem was in the first place. Let’s rip up the paper.