I really should be happy.
The Baltimore Ravens finished off a satisfying sweep of their rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, and I could not believe my eyes at the time. Much-maligned quarterback Joe Flacco put the team on his shoulders over the last two minutes of the game against a ferocious and seasoned Steelers defense, and willed the Ravens to victory. He overcame dropped passes by his receivers and a hostile environment on the road to post his most significant performance to date, and I should have been jubilant over the Ravens getting a leg up on their foe.
And I was happy, don’t get me wrong. But it just didn’t seem as important to me as it normally would have.
See, I’ve been a bit distracted with the goings-on at Penn State University. Jerry Sandusky, who had served 23 years as defensive coordinator at Penn State and authored one of the greatest defensive performances I’ve ever seen when Penn State topped Miami in the 1986 national championship game, has been accused by a grand jury of sexually abusing children he met through his charitable foundation while coaching at Penn State and since.
I’ve been a sports fan for as long as I can remember, and some of the earliest childhood memories I still have are hearing my father going on and on about the Penn State football program. It was not the typical sports-fan talk as far as how competitive the team was or how iconic coach Joe Paterno was, as much as it was prideful boasting about how clean a program they had in Happy Valley — a far cry from the shady shenanigans going on at many other institutions that participated in big-time college football.
“Penn State doesn’t cheat,” he would say. “They recruit good kids, and then they stay on them and make sure they go to class. They do it the right way.”
And that’s how I felt. Penn State was never my favorite team the way it was my father’s, but I always liked them, and would tell people who were cynical about the ethics in big-time college sports that it is indeed possible to run a program the right way. Just look at Penn State.
And now this.
Ohio State, USC and Miami have all faced public humiliation recently over improper benefits being paid to student-athletes. They have been figuratively burnt at the stake by the pundits who cover college sports, and brought back the stigma associated with amateur athletics. Some players allegedly received money, others free tattoos. There were even some racy allegations about players being given escorts at Miami. It looked like things were completely in the gutter with college sports again.
But this takes it to a whole new level.
The allegations that have surfaced do not come from a sleazy wanna-be spilling sour grapes about his involvement with the team or some ex-player making allegations that he once received some money under the table from a booster. No, this comes from a grand jury investigation that has already led to Sandusky being arrested on Saturday, and two school officials being arrested on Monday for their alleged roles in either covering up the story or not pursuing it more feverishly.
They should have pursued it feverishly.
Questions now are focusing on whether or not Paterno did enough from his end on this issue. I’m not going to go into the salacious details that have emerged from grand jury testimony, but it appears that an assistant coach witnessed Sandusky molesting a child in the team’s locker room in 2002 and reported it to Paterno the next day. Paterno, according to the records, then took it to his superior, and either told him what he heard or watered it down. That’s still a bit in question.
Regardless, that was the end of it. It died at that point.
This is revolting on every level. Parents who trusted Sandusky to take care of their children at his camp were betrayed, and their children scarred for life. Those who felt Penn State was the Camelot of central Pennsylvania and the national collegiate sports scene were also betrayed.
How could a university that has always prided itself on educating the youth allow children to be molested on its campus? I know that sometimes things happen that are out of one’s control, but when information presents itself of this serious a nature, something must be done. And should have been done.
This is deplorable. If these allegations all prove to be true, Sandusky and his enablers should all be behind bars for life.