TCFA

Posted Jan. 8, 2015

Nov 7, 2011

Thoughts From The Valley: We Were Fools

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[Note: Today, for reasons that should be obvious to everyone, I'm scrapping the typical format of The Hangover in favor of a more traditional column. Given the events of the past few days, I simply could not muster the energy to write about anything except for the utter tragedy now unfolding in Happy Valley. Hopefully, we'll be able to return to form by next week. - Tim]


For Penn State, this is only the beginning.

That's the scary part.

For the alleged victims and their families, the indictments of Jerry Sandusky, Gary Schultz and Tim Curley may hopefully offer some sense of closure—some sense of justice achieved after years of having their personal nightmares ignored and neglected by the powers-that-be in Central Pennsylvania.

But for Penn State, yeah, this only the beginning. And as bad as things have been for the past 72 hours, well, I can only assume that, from here on out, they are going to get even worse. Much, much worse.

More questions will be asked. More accusations will be leveled. The national media that has already turned up the heat on the university will only turn that heat up even further. Everything that Penn State and Joe Paterno has ever claimed to represent—winning the right way, "Success With Honor,'  'The Grand Experiment, all of it—will be called into question, will be mocked, will be viewed as nothing more than fraudulent, and hypocritical, and baseless.

And you know what?

I don't care. I really don't.

At least, I don't care anymore.

Since graduating from Penn State back in 1998, I have been as loyal to that university as an alunmi could be. I have supported the football team through thick and thin. I make annual trips up to Penn State, helping to fill the coffers that keep the football monster moving forward. Like many other alums, I have a "Penn State Room" in my home.

I love Penn State, and because I love Penn State, I have always defended Penn State. I've written to Pennsylvania lawmakers when those hacks have tried to take the university's funding away. I stood up for Paterno when the program took a nosedive back in The Dark Years. And yes, I bought in almost completely into the idea that Penn State is "special"—an oasis, a place removed from the rest of the college sports landscape, a program that operates on a higher level, an institution built on morality and ideals and the notion that, even in the nasty business of college football, you can win without compromising your beliefs.

Well, now I realize I was an idiot.

Now I realize that, in some ways, the public face of Penn State University, and its football program, was one big lie.

Now I realize that, no matter what you may think about anyone or anything—your favorite college football program, your childhood "heroes," your religion—you really don't much of anything at all.

Now I realize that putting your faith in any kind of institution or any person that you don't really know is foolish, and stupid, and incredibly naive.

Penn State for the past 50 years has engendered a sense of loyalty and passion among its alumni that, I think it's safe to say, is almost unmatched. If you know a Penn Stater, or if you are a Penn Stater, you know exactly what I'm talking about. The cliché would be to say that we Penn Staters "bleed blue and white;" it would be far more accurate to say that we live blue and white. Penn State is not just where we went to school. It is a part of our life, enmeshed with family and football and autumn tradition. For alumni, friends and families, Penn State is a unifying force in a disjointed world—a place to return to, to seek refuge in, to remember, to reminisce, to remind ourselves to live the lives we want to live.

At least, Penn State used to be that. It used to be that, right up until we found out that Jerry Sandusky was permitted access to our campus, and our football facilities, even after it was alleged that he raped a 10-year-old boy at the Lasch Building in 2002.

Whether or not Sandusky will ultimately be found guilty of the myriad charges in that Grand Jury report remains to be seen. Maybe he'll walk. Maybe we'll find out that the charges have no merit. And yeah, it would be a wonderful thing to find out that he didn't molest anybody, that he didn't destroy any lives, that Penn State didn't do its part to cover up the actions of an alleged predator.

But even if that happens, even if Sandusky is found innocent, what we do know is the following: We know that, in 2002, somebody claimed to see Sandusky doing something unthinkable to a young boy at the Lasch Building. We know that the incident was reported to Paterno, and then to Curley, and ultimately to Spanier. We know that, for some unknowable reason, nobody at Penn State—not Spanier, not Curley, not Paterno—ultimately called police about it. And we know—and, in a sense, this is the most stunning part—that, in the wake of this horrific event, Sandusky continued to have access to Penn State, and even the very building where the alleged rape took place, for years and years and years afterward.

That, quite simply, is inexcusable.

That, quite simply, is proof that the powers-that-be at Penn State were either trying to cover the whole thing up—to keep it "in house," following the disturbing lead of the Catholic Church—or that they are entirely and completely incompetent.

Either way, all of them must be removed. Now.

Curley and Schultz, as of this morning, have been dismissed from their duties. It's a good first step. But it's not enough. Because the only way forward for Penn State is to clean house—to get rid of every individual who knew of that 2002 incident and didn't do enough to even keep Sandusky off campus or away from the program.

If Spanier indeed knew that the 2002 incident was not reported to police, and if he indeed told Curley that he was OK with it not being reported to police, then Spanier needs to go. And if Paterno allowed Sandusky to hang around, if he didn't step up and use his vast influence to make sure that man never stepped foot in the Lasch Building ever again, if he didn't at least try to do something to stop any more damage from being done, well, then Paterno needs to go, too.

I take no pleasure in writing that. In fact, it makes me quite sad. Because though Paterno was obviously a flawed man, I do believe he was a very good man, who did very many very great things. But I see no alternative here.

We are long past the point where we can fall back on talking about how we'd "prefer" to see the Paterno era end.

Because in reality, it's already over.

What we thought this football program was, it clearly wasn't. We were fools, I suppose.

But now we know better. And so we must demand change.

Justice demands no less.

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