For the victims of Jerry Sandusky, I grieve for you in this awful time and for that which you have suffered. I am glad that justice is being done. I wish it could have come sooner.
For those of you who are Penn State grads, fans, or friends of the Nittany Lions, this is an awful time.
It's about to get much worse.
The foundational ideals of the University all appear to be dissolved begging whether the University itself will survive at all. Jerry Sandusky was long thought to be a great coach and a great guy-helping "at risk" kids with his foundation. I remember during one of their football games in the late 1990's, they profiled him and even used one of my favorite songs, Have A Little Faith In Me by John Hiatt as the background-feel-good music.
Then The Story broke.
Surely Joe Paterno couldn't be implicated. If you can't trust Joe Pa, who can you trust!?
So folks rioted in support of JoePa. Sandusky had already been dropped like a hot potato or an irradiated fuel rod.
Then Paterno agreed to step down at the end of the season. Finally.
Too little, too late for the Board of Trustees.
So a week after winning his 409th game as head coach to break Eddie Robinson's career record at Grambling, Paterno was fired. (In hindsight, does anyone else find it odd that he was fired only after hitting his "dinger" to pass Robinson? Given that the administration of Penn State acted to cover this up for so very long, does anyone else find it odd that they were successful up until Paterno could register his 409th career win as a coach?)
Support calmed and stepped back from Paterno, but was still vocal in support of Penn State.
Then it came out that Mike McQueary told Paterno who told his boss who did…nothing.
Support for Paterno and Penn State waned further.
Then it came out that there were other allegations dating back as far as 1998 that were known to Paterno and others who did . . . nothing.
Support faded even more.
Joe Paterno died and the muted accolades and sympathy poured in. But surely there were many who held back from voicing full support. Like Paul Harvey, they wanted, The Rest of The Story.
Then the Sandusky trial.
Sandusky was utterly hopeless and was judged guilty on 45 counts.
Support? What support?
Then the Freeh report which revealed e-mail that Penn State had documenting discussions among the University leadership of how to quietly handle the Sandusky problem and keep everyone quiet if not happy, in Happy Valley. In short, the leadership of Penn State all agreed to do a whole lot of things that did not include the following:
- Pursue the truth
- Prosecute the guilty
- Protect the victims and any who raised the alarm
- Protect the secret (and those powerful enough to hold that secret)
- Prevent prosecution of the guilty
- Punish the victims and any who raised the alarm
I encourage you to think bigger; We (America) are Penn State. Penn State is US (America). Choose an institution and tell me where the model above hasn't been played out.
- Finance and banking: LieBOR, TARP, Robosigning, Foreclosuregate, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FDIC, bailouts, (insert your bank here).
- Fast and Furious.
- Obama's birth certificate (or lack thereof)
- The war on drugs.
- Climate Change ("Hide the Decline", anyone?)
- Gun control
- Government spending
- The stock market
With your indulgence, I'll share one micro example from my personal past.
Once upon a time, I worked at a plant. At this plant, I was hired by a manager. We'll call him G. It was my dream location, but he was a nightmare manager. A joke will sum up G in short order. Facing a rotator cuff surgery on his shoulder, a friend in the department told me, "Yeah, he tore up his shoulder patting himself on the back." Nothing better epitomizes G.
G was something of a ladies' man which was odd since he was married. But then maybe they had one of those relationships. (Sorry, I wouldn't know, I'm not Italian.) It was easy to figure out what G would do. Just think of how any situation could be best turned to benefit him and that would be the course of action.
During our shutdowns, he was known to oft take a vacation. (Yeah, during a shutdown, he'd be on a beach while we were out there busting our rumps.)
He had long been known to have a problem leading/supervising/managing women. Maybe that has to do with that whole Rico Suave thing he had going on. A shirt opened one button too far and a gold chain. There had been many complaints against him on a variety of subjects. And all had come to naught. The man held his position, continued to be tolerated and even promoted. Women in my company even have a little group, "The Survivors" they call themselves. They really should open membership up because there were plenty of us men who got screwed over by this guy too.
At the first opportunity I had to leave, I left. Praise God! As one coworker said, "Well, at least you'll get the H out from under G." Trudat.
G was real slow to want to let me go too. Wanted this list of things that I would assure would happen before I left. His list of "blessed assurances" I called it.
So I began turning over a huge list of stuff to other people. Some of them picked it up. Some didn't. Not everything I left behind was continued, but that wasn't my problem. At one point, G even stopped by my office to lament that due to the hiring freeze (which just went into effect after I accepted the offer for the new job) he wouldn't even be able to post my job to backfill it. (I managed to keep a straight face until he walked away-at which point I must have laughed like a loon! Cry me a bucketful, G!)
I left in the middle of another shutdown. And G went to the beach. Again. Only this time, there was a project that was not in good hands and wound up delaying the return of the plant to production-a cardinal sin. The plant manager calls G to find out what's going on and so G, sitting on a beach in Cabo probably has the pucker factor 10 moment of his career. More capable people rush in to recover and get the plant back to production, but the damage is done. Oh, the project was technically in my system and I have no doubt that G would have hung it around my neck.
About the same time, he was dealing with yet another complaint from a woman in his group. This one from a lady who was a dud of an employee. Based on my past experience with her in another part of the company, I told him not to hire her. They hired her anyway and put me into the fantastic position of having to mute the truth about her being a dud to my coworkers and to mute the truth about the dud-ness of G to her. Oh, and I couldn't exactly tell everybody that I'd recommended not hiring her to the boss because then I undermine my leadership too. Thanks, G. (At one point, he confessed that everything I told them about her was coming true and that he didn't listen to me. He promised me that next time, they WOULD listen to me.) Anyway, her complaint had legs in the corporate office. It was a hostile place to work. I wish she'd have asked me first. I would have told her that unless someone was making sexual remarks to her then shut the fuck up, suck it up, get with the program and get productive for once in her career. She had the ability. Just not the desire.
So the corporate concerns bunch was on his heels at about the same time that the project delayed the plant from finishing the shutdown. They eventually worked something out there with the long and short being that she got fired or resigned in lieu of termination. Or maybe it was "FMLA" or "disability"-who knows? One way or another, G had once again drawn notice from corporate, negatively impacted performance, and had apparently escaped by throwing a body under the bus.
Then came the spring. One of his co-ops (another female) was a mouthy girl with an attitude that threatened to cause trouble in numerous areas of the plant. To the point that some of the union folks in our maintenance group refused to work with her. G was in a pinch. Management had heard enough and told him to get rid of this co-op and recommend not hiring her again. Suddenly, he had to come up with the paperwork to support such a decision. What else to do but to ask people to help him manufacture it? He told Ms. Co-op of his decision and did so in some terms that were probably pretty crappy. She left his office in tears and drama, I'm sure.
But still, she had to go to the co-op show. The managers usually went with their co-ops to the company's co-op festival held two or three times a year to show them off and compare them to other co-ops. At this little gathering, for some reason, the co-op and G were together in the hotel bar drinking. The conversation must have turned sexual and gotten pretty rowdy. This co-op who had walked out of his office in tears was now drinking with him and carrying on? This manager who had given her a negative evaluation was drinking with her and carrying on? WTF? The conversation was such that even other people there excused themselves and went to their rooms. There were plenty of witnesses.
Another complaint got filed. From multiple sources too. G was toast. They finally decided to fire him. This was essentially decided at the executive level which means that the plant management was effectively shielded not only from the doing what they should have done all along, but the blame for having done nothing for all those years.
So what's the moral of the story? The root of all this?
G was a perv. A selfish little troll of a toad of a man. Intelligent? Yup. Plenty of smarts and a lot of skills to offer. But it was all about him.
And management was fine with that.
They never fixed it. They never disciplined him. In fact, given that his behavior seemed so obvious and an inside joke to almost everyone, I can't imagine how management could not have known. Which means that they endorsed his behavior with their silence. And anyone who complained against him would have to practically catch him with his pants down for him to draw any discipline. Management was bought into him because he was one of them. Though they didn't behave like he did, they shirked from actually standing up against him. (The Bible says to first remove the mote from your own eye so that then you'll be able to see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. The fair question then is this; When leaders do not remove specks, what log is in their own eye? When they won't stand up for justice, what injustice are they into?)
They protected the secret (and those powerful enough to hold that secret), prevented discipline of the guilty, and thereby punished the victims and any who raised the alarm. Right up until the moment when they could no longer do that.
In the world of College football, Penn State and Joseph Vincent Paterno were institutions that were just considered to be too big to fail. This saga is a black swan for Penn State. The unthinkable and inconceivable have shot straight past "conceivable", "likely", or "possible" into real. This is what happens too big to fail, fails. In terms of the impact to Penn State, the Sandusky case reminds me of Three Mile Island-another Pennsylvania disaster.
And just like a nuclear meltdown creates highly radioactive waste that takes centuries to decay to safe levels, the Sandusky scandal has created a radioactive environment that will cause people to flee for their lives and their reputations.
Just like Three Mile Island, everything was fine. Right up until the minute that it wasn't. And when it went bad, it went over the edge without a chance of recovery. Just like a nuclear reaction, it would have taken precious little to actually stop the reaction from taking place.
The very foundations of what Penn State tells themselves, their students, and others that they are have been obliterated and scattered to the winds. And the fallout will rain down on Happy Valley for decades.
Things to watch for in the future of Penn State:
- Though Penn State claims an endowment on the order of $1B per year, it's fair to wonder just how solid that is and how long it will last. Especially when the lawsuits start coming in against Penn State for enabling the serial child molester to continue his dirty work for the sake of protecting Joe Paterno and their own legacy.
- As for Tim Curley and Graham Spanier, would it be too much to start a pool on which one will commit seppuku first? Will either one live long enough to go to trial? Say…wasn't this guy from Pennsylvania also?
- If Paterno was still breathing, he'd be headed for a date with some handcuffs and a booking at the police station. Now there's an image for you.
- Will the Joe Paterno statues and memorials be revoked and torn down? Nike has already removed Paterno's name from their child care center in Oregon. Can't imagine why. And as Nike goes, so much of the rest of corporate sportsAmerica is likely to go. All that Paterno lived and worked for will likely be destroyed and scoured from the scene with Paterno ultimately becoming an "unperson" for his failure to act on what he knew.
- One sports lawyer thinks that Penn State football will be suspended for some period of time. Perhaps a self-imposed "death penalty" like SMU received. Given the value of Penn State's program, you can only wonder at how much damage (not merely financial either) that this would do to the university and the community.
Don't look for any University to suddenly back away from Penn State on moral grounds though. Because in their own way, each big college is already too big to fail. They depend on football. They sweep stuff under the rug all the time. Doing the right thing is secondary to winning at any number of schools that you'd care to name. And though the NCAA did once upon a time hand down a death penalty to poor Southern Methodist University, they've never used it since and have made it abundantly clear that they won't do so. As a result, Universities know that they can do whatever they want to win, get the championship, and just pay whatever penalties come up later if they get caught. It seems like a perennial occurrence that the championship team in college football is investigated for something or another during their championship season or immediately thereafter.
But who's to say that this will stay confined to Happy Valley and not spread to the rest of college sports? Remember my example of the nightmare manager, G. He was protected by other managers because he was one of them. Among other University presidents, Graham Spanier must be "one of them"-how could be anything but?
Time for a shout out from AlSol!
In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousandfold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations. It is for this reason, and not because of the "weakness of indoctrinational work," that they are growing up "indifferent." Young people are acquiring the conviction that foul deeds are never punished on earth, that they always bring prosperity.
The failure to do good and prosecute evil is at the very root of the Sandusky case, of my nightmare manager G, and the demise and destruction of America.
To a rank outsider, it looks like the ideal of Penn State University, the cornerstones, and possibly the entire structure of the university itself is collapsing. No act of contrition on their part will pass without skepticism, sarcasm, or a smirk. What can they do to redeem their reputation at this point? What would be enough? If you want just a taste of how collapse might look for an America that is "too big to fail", watch Penn State
We Are Penn State!