Dear Penn State Students:
It’s hard for me to admit that I’m removed from my college years. Because honestly, in my head, I was an undergrad maybe 5 years ago.
In real life, okay, yeah, it was 15.
But. In college, I was pretty involved with the athletic department at my college. You don’t play in one of the best marching bands in the country without being into the football team. We were no Penn State – just a little Division 1-AA team – but that didn’t bother us. We showed up at 7am on the practice fields on Saturday mornings, we sat in the stands and played our fight song, we partied after the games.
And we rallied. We rallied against the administration when they wanted to raise our annual student fees. We staged sit ins.
We raged against the machine; fought for our own empowerment, free speech, the power to CHOOSE the lives we wanted to live.
I’ve been following the story about Jerry Sandusky and what he did to countless young boys. And I’ve read about Joe Paterno’s limited involvement in the case. His non action.
And I GET that he’s had 46 years at Penn State and countless winning seasons. He’s coached generations of students. He’s a lynchpin at Penn State.
But I have to admit, when I read a story like this, I can’t really understand.
Because. Back in 2002, Joe Paterno got a call from a graduate assistant, who actually witnessed Jerry Sandusky having anal intercourse with a 10 year old boy.
And Joe didn’t fire Jerry Sandusky. He didn’t even report it to the POLICE. He, instead, called his boss, and reported that someone had reported that Jerry was “fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a boy.”
Because, you know, it makes it less of a crime.
His inaction? Made it so that more boys were abused.
At the very best, he turned a blind eye to a man who hurt a lot of people.
At the very worst, he aided and abetted a predator.
I know it’s hard to imagine that the administration at Penn State is doing the right thing here by firing him instead of letting him retire at the end of the season. They are the Bad Guys, the folks who want to charge you more money and enforce rules over how you live your life while at the university. I get it.
But too, I know this.
There will be a day, in the not-too-distant future. Where you’ll remember your college days as if it were only a couple of years ago. And you’ll read some news story about a guy who abused kids somewhere else, and where someone who had the power to stop him did nothing.
And you’ll go into your own kid’s room – the one who’s completely sports-obsessed. And you’ll kiss his cheek while he sleeps and feel a deep-seated rage against a person who takes advantage of a child. Because, as you watch your son sleep, you realize you have the capacity to kill someone who would hurt him.
And you’ll leave his room, and start a halting conversation with your spouse about age-appropriate ways to teach your kid how to ask for help when someone he trusts does something which makes him uncomfortable.
And your heart will break when you think of the other little boys who were not so lucky.
And then you’ll think back to the rioting you did in support of Joe Paterno back when you were in college.
And you’ll finally understand.