If the allegations against Jerry Sandusky are true, everyone involved in the cover-up is as guilty as Sandusky for the sexual abuse of the young boys involved.
After seeing Sandusky violating a young boy in the showers at the football practice facility, a then-graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, went home and told his father. He then went to Head Coach Joe Paterno and told him. He didn’t walk into the showers and stop the abuse while he witnessed it. Why?
After receiving the report, Paterno kicked it up the ladder to Athletic Director Tim Curley. About 10 days later (why?), McQueary was called in to talk to Curley and another administrator. McQueary again told his story, which was then reported to the Second Mile, Sandusky’s charity. Not the police. Why?
Nowhere along the line did police or authorities become notified of these reports. Why? All the while, young boys were being abused, allegedly. It is conceivable that Paterno and McQueary could have reasonably assumed that the higher-ups were taking care of the situation (i.e., getting the authorities involved). But that grace period could not have lasted long. At some point you have to say, “Why the (expletive) aren’t the police involved?” Why?
At some point, as you see Sandusky loiter around your football facility, you have to say, “Enough with the bureaucracy, I’m going to the police myself.”
If the allegations are true, what Sandusky did was despicable in every sense of the word. There are not enough adjectives to describe the nature of the things he did. But the cover-up allowed it to go on. Those involved are just as disgusting.
So why did all this go on? Sandusky is arguably the greatest defensive coordinator in the history of college football. Losing him would have been a major blow to the Nittany Lions. Losing him meant losing games. Losing him, specifically to the sexual abuse of minor boys, meant losing face as a university.
This is why this whole situation makes me sad to be a sportswriter or a sports fan in general. We defend our obsessions and our massive amounts of time spent in front of the TV on Saturdays and Sundays by saying, “Sport is more than just a game.”
“Sport brings communities together,” we say. “Sport unifies us and lets us escape the tragedies of everyday life.”
But what lets us escape tragedies like this? Certainly not sports. Certainly not a football game.
We don’t know how many boys were abused because Penn State football wanted to win too much. We know of at least six boys who were abused AFTER the first report was thrown up the ladder. Who knows how many more boys we don’t know about? Why?
Because somewhere up that ladder, someone decided that image and winning was more important than the lives of these young boys. Those involved in the cover-up should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Meanwhile, we as sports fans need to take a step back and realize what we are doing when we step into our son’s high school coach’s office and complain about a lack of playing time. We need to realize what we are doing when we get kicked out of our daughter’s rec softball game because we yelled at the volunteer umpire too much. We need to realize what we are doing when we overstep our bounds as supportive parents and turn into overbearing Little League parents who literally terrorize Little League and high school coaches. You want better coaches? Stop driving the good ones away who realize it’s not worth it to put up with your crap.
We need to realize what we’re doing when we sit in front of the TV and yell at it as if it is responsible for the official’s bad call. We need to realize what we are doing when we skip our child’s parent-teacher conference or piano recital because our favorite team is on TV.
Why? Because we are telling our kids and our neighbors and ourselves that nothing is more important than winning. We need to be as careful with our image in that regard, the image we emit to our children, as Penn State was with its own as it remained silent in the face of Sandusky’s sins. Otherwise, we are fostering the very environment that disgusts us, the environment wherein these things can happen. If so, we are just as responsible for what happened to those young boys as anyone who covered it up.
Many have asked, “How on earth could this have happened?” That’s why.
Trevor Amicone is the sports director at 88.1 Weber FM and a popular contributor to KSL.com and the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter at @TrevorAmicone.