To take no action is to take action.
Japanese Zen Philosophy
I’m publishing early and off-schedule this week. I wanted to get this out there while it was still heavy on my mind. Now that the Paterno statue is gone (as it should be) and the sanctions are public knowledge, I wanted to follow-up a final time about the Penn State scandal (I first wrote about this in my blog on 14 July, When Good men Do Nothing …).
On 23 July, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced a $60 million fine (paid over five years to fund programs that serve the victims of child sexual abuse) against Penn State University (PSU) and took away 14 seasons of football victories from the late Joe Paterno. He had been credited with 409 wins, the most in NCAA history. With 111 taken away, his final tally now rests at 298.
PSU was also banned from the postseason for four years and will lose 20 football scholarships a year for four seasons. The Big Ten Conference also moved in a separate action, ruling Penn State ineligible for its conference title football game and said the Nittany Lions’ share of bowl revenues for the next four seasons — approximately $13 million — will be donated to charities that “protect children.”
No doubt this sanction is a serious financial blow to the university and the entire state of Pennsylvania. There will be debates through infinity of whether this punishment was just. Some will argue that those being punished had nothing to do with the crimes. Once again, the sins of the fathers are levied on the children.
This punishment … and the pain that will be associated with PSU in all probability for the rest of our natural lives … is about so much more than losing football games and the impact in the huddle. While we have “all sinned and fallen short,” it’s a fact that some crimes are greater (worse) than others. Some events are so detrimental to common sense that once committed … even once … the perpetrator is never the same. Neither is the victim. And the taint spreads quickly!
Peter King, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, shared the below thought in his Monday Morning Quarterback article on 23 July 2012. He asks Penn State student journalist Emily Kaplan to weigh in on her feelings about the case as the university braced for the NCAA sanctions. Here’s what Emily wrote:
For as long as I can remember, my neighboring town has been known for a terrible scandal. It had to do with the football culture. Glen Ridge, N.J., is a well-manicured suburb of New York City, where the streets are lined with majestic shade trees and quaint gaslight lamps. But in 1989, three members of the high school football team sexually assaulted a developmentally disabled young woman. An idyllic community was ripped apart and lives changed forever. Twenty-three years later, Glen Ridge is still, to some, stigmatized by “Our Guys,” which became the title of the New York Times best-selling book about the incident and its fallout.
Three thugs committed a horrible act more than 2-decades past and the act still taints the perception of the entire community. It’s a sad but true fact. It’s something PSU will have to acknowledge and deal with for a very long time.
I recall a wonderful 3-part television mini-series in 1983 called Chiefs. Based on the best-selling novel by Stuart Woods, the series covers the rise (and fall) of the fictional town of Delano, Georgia. During a 40-year time frame, three different police chiefs try to solve a horrific spree of missing persons taking place in the vicinity of Delano. Racial tensions run high and add to the difficulty in solving the murders. Among the long list of stellar actors who all deliver top notch performances are Charlton Heston, Keith Carradine, Stephen Collins, Wayne Rogers, Paul Sorvino, Brad Davis and Billy Dee Williams.
In watching this town grow and prosper from the 1920s to the 1960s, all involved are shocked in the end to discover the grisly remains of the missing persons in shallow graves. Dozens of murder victims are discovered on the property of town loony Foxey Funderburke (Carradine). City founder Hugh Holmes (Heston), the man who has dedicated his entire life to promoting this town, must now lament the awful truth … no matter what happens now, Delano will always be known as the little town with the serial killer.
Sadly, there is no happy ending to this story. Perhaps in time, PSU will emerge from the shadows and bask in the sun. And perhaps it will not. It’s another grim reminder of the price we pay not only for the abuse of the innocent but for turning a blind eye to the same. It’s a lesson we must all NEVER forget.
Disgrace does not consist in the punishment, but in the crime.