It’s been a week since the Louis Freeh Report on the Jerry Sandusky scandal came out. And although the palpable outrage at Freeh’s findings has subsided slightly with the media beginning to focus elsewhere, many are still angry over a Joe Paterno-assisted cover-up.
For the purposes of this discussion, let’s toss aside the oft-debated question of exactly how evil Paterno is. Pundits have mentioned that pedophilia is incurable and that pedophiles cannot help themselves from partaking in disgusting acts, and that enablers like Paterno and the Penn State administration are therefore just as culpable as Sandusky himself. On the other hand, Sandusky is the monster that actually harmed young boys.
Let’s just agree then that JoePa deserves a lot of blame. It can be your personal opinion how much, but definitely a lot.
Yet, even after the Freeh Report exposed that Paterno knew about kids being raped and did nothing, he still has his ardent defenders. One Penn State blogger goes as far as blaming the media for building up the legend of Paterno in the first place.
“Sally Jenkins, Rick Reilly, and Gene Wojciechowski all wrote columns praising Joe Paterno in the past. Each column was another brick in the temple erected to ‘Saint Joe’. But now they feel guilty. While the Paterno temple was maintained by fans, it was designed by sportswriters like these. And they want their pound of flesh.With the ‘reasonable’ conclusions of the Freeh Report, those sportswriters hate what they’ve designed, and want it destroyed. Now their columns instruct fans how to obliterate the temple. Gene, for his part, keeps it simple – Joe lied, and Geno’s pissed off about that.”
But you know what? I actually don’t blame PSU supporters for that stance, or other similarly irrational ones. I completely disagree with them, but I understand why they feel the way they do. The only explanation for their defense of JoePa is human nature. Virtually the entire country (minus Matt Millen and Bill James) feels one way about the Freeh Report. And State College, PA is the small, stubborn island that harbors Paterno’s remaining supporters. There’s nothing special in the drinking water near State College, either. Their undying defense of Paterno is a product of the environment at Penn State, more than it says anything about their character.
Which is something Syracuse students and alumni can relate to. Luckily, the Bernie Fine scandal is hardly even comparable to the Sandusky scandal at this point. But in the wake of the accusations, The Fizz ran a piece asking how we should look at ourselves as a Syracuse community as we railed against the mistakes of Penn State.
How do you assess yourself when you look in the mirror? Do you use more critical judgement than you would others? Do you rationalize some of it because it’s far harder to grade yourself? This is the quandary the Syracuse community is faced with.
At SU, the alleged perpetrator may have had some skeletons in his closet, but nothing has been proven. And the head coach appears not to have been involved.
I ask you though, if you support the Orange: What was your initial reaction when the Fine scandal surfaced? I can tell you mine. It was something like, “Why here, why us? What does this mean for Boeheim and the rest of the basketball program?”
Imagine that. Accusations of sexual abuse come out, and I’m thinking about the well-being of my school, rather than the possible victims. To be clear, I’m talking about maybe the first 30 seconds to minute after catching wind of the news. My pure natural reaction, nothing beyond that.
Soon enough, the ounce of maturity I own kicked in, and I began to realize that this was about more than Syracuse’s basketball program. If children were abused, then all offending parties needed to be punished.
It’s amazing that in the wake of The Freeh Report, many PSU students and alumni still don’t see the light. Hopefully, at some point, rationality will trump loyalty in State College.