Its the day after the Freeh report was released and all the fun has evaporated from the world. If you glance below here and take a look at the sentiment I brought into this whole illumination process, I was prepared to be understanding. I wasn’t excusing anyone, least of all Joe Paterno. But still, I was ready for this to evolve into a cautionary tale about the times when we all fail to live up to our own expectations. I was ready to put myself in Paterno’s position and to have that point of view make me understand why he didn’t do what he didn’t do. Not excuse it, but understand it. I was ready for a story about how past allegiances–to friendship, to shared work, to common values–could cloud one’s judgement and and blind a person to the plain reality of the current situation.
Needless to say, I had not prepared myself for the Freeh report. None of that ‘we share the same flawed common humanity’ shit was in there. It was just a bunch of out-of-touch old fucks protecting a rapist because they felt Penn State football might be somehow dinged if that rapist were to be brought to justice. I won’t rehash its contents here (go to Deadspin for an excellent full accounting) other than to underline three things:
1. I think it is important, to fully understand what we’re all really talking about, to stop speaking in euphemism about what Jerry Sandusky was doing. Sandusky wasn’t “with a boy” or “performing an act with a boy.” He was raping a boy. A little kid. He was doing the sort of thing that gets a person murdered in prison by his fellow inmates with shivs and a broomstick because he violated the baseline, fundamental code of decency and humanity.
2. The person described in point number one was known to the higher ups at Penn State as far back as 1998. They all chose to handle this situation in a way somehow worse than even the Catholic Church. Sandusky wasn’t even prevented from being in contact with children! He was forcibly retired with a six figure lump sum payout and then given full access, in perpetuity, to Penn State facilities where he would be able to continue methodically raping children for the next decade.
3. Its worth starting to say two things, so we get used to saying them, because they are both true and unbelievable. First, this is the worst thing that has ever happened in the world of modern college football, ever. We need never again fear for the integrity of the sport when some coach is fooling around with a sexxxxy grad assistant or failing to stop players from getting comped tattoos or whatever other fucking nonsense the NCAA always tries to pretend is a big deal. We have perspective now. Second, Penn State must self impose a death penalty on the football program of at least two years. Josh Levine runs through this second point on Slate today and I agree with him wholeheartedly. The NCAA is too morally corrupt to institute that kind of punishment. Penn State has to take it upon itself; the institution needs to welcome a penance for the sins of its leaders. Otherwise, the damned stain of this unbelievable series of events, abetted by the power vortex of Penn State football, will linger and rot.