Breathe in. Breathe out.
Unfortunately, that’s what the media failed to do last week as they screamed for the head of anyone involved in the latest alleged scandal. This time Joe Paterno was being walked to the guillotine.
Unfortunately, justice takes time. Paterno deserves a chance to explain what he knew and when he knew it. Tim Curley deserves a chance to do the same. And yes, even Jerry Sandusky deserves a chance to take the stand and plead his case in front of a court of his peers. Why? Because that’s what we (are supposed to) do in the United States.
Still, the vast majority of commentators continue to babble around pretending like they have the moral high-ground when they pound the table and call for anyone implicated in scandal to be fired and fired NOW.
The fact is, I don’t know what happened in 2002. You don’t know what happened in 2002. And the media does not know what happened in 2002 — we should stop pretending like we do.
Has the Duke Lacrosse scandal taught the media nothing? Has it taught our country nothing? It certainly taught me that when scandals appeal to our basest instinct, our most human emotion to protect the most vulnerable people in society, it is not always the best time to think and process information rationally.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
It’s what many commentators failed to do as they breathlessly engaged in a furious battle of one-upsmanship over the past week.
Last Saturday when the charges broke Dan Wetzel, in an article on Yahoo, demanded that Paterno answer questions about the case, a fair enough demand.
On Nov. 6, the next day, Paterno issued a statement that “raised as many questions as it answered,” according to Wetzel. Although, he noted, Paterno fulfilled his legal obligation. His possible moral failing was still in question.
On Nov. 7, Wetzel focused on Penn State university president Graham Spanier and said, “And while there are plenty of unanswered questions about his decision-making, it isn’t JoePa who runs the place. It’s not JoePa who oversees the entire campus, police department included. It wasn’t JoePa who signed off on the pathetic decision by Curley and Schultz to simply ban Sandusky from bringing children on campus rather than contact the cops.”
But on Nov. 8, Wetzel suddenly called for Paterno to be fired stating, “It needs to be done prior to Saturday’s home game against the Cornhuskers. If Penn State feels Paterno is too much of a liability or distraction to finish the season, then he is too much of a liability or distraction to coach even a single game.”
On Nov. 9, before Paterno was fired that evening, he questioned how it would look to allow Paterno to coach, saying, “This isn’t just about what’s right and what’s wrong. This is about damage control.”
Not about right and wrong? But it is.
If I remember correctly, the facts didn’t change from Saturday to Wednesday, the Grand Jury report didn’t morph, but Wetzel’s (and I don’t mean to single him out because nearly all columnists did the same thing, it was just too darn easy) opinion shifted drastically as the media was pulled closer and closer into the vortex of emotion that it created.
Unfortunately, if one were to tune into ESPN or read headlines across the country, you might think Paterno was the one accused of molesting children.
“Paterno Should Rot in Jail,” exclaimed The Daily Beast.
Really? Does the press want to start putting people in jail for failing morally? Well, then start building the prisons; you’ve got a lot of new inmates.
Yes, it was a horrible mistake in retrospect, but Paterno had one piece of the Sandusky puzzle. A puzzle that took authorities three years to put together until they were able to have enough evidence to arrest Sandusky last Saturday.
But if you believe it was a cover up through-and-through, let me remind you that you have to accept that Mike McQueary, McQueary’s father, Joe Paterno, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz and Graham Spanier all knew that Sandusky raped a boy and then decided to protect someone who hadn’t been employed by the school for three years.
If the facts turn out that way, then so be it. I will merely defend each person’s right to have their story heard.
A member of the Penn State janitorial staff allegedly witnessed Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in shower in 2000. He told the rest of the staff and he was so distraught that they feared he might have a heart-attack, but they didn’t tell anyone.
I don’t see headlines exclaiming for those people to rot in jail because it doesn’t make for good headlines, it doesn’t make for a good scandal and it all makes for bad journalism.
“Cancel the Penn State Season!” wrote Michael Tomasky in one last attempt to win the most ridiculous assertion contest.
Anyone who watched the Penn State/Nebraska game on Saturday can attest to Tomasky’s foolishness. Watching the Nittany Lions and Cornhuskers gather on the field arm-in-arm before the game to pray for the victims of the alleged assaults was, quite literally, one of the most touching things I’ve witnessed … but maybe I’m a softy.
And let’s not forget the fans did the same thing after Nebraska won while the fans in Happy Valley cheered. If that doesn’t represent all that is good and right with collegiate athletics, I don’t know what does.
Tell me that that game shouldn’t have been played. Tell me that the money raised to heighten awareness of child abuse at the game shouldn’t have been collected. Tell me that the wounds that we mended on Saturday by returning to a sense of normalcy shouldn’t have been.
Justice will be served rightly if we give the law and the people involved time to find facts and eventually find guilt or innocence.
If Joe Paterno heard that Sandusky performed sex acts on a child and did not press Tim Curley to call police, he deserved his firing if not more. If Joe Paterno simply heard there was inappropriate activity and reported it up the chain of command, as law required him to do, he deserves an apology.
Easy as that. Too bad it’s not easy for the public to wait.