But as their chants of "We are...Penn State" gave way to more of a mob mentality; as news vans were overturned and street lights were toppled, I became angry. Such blind loyalty to a coach, and a team, and a school is exactly what caused men like AD Tom Curley, President Graham Spanier and, yes, coach Joe Paterno to abandon their responsibilities -- not as ADs, administrators and coaches; and not from a legal stand point -- but as human beings. As fathers themselves. People who, in attempting to the protect "the brand" behind the blind loyalty, failed on an immeasurably larger moral scale.
The scandal brewing around Penn State isn't about a football coach. Or a team. Or a school. As others before me have said, it's so much bigger. And infinitely worse. This is about a bunch of kids -- some allegedly as young as 8 years old -- who were raped. Yes, the terms "abused," "assaulted," and "molested" are thrown about and have been used more often since the story broke. But while the meaning may be a legal distinction, those other terms sometimes seem to soften the horrific crimes that allegedly took place. And such ugly, vile acts deserve no such shading.
If you think Joe Paterno was treated unfairly, read the grand jury report. It won't be easy. It'll make you want to cry, scream or both. Regarding the incident which was brought to Paterno's attention, the one involving "Victim #2" (there were allegedly eight over 15 years that are known about so far), a Penn State graduate assistant (now known to be current assistant coach Mike McQuery) entered Penn State's football building where, according to the grand jury report, he:
"heard rhythmic thumping, slapping sounds. He believed the sounds to be those of sexual activity. As the graduate assistant put the sneakers in his locker, he looked into the shower. He saw a naked boy, Victim 2, whose age he estimated to be 10 years old, with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky. "
He saw a 10 year old boy -- somebody's son -- being raped by a then-58-year-old man. McQuery, who was "distraught" according to the report, talked to his dad, called and then went to Paterno's house where he "reported what he saw." Paterno testified that the GA was "very upset." Paterno then called Curley to his home -- on a Sunday -- and told him he had seen Jerry Sandusky "doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy." And after reporting this to Paterno, and Paterno telling his bosses, the GA heard back a couple weeks later:
"He was told that Sandusky's keys to the locker room were taken away and that the incident had been reported to the The Second Mile (Sandusky's charity)."
They took away the locker room keys. For the alleged rape of a 10 year old boy.
And Joe Paterno knew about it. Knew. Not allegedly knew. Yes, the rape itself is only alleged at this point. But not the fact that McQuery told Paterno he saw something horrible happen to a little boy in the shower of the school's football building. That is not in dispute. Paterno himself admits -- both in the grand jury testimony and since the story broke -- that an upset McQuery told him he witnessed something awful between a 58 year old man and 10 year old boy in the school's football building. Nobody denies that.
Of course the spin now is that Paterno (and Curley and Gary Schultz, another school administrator who was told at the time) were not informed by McQuery of the severity of what he saw in the shower. They're all falling all over themselves now trying to downplay what was reported. Claiming McQuery (who also failed miserably in this whole sordid affair) only said there was "inappropriate conduct," something that made him "uncomfortable," or "fondling," or "horsing around."
As if that makes the inaction of Paterno and the others okay. Absolves them of their moral responsibility. It does not. Because there is no instance when it is okay for a 58 year old man to be with a 10 year old boy naked in a shower, "horsing around."
So I don't care if Paterno was a great football coach. Or won a lot of games. Or graduated a lot of players. Or gave a lot of money to the school for a nice library. He had to be fired. Immediately and without ceremony.
Yes, it was one mistake, as his some of his interviewed supporters were quick to point out on TV last night. And he apparently broke no laws. For that he will suffer no legal consequences. More importantly, and sometimes overlooked in the aftermath of the firing, Joe Paterno did not rape little boys. Jerry Sandusky is allegedly the monster solely responsible for that. Paterno's failing was an ethical one. Not for what he did, but what he didn't did do. If actions speak louder than words, in this case, Paterno's inaction was even louder and more damning.
Even JoePa understands that.
Before he was let go, Paterno said he wishes he would have done more after being alerted about the incident. He could have: In 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 or 2011. Or any of those other times he probably ran into Sandusky around the campus he was only banned from this week, or in the weight room Sandusky apparently used just last week. But Paterno did not. Instead, his moral inaction did and should have cost him his head coaching job.
If you think that was unfair to JoePa, well, that's exactly the kind of culture that led to some folks thinking after the rape of a 10 year old boy that the right thing to do was to take away some locker room keys.
So to all of you I saw on TV causing trouble on campus last night, yes, You are...Penn State. Now stop tipping over news vans, and screaming for the return of a coach who doesn't deserve that title anymore, and decide what that slogan means. Joe Paterno forgot. Will you?