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Penn State Culture and Other Maddening Conclusions

Culture - I want to understand how the Culture of Penn State has suddenly become culpable in this tragedy. The Freeh Report identifies what they call the Penn State Way as the issue at hand. They then go on to define it as a lack of outside perspective on decision making and an excessive focus on athletics. I can understand the comment on outside perspectives. Penn State, like most organizations, highly valued loyalty and tenure within its ranks. Turnover in its employee base was very low and, in turn, we had the same people making decisions at a high level for a long time. Decisions were handled in house. I get that.

I take strong objection to the part about the excessive focus on athletics. It is this line that is causing people to form the opinion (and then write about it) that this whole thing was done to protect football. That football and the crazed fan base were so focused on winning football games that they decided it was better to allow a suspected pedophile run loose on their campus for years. Really? That is the most obvious conclusion? When I think of the culture of Penn State I think of the ideals of Success With Honor and The Grand Experiment. I think of an alumni group that expects the highest standards in both academics and athletics. If a player doesn't make the grades, our fan base doesn't say a word about it. We expect that our players must perform academically. We have had a 5-star recruit sit on the sidelines for two years while we have seen some of the most hapless quarterback play ever witnessed by a gathering of 100,000 people. Does any of us blink an eye that such a recruit should play? Does any of us think for a second that it's part of our culture to think that kid deserves to play football instead of going to class? Yet we have a culture that values athletics over academics? Yet somehow our culture is culpable for this issue? If these ideals aren't supposed to be part of the culture of a major university with successful athletic programs, then which ones should be? Do we love athletics? Yes. So does Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama, Kentucky, USC, Oklahoma, Nebraska, etc...I could go on but just look at the basketball and football top 20. Will we do anything for success in athletics? No. Mike Krzyzewski is pretty popular at his school. They are known as the Cameron Crazies and they camp out for tickets to games. Is Duke doomed because of their horrific culture? To make the leap that the culture at Penn State to blame for Jerry Sandusky is pretty fucking ridiculous. If anything, what the Penn State officials did was very unlike the culture of Penn State.

Next, how many times have I heard this in the last week? Paterno, Curley, Schultz, and Spanier knew Jerry Sandusky was a pedophile and covered up his crimes to protect the football program from bad publicity. If asked as a true or false question, I believe most people in the US would answer that this is True. It drives me crazy on multiple levels. First, I can't stand the use of the word cover-up. Let's be honest about this, a cover up requires action. These guys did nothing. They are guilty of inaction. There was reason to suspect Jerry Sandusky and they chose to do nothing. They didn't cover it up, they didn't pursue it. A cover up indicates they knew what they did was wrong. Not pursuing it indicates the opposite. For example, if it was a cover up, and Schultz knew he had committed crimes by keeping Jerry Sandusky away from prosecution, do you think he would have kept his notes where he wrote if this was opening "pandora's box"? For a cover up, they used very little cover.

That leads to the obvious reason of why. Why would smart men, who did their jobs in a seemingly successful and ethical way in every other aspect of their lives make such a gross violation of trust as to not properly and vigorously prosecute an alleged pedophile who was committing crimes against children on their campus? Do we think the obvious answer is that they were afraid of bad publicity? You mean the bad publicity that would have come by turning in a criminal? I for one am tired of all bad publicity given to the people who have turned in murderers, rapists, and pedophiles. If someone can show me a precedent where a person or organization has received a ton of bad publicity because they correctly turned in a suspected pedophile, please post the link so I can understand this logic more clearly. No, the sensible reason that would prevent these guys from collectively not pursuing the prosecution of Jerry Sandusky as a pedophile is that they didn't think he was one. Yes, in 1998 a mother reported her son showered with Sandusky and that he bear hugged him and washed the soap out of his ears. Yes, these guys all knew about that. Yes, in 2001 former QB Mike McQueary saw Sandusky with a boy in the showers in what appeared to be a sexual situation. Yes, these guys knew about that too. Yes, this sounds very convincing and obvious to the average outraged person who cannot fathom how something like this could have happened in front of their nose. The problem is that these guys were weighing those two incidents against 30+ years of knowing Jerry Sandusky. When you are with someone that long, you think you know them. They all liked him. He was Joe's top lieutenant for 30 years. He was Curley's former coach. He was the saint that loved kids so much he started a children's charity. They wrote books about him. They wrote magazine articles about him. They filmed TV news segments about him. He gave so much time to his charity that it cost him his dream of being the head coach at Penn State. By all accounts he was a dufus. When kids were around, he was always playing with them. While other adults were sitting on the side, he was in the pool tossing kids around. That's who they thought he was. He was a dumb ass who brought kids into the shower. What a fucking dummy. But a pedophile? That's not the guy they knew. Mike must have misunderstood what was happening. Isn't that a little more likely than doing this to prevent bad publicity?

The 1998 incident was investigated by the police. Charges were brought to Ray Gricar, the Centre County DA. He wasn't a PSU official. He was independent. It was investigated by CYS. The result was...Nothing. No charges. Just a talking to by a police detective that amounted to "hey man, don't shower with kids". When that was over, I'm pretty sure Paterno, Spanier, Curley, and Schultz thought it was handled properly and was proven to be a false inquiry. What other choice did they have? I remember when Jerome Bettis was accused of raping a woman. He denied it and it was eventually dropped. Guess what, I don't think Jerome Bettis is a rapist. I think he was falsely accused. In 2001, they got McQueary's story. They heard it. They talked about doing the right thing but instead they decided it best to talk to Jerry and get his input before taking action. Yes, I am aware this was the wrong thing to do. Yes, I understand they should have asked about the welfare of the kid. Yes, the emails from Shultz, Curley and Spanier never once mention anything about that. This is their greatest misstep. I have to ask why would they do that? To protect Penn State football or the university from their former defensive coordinator from being brought up on charges and the scandal that would go with that? Are you crazy? Their actions don't reflect that being their motivation. Their actions reflect people who are in denial that the guy they worked with for 30+ years could be capable of this type of thing. Yes, they were protecting him. They were protecting him because they we're not capable of believing it. They thought they knew him. That's what I see when I read the Freeh Report. Think of someone you've known for 30 years. If you aren't that old, think about one of those people who was your mentor or coach who you loved. Now imagine you become their boss and you learn they are accused of pedophilia. I think the natural response is having a difficult time accepting that as truth without first hand knowledge. You don't want to be wrong. You probably want to talk it over with another person you trust and you may consider discussing it directly with the person accused before going to the authorities. To you, that would be humane to your friend and former coach, right?

When I read this report, and I've read it twice now, this is what I read. I know I shouldn't be, but I am shocked how no one is making this case. I understand that the media wants blind rage but you would think that someone would be able to read this report and draw the conclusions that reflect the actions taken. Isn't this more plausible than they just didn't want bad publicity? Or... Maybe I'm just a crazed football fan who developed in the cesspool of culture that is Penn State university.


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