There is something to be said about growing up in a home full of sports and activities. I won’t ever lie and say that we were a picture perfect family. We had a lot going on, but I would have to say that my dad tried to do his best in making things work for us, and that meant that he was going to do what he knew how to do: sports.
My father is not amazing with his words. Sorry Dad, gonna throw you under the bus here a little. But it’s the truth. He isn’t fantastic at expressing himself. He’s a pretty reserved guy, and he holds back a lot of what he’s thinking, maybe because he’s processing it, or maybe because he just doesn’t have a lot to say. You know, the strong silent types. But what he lacked in expressing verbally, he made up for with his actions.
Now, this isn’t a blog about my dad. Far from it, but I think it’s important for me to lay the foundations here of my life and how I view things for this next case.
My dad stuck by my mom when things were hard. He didn’t necessarily tell us things, but he did things for us. He worked hard, despite constant pain in his back from a previous accident, he tried to protect us from the storms that would come later in life. He was always looking out for our best interest, even if at the time we didn’t think that he was. And trust me, I was his biggest critic when it came to that, only understanding his motives when I became an adult.
One of the things that my dad was always good at, was doing athletic like things with us. I know for me personally, I hated it at the time, because his passion for sports was a little more than I could understand at the time. But I have fond memories of my dad coaching me through soccer, which I did for many years through a private program, and then further into softball, which I went on to do some travel ball. To add to this, my father coached my brother’s teams as well, both in soccer, later in baseball, then through little league football (which he still did after my brother was long gone through that program), and then when my brother went into high school and played. He became a head coach at our old high school, and then later started to coach at the school that I work at now.
You could say that this school has somehow suckered in my entire family, since my brother works and coaches here, too. But let that be something I point out. My dad coaches. And now my brother coaches, too. It shouldn’t go unnoticed that I come from a family that enjoys sports, but more than that, they enjoy teaching and supporting kids in these programs through coaching. Most of this, for the record, is unpaid work. So it’s mere volunteer time and the pure love of the game and the program.
Now that ya’ll have my background in all this, what I really want to discuss is the Sandusky case. I didn’t pay attention to it at the time because I was a brand new mother. I recall hearing about it on TV, but I didn’t think twice about it, and frankly, it didn’t interest me. It was another one of those cases where a person in both power and respect and frankly, trust, was misusing such a thing by doing something that they should not do. And, as sad as it is to say, we hear it all too often, so I just tune it out after a while. Since I can’t be a fly on the wall in their trials, I am smart enough to know that the media (and the sharks that they are), are misrepresenting and sharing information depending on which political party they are supporting at the time, and what they are meant to monger out.
Needless to say, I don’t participate in that much.
The Sandusky allegations and later findings is not what floored me. I mean, sure that’s a horrible thing to happen, and at the college level on top of it, but what floored me was the thought process of a culture being brainwashed to think one way, and further, the Penn State’s handling, and the (I believe) NCAA’s handling of the situation.
Let’s break down what I know.
As before stated, I am not a professional in this. I am a mere person in the cogs of machines that probably has no specific right to speak out against it, but once again, as in my previous blog, I had posted that I just want to put this information out there for people to think about it. Not necessarily send me hate filled messages or bolster my opinion, I just want ya’ll to think about some of the things going on, and some of the rights, and perhaps wrongs that were in this case.
Joe Paterno was the head coach of the Penn State program. He had been doing it, at the time of his firing, for 61 years. This man dedicated 61 years of his life to Penn State, which included during down a job offer to coach for the Patriot’s professional football team. That would have definitely given him a boost in both status and income, but he turned it down. I’m not sure his reasons, and I’m not sure that they matter so much. Just that he didn’t take the job, and remained at Penn State for quite some time after. Joe was fired, along with several (again I believe) board members at Penn State, for their mishandling of the sexual assault cases that were soon to follow against Sandusky. The reasons that seem to be implied, or stated, was that he was aware of several allegations, and did not do enough. I’m not sure if this means enough to prevent them from further happening, enough to assist the victim in question, or enough to get rid of the problem. Again, I can’t speak to any of those facts.
What facts I can speak to is what I know about the education system at the younger levels. As a person that works in education, I am a mandated reporter. What that means is, I am legally obligated to report anything that I deem as neglect, abuse, etc. that happens to a person in my care while I am at my job, or doing something that is part of my job (like a field trip, coaching, etc). This does not mean that if I see a kid on the street being abused that is not my student, that I need to report it. Should I? Yes, but it’s not legally required at that point. So now that we have that clear, let me also clarify some things that we are permitted and not permitted to do. If I have a student come into my office, and tell me about a situation, be it sexual in nature or otherwise, I have a few things that I am required to do. One of those is to inform the student that what they are sharing with me will only be shared with those that it needs to be shared with, but also to inform them that I have to report what they are telling me by law. I cannot, however, investigate, ask questions, or further get involved with the student and the process, which means that I can do no more than: tell my boss, call law enforcement (if immediate danger or fear of it is present), and file a CPS report. I am legally required to put my name on that information, and they may or may not contact me further about the case, but I cannot go back to the student and ask how things are, and probe into what is happening in their life. They would have to freely, and openly tell me on their own.
That said, I am not sure what the procedures are at the college level, since most of these kids are adults, free to make their own decisions, free to tell and not tell whom they want. I am also not sure how much power that Paterno himself had. Could he fire his coaches, and those in his program? I’m not sure. I don’t know what that looks like for Penn State. But I can say that him informing his superiors, if we are following similar procedures to what is happening here at my level, was potentially the right call. Should he have contacted law enforcement? Perhaps he should have. But again, we don’t know what those conversations with those victims looked like. He might have said “let’s do something about this”, and they requested that he didn’t do anything else. They are legally adults at this point, and have the right to say that. If he felt that it might put them in further danger if the allegations were unfounded? Again, that might have affected the player and he might have been thinking out of the box. Morally should he have done more? Maybe. But legality isn’t about morals. It’s about the laws.
I’m not sure he broke any.
What makes this case for me so saddening is not what Sandusky did. He got what was legally owed to him. What I think the biggest travesty in this case was, what happened to those board members, and Paterno himself. There was no reason for Joe to have suspected that a person he had known for so long would do such a thing. First off, he’s not a criminal behavioral analyst, secondly, hearsay is a thing that professionals have to deal with all the time. I can honestly say in my field, I have to listen sometimes to what students are saying and determine how much of this is credible truth, and how much of it is them saying something because they heard this or that, or are just seeking attention, etc. Having said that, sometimes these kids are (sadly) looking for a payday. I would say it’s probably few and far between, but it does happen, and because it does happen, it makes reporting and all the things in between a little harder.
One false allegation can not only ruin a reputation, but a career for a person.
What is more disheartening, is the NCAA went eighty five steps too far, and went so far as to remove all the wins that Paterno had a hand in. That’s 112 wins. Let that sink in. One-hundred-twelve wins. That were not just Paterno doing the work. It was his staff. It was his team, and ultimately, it affected the school. It didn’t stop there. Players were penalized. They couldn’t transfer schools. They were not permitted to participate in bowl games or have them at Penn State for four years after this was issued. Statues of Paterno were taken down. Fields were renamed. The scholarship that was in his honor, was removed. Nevermind that graduation rates went up to having an 85% graduation rate, and in large part due to Paterno himself being a mentor to a great number of those kids… which is more than Harvard. More than other schools. Yet… they were so quick to remove all of this because.. He could have done more.
There were riots.
Massive, massive riots.
And I would have rioted with them.
In the end, Paterno’s legacy died along with him, which was not much longer after he was fired. Though his son still coaches with Penn State, it will never be the same. He was nearly wiped from the record books, and despite what anybody else feels, or felt about this situation, and his involvement in it all, you cannot erase the positive and amazing history that this man gave to that community. A community, mind you, that has been broken and banded back together somehow, and still supports and speaks greatness to his name.
The NCAA can’t take that away.
And that is the last thing I want to touch on. It was speaking to the community this punishment that they doled out, to try and change the way that they viewed things. In their estimation, the student body, staff, and all therein was so hell bent on the ‘wins’ from their beloved team, that they continued to let these torments to these children press on. But I don’t think that had anything to do with it. Not on a personal level, not ever. Having grown up in an environment like that, I can say that when injustice happens, it doesn’t just affect one, it affects all. And that’s the truth of it. Penn State didn’t need Sandusky to win, nor did it need Paterno, as seen now under their new coach. To make a statement like that, and to believe that the school couldn’t do without and that the community itself would just… continue to permit such crimes to happen? That’s insanity. I’m sure that things like this happen out there. And perhaps this was happening here. But it just seems unlikely, given the way that the community responded once the truth was out. While they were screaming the names of Paterno, they were demanding justice and spitting on the name of Sandusky.
Victims often times don’t speak out because they feel voiceless.
I’m not sure blaming those around them ‘not doing enough’ is going to fix the problem with our culture and society today.
Maybe, I don’t know, just maybe we should stop blaming and flaying the victims on the stand and in the media when they do speak out. Maybe the media should stop getting their noses in everything with partial facts and just needing to fuel the fire. Maybe there is such a thing as wanting and needing privacy in all matters until the dust settles. We don’t do that anymore. And when we do speak out, we punish those helping, not hurting.
Would you lose your livelihood to speak out when you just weren’t sure enough? I don’t know. Would I?
I don’t know.