The Right Call at Penn State. Finally.

I watched on TV as they shouted and chanted and turned over a television news van.


They are. Penn State.

And I wondered how I'd feel if that were my child, out on the streets late on a Fall night, screaming outrage over the dismissal of a football coach.

A football coach.

I have to believe that most of them were doing what college kids do best: follow the crowd, go wear the party is, believe that if someone presents themselves as a beacon of all that is right, then they are allowed a mistake.

They are not parents, these kids. They are teenagers. Young adults. They have no idea what kind of things keep us up at night when we have children, how even the thought of somebody touching our child, damaging them and betraying them and causing a kind of pain we can't even fathom is enough to bring tears to our eyes and white-hot rage to our souls.

Joe Paterno was not just a coach. He is an icon. The face of the University. The philanthropist who donated millions of dollars to Happy Valley, building the library extenaion and helping countless charities. Who was renown for running a "clean" program and graduating his students and standing for high morals.

Winning, too.

He was the most powerful man on campus.

Which what makes this all so much more tragic.

Joe Paterno was fired via phone call, igniting more outrage by the students and alumni who support him. Which is ironic, because if Paterno had picked up the phone over a decade ago, who knows how many boys would've had the chance to grow up without knowing the worst kind of pain a child can bear.

Joe Paterno, according to Grand Jury testimony, knew his long-time friend and former defensive coach Jerry Sandusky was caught with a 10 year-old boy by then grad-assistant Mike McQueary. Paterno told the athletic director, but said he didn't know the extent of the abuse, only that McQueary was distraught.

McQueary, the current receivers coach, alleges in his testimony he saw Sandusky anally raping the child in the football locker room. McQueary didn't break it up or call the police. He called his father, who advised him to leave tell Paterno.

Because that's what happens when you're part of a system known for its integrity. You keep it in the family.

Paterno admits he should have done more. He should've done more, and he didn't. He never called authorities. He never followed up. Sandusky had already retired from coaching, and was then banned from brining children to campus, but he still had access to the football locker room where some of the alleged assaults occurred. He still had an office in the building.

There is no way to know how many children were damaged by Sandusky and by a university who looked the other way.

How many lives would've been different had Paterno and those administrators worried more about doing what's right and less about the reputation of the school, where Paterno was head coach for 46 years? Those children were betrayed by an adult in the most horrific way possible, and then they were betrayed again by others with even more power who did nothing.

The victims, now in their 20s, and their families had to watch as the students went on to reporters about all Paterno has done for the school. I can't imagine what they were thinking.

You cannot measure 409 wins and a shiny library versus the life of a single child. Not a single child.

Someday, I hope those who were filling the streets of State College realize that. Or we have failed them.

And we have failed the victims. Again.

 

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