Observant readers of the blog know that I am a sports fan, a proud native of Pennsylvania, and the father of two boys. In that context, I have spent hours over the past seven days digesting the grand jury investigation of alleged child molester Jerry Sandusky and the role of Penn State in enabling their former coach. The whole situation is horrifying. The report cites numerous victims, each targeted for their vulnerability. The crimes described in the report are unspeakable. I think we'd all agree that any person who did those things to children is reprehensible (or many stronger words).
What I am trying to learn from in this is the failure of so many institutions and individuals to stop Sandusky, when allegations against him date back to 1998. The Penn State administration clearly blew it - two have been indicted and the president is out - but so too did the university police, who investigated 1998 allegations, and the district attorney, who declined to press charges at the time. The state's child welfare office was contacted at one point. I am now hearing that a school counselor may have heard the allegations from a victim. And two individuals caught Sandusky in the act, but didn't intervene, including a 28 year old ex-college football player big enough and young enough to kick Sandusky's ass, if necessary. The worst inaction might be that one or more administrators of The Second Mile - an organization Sandusky started to reach vulnerable youth - allegedly had knowledge of allegations on more than one occasion over multiple years and did not take decisive actions. Any of the above could have stopped Sandusky, yet none did.
"We Are...Penn State" is the cheer heard at deafening levels on Saturdays during football season. But when it came to protecting children, for more than a decade, the university, Second Mile, and multiple state agencies were instead, silent.
Which brings us to Joe Paterno, who has received the most scrutiny, due to his enormous fame and visibility. Did Paterno do enough? Based on the facts as we know them today, the answer is yes and no, the former being the answer in a legal context, and the latter being the case in the court of public opinion.
All we know from the grand jury is that Paterno received one report about Sandusky and he reported it to his boss in the university administration. He took the action that almost certainly followed university protocol, and he certainly must have known that process could lead to jail for his long-time colleague. Had either of the now indicted PSU administrators done their jobs and called the police or launched a serious investigation, it's unlikely people would be criticizing Paterno's actions today. But they didn't and the situation persisted for years, which is where the "no" comes in.
Ultimately, people wanted somebody with knowledge of the situation not to fulfill their legal obligation, but to DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO FIX THE SITUATION. That's certainly where Dr. F was coming from in her post on this topic. Paterno said as much himself, acknowledging he wished he had done more. In serious matters involving the well-being of people, we want those who can intervene to do whatever it takes. Nobody, Paterno included, took that decisive action until one of the victims stepped forward in 2009.
Which brings me to my revelation...I haven't been doing whatever it takes to make the Pounds Off Playoff a success. I have taken action, but not at the level I need to fix the situation. As a thirty year fan of Paterno before this week, the lesson I'm taking away from this horrible situation is that it's not enough to do something. It's not enough to do what others have done. What matters is owning the situation and getting results. I have already started a plan to do just that, but it feels like a very different post. I'll be sharing my much more aggressive plan with you this weekend.