If you're like me, you don't like rehashed story lines. After a while they start to wear on you, and it's irritating. I'm sure for most, the Penn State/ Sandusky story fits in this category. For me, it's personal. Those who know me, know why. So bear with me on last time.
According to email records, senior Penn State officials were about to report the shower indecentto several authorities, which they now contend was never relayed to them as an actual sexual assault. It was their legal responsibility to do so. One defining email states that the decision to report Sandusky was only halted after a long conversation with Joe Paterno, and a subsequent email acknowledged that they could all get in serious trouble by doing so. By now, most agree that it was a full blown cover up to protect Penn State, that shining university on a hill.
Now comes into question...how should the NCAA interject themselves into this issue, if at all? This is long winded, but walk through it with me.
The problem with bigger than life...well...anything, is that those involved with it buy into the idea that they have a responsibility to be an example, lest others fall to the way side. They start believing that they must maintain the image of the "sterling example", "a light on a hill", "a beacon in the fog, or some other unobtainable accolade."It's an impossible portrait for anyone to live up to. Like Penn State, they start becoming the local poster child for values. Or as Happy Valley says, "the Penn State Way."
Inevitably, a misstep occurs, and the cracks start to show in the foundation. This does more than create a single issue that must be remedied. It calls into question the foundation of their very character. The pressure is huge, and the downside is immense. After all, what will happen to all those people who only do what is right because of their example? This is where psychology, and the amazing power of altering perception happen. For the supposed greater good, a cover up occurs. After all, "we wouldn't want an aberration to be the reason someone loses faith!"
People do it all the time. My mother once told me she had never taken a drink in her life. I learned later that she said this because she "didn't want me to lose respect for her" and thus indulge myself. She's as wonderful a person as there is, but we are sometimes tempted to believe that we are the reason others do what is right. We want to be examples of being right, instead of being examples of admitting our mistakes in order to do what is right.
Everyone knows someone who was or is a wolf in sheep's clothing, who spends an inordinate amount of time shoring up their image. They became that way through this same process. Praise, being held up as an example, and then needing to hide the truth with the rationalization that they are really protecting those that rely on their example.
It doesn't get much more illustrative than the situation happening at Penn State. The program and Joe Paterno became more than just football. It became the "Penn State Way," it became an example to all around them. Joe is a good man, no doubt. I don't believe in sinking an otherwise good person for something stupid, even as stupid as this.
However, the shinning city on a hill...happy valley, did a lot to protect a football program from exposure, even when it meant protecting a vile and indecent man. No doubt it took a lot of rationalization to do what they did for Joe's and Penn State's image. But I'm sure to this day they are still warping their own perceptions to explain their actions.
So now, the question is being asked. Does the NCAA belong in the middle of this? I say they do, and for one reason alone. These things just weren't outside-the-locker-room failings by men who just happened to be associated with the football program. These things were done expressly for the football program. To protect it. No football program is bigger than a child and many many children were victimized because a few men lost their perspectives.
I realize that there are a lot of innocent kids who play at Penn State who would be adversly effected. I concur with Stephen A. Smith who said extrodinary measures should be taken to let them transfer without penalty, and with an extra year of eligabiulity. But Pen State must get the death sentence if nothing more than to say to all the other sterling programs that there is no such thing as protecting a program by lying and hiding the truth.