When It Sucks Being Right

All along I’ve said that there will be more victims. Sandusky started his charity in ’77. By ’98, he had a smooth m.o. and was willing to admit illegal acts to the mother of his victim. That says to me that he, himself, had a way things went and that he knew, pretty clearly, how things went when people suspected him of wrong-doing. He was comfortable enough with his chances of not being arrested that he felt he could tell a mother of one of his victims what he’d done to her son and that he would not stop doing it to other boys.

In other words, the kid in ’98 was not his first victim. Not even close.

There will be more.

This is a guy very, very comfortable in his hunting area and technique who felt himself, obviously rightly so, above the bounds of society and the rule of law.

Will it be along these lines? I pray not. But you start to wonder why he was bringing boys to the Penn State locker room to shower in the first place. Was it so that he would be observed in the hopes that those observers would join in?

This, folks, is why they had to fire Joe Paterno. At the end of the day, people entrust their young men to Paterno. If he has no drive to keep kids safe, if hearing about a little boy being raped doesn’t cause him to launch into full-on “I will end you” rage, just how broken is his moral compass? No, practically, the question the Penn State Board had to ask themselves is “If he learns of this and does next to nothing what things might be going on in his program that he’s overlooking?”

I mean, I keep hearing people say “Well, he did what he was supposed to do. He reported it up the chain of command.” But I want you to think for a second. This is one of the most powerful men in the Penn State system. When they tried to force him to retire a few years ago, he just said “No,” and there he stayed. Imagine, imagine being so powerful that when your ostensible superiors come to you and tell you they want you to step down, you say “No” and there’s nothing they can do about it.

Stay in that space for a second, imagining having that kind of power.

Now say you learned about a guy raping children, a guy who was endangering your life’s work by raping children through luring them with access to your life’s work. A guy you thought was your friend just betraying the shit out of you and acting like a monster to small children.

Would you call the police before or after you had your football team stomp the shit out of that dude?

See, it’s not even a question of calling the police. What is the university going to do to you if you call the police? Try to ask you to step down again? Please, the moral high ground you’d have would be so high you could sit on your front porch and wave to the folks on Mount Olympus.

The question would be–do you unleash the dozens of humongous men at your beck and call to beat that dude into a pulp first? Or do you deny yourself the satisfaction of that in order to protect them from possible arrest?

The fact that neither of those things happened, frankly, shows that Paterno is a sick fuck, too. On par with Sandusky? No, but god damn, that’s not saying much.

20 thoughts on “When It Sucks Being Right

  1. I was thinking the same thing, Katherine. Gah.

    I’ve worked at universities forever, and at every one part of the training was “if you hear of child abuse or elder abuse you must report it to the police.” There was nothing about your university’s chain of command, just call the cops, you’re obligated to. Period. There’s no way that Penn State doesn’t have the same standard.

  2. Yep, I’m with Katherine. What is wrong with people? Why are these students/others supporting someone who thinks that just because he “reported” it to people “higher up” the chain rather than the police. Do university coaches/staff fall under Mandatory Reporting like teachers in grade/middle/high schools etc?

    I’ve heard people ask “what if it had been little girls”, well, what if it was a Professor or someone on staff other than the football department? Would that person have been allowed free-reign to continue with this crap, just not in the locker room of the uni, or would they have been promptly reported to the police?

  3. Honey, it’s been little girls. It’s been college-aged girls, too. Campus athletes are notorious for it. And it’s been drugs, both illegal-in-general and illegal-in-college-sports. And it’s been bribes. And it’s been cheating on exams, and getting tutors to write papers for athletes, and threatening non-tenured faculty with dismissal if they didn’t inflate the athletes’ grades. And all sorts of things. Not that Paterno did all these things himself, necessarily; not that he was even aware of each specific instance that was done and covered up; but that there were things he’d rather not know about going on and being covered up, that he knew. In addition to what he knew about his buddy Sandusky. The problem is that once you start approaching things in the spirit of “let’s deal with this in-house, to protect the reputation of the program as a whole, and to temper the suffering of this person I believe to be worthy because of something about athletics,” you can’t stop. Then that’s the approach you take, or else it all will start to come out.

  4. Yup, and if the Beaver Times reporter’s speculation is correct, that Paterno and Penn State basically hustled Sandusky out the door with a retirement in order to sweep the scandal under the rug, then Paterno not only deserves to be fired, he is morally culpable for every other child Sandusky abused after that.

  5. Meanwhile, this guy McQueary, who saw one incident and basically did nothing, still has a job. Maybe action there comes later, as much will, but it’s still strange.

  6. Not a subject with levity easily or rightly attached, but then there’s this:


  7. Mark, not only athletes do these things. But I have taught at a school with a moderate-sized athletic program, and I am here to tell you that there were a lot more specific, public complaints there about athletes sexually harassing and (less frequently) assaulting women (stuff like groups of guys from the same team kicking in the doors of girls’ door room when the girls wouldn’t open the doors in the middle of the night) than about non-athletes assaulting women, though the athletes were, obviously, only a small proportion of the student body. And that athletes would walk into class for the first time in the second month of the semester, or not turn in work, or turn in obviously plagiarized work, and rarely suffer consequences because the AD could make trouble for non-tenured faculty or at least could pressure the registrar’s office to change the grade the instructor turned in; oddly enough, this didn’t happen with pre-law students, or political science majors. Etc., etc., etc. And this was a moderate-sized program, not a big one like Penn — I have to imagine things are worse there.

    Yes, I also encountered genuine student-athletes there, including one kid who told me all about how his coach kept on the team about their grades. Not all athletes are jerks, not all coaches are jerks, not even all ADs are jerks. But a money-making athletic program is set up to hide secrets, and some of those secrets are going to be very nasty indeed. Athletes are protected from the consequences of their actions from a much earlier age than people who end up privileged later in life.

  8. I guess I go around and around on this issue and since I should be writing decisions on my lunch hr rather than debating this side issue to the main, I’ll just say this: I’ve been an athlete at a D1 school, I’ve connections to another program with a rep for dastardly deeds, and worked at a school w/ a program that hasn’t done much in 30 years.

    I know there are many on the academic side of institutions who don’t hold much love for the athletic side of the institutions. A lot of them would wish the jocks would vanish.

    I know that in my experience there have been reports of abuse by athletes on par with abuse reported regarding the gen. pop. I know that if an athlete gets into a fight in a bar it is going to be in the papers and if a “regular” student does so few will hear about it.

  9. Do coaches, esp. at the college level, fall under the mandated reporter laws? Not at *all* that anybody should get a pass if not, I’m just wondering if there is an additional level of expectation of reporting there beyond, uh, not being a despicable human being.

  10. Coaches are definitely mandatory reporters of on-campus crimes under the Cleary Act. Says so right in my Department of Education issued *Campus Crime Reporting Handbook.* Any institutional official who has a significant responsibility for campus or student affairs — that would include pretty much everyone in this chain from the AD to Paterno to the assistant coaches, leaving out the grad assistant, who is exempt, and the support staff (athletic department secretaries and janitors, trainers) — has a legal obligation to report the crime.
    However, it appears that Penn State policy (which Paterno followed) confers the whole legal responsibility for Cleary-mandated reporting onto the AD as the appropriate college representative.

    Mark is more versed in the nuance of ed law than I am, so he maybe can explain whether this arrangement (which I know a lot of colleges, including my own, use) gets JoePa off the hook legally. To me, it seems like a dangerous practice because you have someone whose job depends on the smooth operation of Athletics (nothing to see here) given decision-making authority about when to and what to report.

  11. Then there is this interesting fact about Ray Gricar, the Pennsylvania DA who initially was involved in the investigation of Sandusky. He disappeared without a trace in 2005. His laptop was found in his car but missing a hard drive, and his home computer had had searches run on it on how to erase a hard drive. Many people here in PA want this case to be reopened.



  12. PA is one of the few states where there’s a gray area about mandated reporting. As long as Paterno reported it to his higher-ups, he covered his ass, legally. I’ve seen so many people say that he did enough by reporting it to his bosses, that he didn’t have to call the police, it was the responsibility of his bosses to call the cops and have them investigate. My response to that: Would you say the same thing if it was your child in those showers? Would you be satisfied that Paterno fulfilled his legal responsibility to your child by reporting it to his bosses and forgetting about it from there?
    Paterno may have fulfilled his legal responsibility under PA law, but morally, he’s as bankrupt as Sandusky.

  13. My understanding of Clery is that it requires the reporting of crime statistics to the student population. IIRC it states that the law shall not mandate policy to individual institutions beyond the requirements of reporting statistics and providing other kinds of information (where to go or what to do when an assault is committed, et.c.)

    I don’t know that there is a statutory duty Paterno had to report to someone else what he was told under Clery (it may have been hearsay, which is exempt). Any report would have been reporting the info he got, which would have been published to the student body.

    There was a duty under state law I believe to report allegations to authorities.But the DA isn’t going after Paterno (I don’t think it’s politics there, I’m sure an ambitious DA would love to take that case to TV) It really depends on what he actually knew, and I haven’t been poring over the story, so I don’t know. It would have been his judgment if he is considered a CSA.

  14. One only needs to look at the Catholic Church to know this doesn’t just happen in athletics.

    It’s just really obvious in athletics because we tend to think universities are about educating the people who attend classes there and often athletics reveals that universities don’t share that same understanding.

    But even Sandusky couldn’t just worth the athletic system to get access to potential victims. He worked the charity circuit and exploited the foster care system.

    In a sick way, it’s smart. He was exactly exploiting the fact that the kids weren’t “really” a part of the football program so the football program wouldn’t be set up to protect them.

  15. If I consider Sandusky at all I just get sad. I look at his face and wonder if I can see it in there somewhere. Especially now that I coach when I have time and have kids. I’m at ground zero in a couple of ways.

  16. I think that’s another thing about this whole story that keeps it nagging at me. I mean, shoot, I almost wish he did somehow “look” creepy. But the truth is that he picked his victims carefully. You can tell from the grand jury report that he did a lot of boundary testing, to figure out who he could most easily target.

    There are probably a lot of kids he, say, rested his hand on their shoulder just a little too long and they shrugged it off and gave him a dirty look and he didn’t try anything else with them. But they didn’t say anything either, because what’s there to say?

    And I think it’s very easy for grown-ups to see a person responding as we think he should–immediately withdrawing his hand when it’s clearly unwelcome, for instance–and assume that happens in every case.

    So, when we hear someone say something about him, it’s so easy to say “Oh, they’re just misconstruing the behavior I see him engaging in all the time” rather than realizing “Oh my god, I was seeing very early grooming behavior!”

    Which is a long way of saying yeah, i don’t think you necessarily can tell and this is why it’s so crucial to just always have a variety of adults around.

    In a weird way, I keep thinking of the time the tread blew off my tire in North Carolina. I was driving along the interstate at 80 mph and there it went, just disintegrated. And I heard, as plain as day, Coach Best, who was the drivers ed teacher as well, saying “It will sound and feel like someone is trying to land a helicopter on the roof of your car. Take your foot off the gas. Put your hazards on. Coast to a stop.”

    Probably saved my life. And I know, when he said it all those years ago in drivers ed, I was probably only barely paying attention.

    But it seems to me that this is why it’s so crucial to drill into people’s heads “If you see someone abusing a child, call the police.”

    Not because people are stupid, but because, when you do see, say, someone butt raping a ten year old, it’s really only natural that you freeze up and not know what the fuck to do. Or to call your dad.

    You need that script in place.

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