The release of the Freeh Report on July 12 was another small victory for the victims of Jerry Sandusky, but a gut-punching blow to the blue and white fan boys and girls across the country.
Revealed in the 267-page independent investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh was a comprehensive account of Penn State’s severe mishandling of Jerry Sandusky and the deplorable accusations against him. Freeh deep-seated what many speculated Joe Paterno took with him to his grave.
Paterno was, in fact, aware of the Sandusky accusations, and part of the internal blunder to handle it, as early as 1998.
Now the soil around Paterno’s grave is burdensome. His headstone is more imbued than before. His only disguise is the rising grass that surrounds his body's nest.
Times are undoubtedly cumbersome for Paterno and his legacy.
Fortunately for him, there are no press conferences in hell.
But after a weekend of engulfing myself into the report, I’m failing to understand the unflappable and egregious support for Paterno that is still being showcased on social media and in printed press.
At what cost do his supporters continue their fight if his worth to the university declines with every new investigative finding?
It’s oppressively sobering to witness those hell bent on blind faith, even if it would seem that Paterno’s health more than likely deteriorated so swiftly from a guilty conscience.
In perhaps a Polaroid moment of that soul-searching guilt, Paterno penned a letter one year before his death explaining his desire to not see the football program taken down by the atrocities of Sandusky. With curious timing, Paterno’s family released the letter July 11, just ahead of the release of the Freeh Report.
“This is not a football scandal and should not be treated as one,” wrote Paterno, who passed away in January.
Was this how despicably naive Joe Paterno really was?
It was football worship that led to this.
In fact, football was the candy Sandusky used to lure his victims.
He used the allure and eminence of the Penn State football program to brainwash starstruck children into his pedophilia.
He brought them to the sidelines, he ushered them through the locker room. He took them to Philadelphia Eagles games. It was everything to do with the grid iron. And, for myself, that’s an unfathomable tackle to break.
Therefore, the Penn State football program should receive a death penalty from the NCAA.
The program was an accessory to a crime.
But even that, the harshest of punishment will do little to appease the idea that the university has repented.
Renovating the showers Sandusky used as his playground of horrors will do little to scrub clean the awareness of why it’s being renovated in the first place. If this is Penn State’s way of moving on, the lipstick-on-a-pig act is a feeble flippancy to the intelligence of the students and the victims.
Though it’s ultimately the NCAA’s job to be judge and jury, it’s the Penn State Board of Trustees’ responsibility to begin to establish some integrity and show a determined commitment to correcting the faults of their most trusted faculty.
They can start by acknowledging the suicide of Paterno’s legacy and let his statue fall from its noose.
The bronze depiction of Joe Paterno once stood proudly outside Beaver Stadium, and gave fans more of a rush than the beer they smuggled in their 20-oz. bottles of “Pepsi.” Now it stands attached with nothing but a reminder of what once was, and can never be recaptured.
Take it down.
After all, to give someone a statue for being a helluva coach loses its luster if that coach has failed at being a helluva man.
Because this isn’t about able-minded adult victims who had the voice, even the strength, to fend off a predator; it’s about underprivileged and vulnerable children who were cruelly dominated by a boogie man disguised as a dream weaver.
A simple phone call to the proper authorities could have been the difference in taking his legacy from “oh he’s just our coach” to “oh he’s just our hero.”
Instead, a one-year ban on the football program would take away the one falsity Joe Paterno and Penn State currently stands for: prestige.
Then the focus for Penn State could be on how to reestablish themselves as a school of integrity. It may take baby steps, but without distraction, it’s better than no steps forward at all.
The innocent athletes will still flourish, because, unlike the victims, they have options. They will still be granted their full ride, so they will have an education. And if they feel like the accountability of what Penn State has become is too heavy in their book bags, then they have the option to transfer.
But while the Freeh Report has caused a monsoon of outrage, blind support, and some indifference, it was solely meant for the victims. Though nothing can guarantee them closure, the Freeh Report was a step in the direction of healing.
May the victims feel the weight of the world against them begin to shift and be the weight in their corners.
Freeh at last.