1043 Got Tar?
(STATE COLLEGE PA) -- The most charitable thing you can say about Paterno is he fumbled while the ball was in play.
It’s ten o’clock on a Thursday morning and a few of us outsiders are sitting in a booth in a coffee shop in view of a TV set on one side and a full view of the Penn State main campus right outside the window. We’ve been there awhile and one guy has an iPad and so we have read the “Freeh Report” that in effect says “Good thing we have enough tar and a new brush because when you finish reading this, everyone at this place is going to be covered.”
Months of work by Penn State’s hired guns show what everyone has come to expect: There are no good guys in the Sandusky little-boy-screwed story.
Freeh, the former FBI director now in a law practice in which he’s mostly a rainmaker, is reading a prepared statement that condemns (not necessarily in this order) the closed culture at Penn State that allowed Sandusky free pickin’s for more than a decade of abuse, the fired president of the school, Graham Spanier, the soon-to-be former athletic director, Tim Curley, the retired vice president for business affairs, Gary Schultz and Paterno.
Plenty of tar to go around.
The guys at this table are all from somewhere else and have stayed somewhere else in their heads, if not their bodies. The rest of the place is filled with locals whose table buzz is louder than usual, but still indistinguishable. Every once in awhile a word jumps out, like “dirty!” or “maligned.” (It’s a college town. They say things like “maligned” out loud here. Much classier than, say, “smeared.”)
And that’s probably how opinion in this town will be divided. One side saying dirty, the other side saying smeared.
It’s still not clear whether there was an active conspiracy to let Sandusky play or just a bunch of like thinking executives who thought and acted alike with or without the full advice and consent of the others. But the effect was the same, a coverup to avoid bad publicity. Fine job of that, they did.
When Paterno died in January, there was plenty of activity as people tried to decide what to name after him. After all, winningest coach in the history of major college football, head coach for more than the lifetime of a normal human being, big contributor to the school, the public face of the school. The guy everyone on earth had heard of. A revered public figure with a humble attitude and a winning smile.
So far, this day, no one still says name the vast stadium after him, or the road that runs past it.
It’s too early in the day for the school to answer questions like “what are you going to do about all this?” or even “will you leave Paterno’s statue standing at the stadium’s front entrance?” But it’s not too early in the day to quote one member of the board of trustees saying “we are ashamed.”
And it’s not too early in the day for the guy’s family to issue statements filled with words and phrases like “unfair” or “not right,” or “not true.”
The ex-president Spanier is an amateur magician. He tried to make all this slime disappear. He tried to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Better take a brush up course at Famous Magicians’ School of large scale illusions.
The ex-vice president for business, whose son-in-law has a fat contract to do work for the school, and who was in charge of security, is probably feeling a bit smaller and less secure today.
The athletic director, now on leave and under treatment for lung cancer, showed himself to be the puppet everyone knew he was in the first place.
And somewhere in China, there’s a company getting ready to put together memorabilia sets that include bobble heads of Paterno, Nixon, Anthony Weiner and Bill Clinton, attractively packaged in front of a wide-angle photo of Iraq’s array of weapons of mass destruction. (William Calley action figure sold separately.)
(Note to readers: Please do not bother sending your planned response if it’s going to be a handwringing screed about the “poor children.” Sure they were abused and probably some of them got pretty screwed up from what happened to them. It’s terrible. But they’ll live. The overarching crimes here aren’t even the ones Sandusky committed, they are the acts of this handful of men (and possibly women) and what they did and didn’t do when they learned -- or should have learned what was going on for all these years.)
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2012