November 11, 2011

It's about the children, not Joe Paterno

As Penn State football coaching legend Joe Paterno announces his retirement effective the end of this year, in large part for failure to do more to report alleged child sex abuse by a long-time assistant, Rick Reilly reminds us:

It's about the children. It's not about Paterno's reputation, and its possibly being sullied. It's not about Jerry Sandusky's reputation, either. It's about the children: the ones he allegedly sodomized. The ones whose alleged sodomy Paterno failed, no, refused, to report.
Imagine: Victim One, according to the Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News, was often taken out of class by Sandusky to be further molested. Just taken out of school by somebody who wasn't his parent, with no questions asked until his mother finally called the principal and asked her to check into it. Later that day, the principal called back in tears. "You need to come down here right now."
Unfortunately, the reality can't even be fully comprehended by many.

It's about the children -- and the adults they eventually became. Or tried to become. Or didn't know how to become.

Some of us understand that already. And, those his column Sunday didn't go far enough, Frank Bruni got this at least partially right. It's about the trust.

Joe Paterno trusted insider flunkies that he had built up around himself more than anybody else, to the point he could tell the university a flat "no" when it was suggested, eight years ago, that he retire. And now, Joe, because of that, it's time for you to pay the price. When I saw the dam burst, I thought you shouldn't be allowed to coach out the season, frankly.

Fortunately, Penn State has ethics, or PR fears. Paterno is out, immediately. Good. That said, I fear the Nittany Lions' home game Saturday will be a Paterno love orgy, unless the same board of regents who canned him does a pre-game memorial to him while also doing something meaningful in relation to child sexual abuse. Otherwise, Paterno, while he may disagree with the regents' decision, needs to support them in making Saturday's last home game as smooth as possible.

But, again, it's not about Paterno, it's about the children. And the children who grow up to be adult "survivors."

Some sports columnists get it, already going to writing about the pain Paterno caused. Read Ivan Maisel.
Paterno? No, he isn't the one to feel sorry for, even after decades of dignity and grace. If Paterno thinks getting fired on his retirement day stings, he doesn't know true pain.
He can reread the grand jury report to find out about that. Some of those lost boys of Penn State could have been saved, and Joe Paterno will go to his grave knowing that will forever be college sports' greatest shame.
Or Rick Reilly, who totally gets the "trust ripped away" issue.
If these boys really were molested, groped and raped by a middle-aged ex-Penn State football coach, then whatever misjudgment Paterno made will be a single lit match compared to the bonfire these boys will walk in for years to come.
Many of them won't be able to trust. Won't be able to love. Won't be able to feel -- nor trust or love themselves.
For the reality of adult "survivors," read my blog post (adapted from a newspaper column I wrote) about Laveranues Coles. You'll see from that just how much child sexual abuse, especially when it is ongoing, is about manipulating trust, or pseudo-trust.

There's been plenty of talk about how Wall Street traders may be sociopaths. Well, what about ongoing child molesters like Jerry Sandusky apparently is? They're even worse trust manipulators. After the allegations, not only did nobody do anything, nobody asked why Sandusky might be so interested in running youth camps. And, beyond the "trusted" coaches, teachers, principals, Catholic priests and Protestant ministers, let's not forget that at least one third of child sexual abuse happens at home. Given that Penn State's now ex-president has a sociology Ph.D., the disgusting, non-funny irony of America's willful ignorance in that area comes home to roost.

And, the flip side of abusers abusing trust is enablers like Paterno abusing power. That is dirty laundry indeed.

Meanwhile, some thoughts on a different bit of "exploitation" below the fold.

Not disgusting, but not exactly welcome, either, are Gnu Atheists starting to use the Paterno situation as an excuse for Catholic-bashing in terms of cover-ups of child suexual abuse. Yes, the Vatican was engaged in a big cover-up. Penn State, at best, engaged in moral laziness.

But, given what I said above about the degree of child sexual abuse happening at home, we as a society are engaged in an even bigger cover-up. And, if Gnu Atheists want to actually do something positive, they like me would use the Paterno story as an awareness raiser.

I won't hold my breath, though.

Yahoo Sports columnist Dan Wetzel notes that, in light of Coach K passing Bobby Knight for career college hoops wins, we should stop deifying coaches in general.
I know a lot of coaches on a personal level. “Human” is exactly what they are. They are no better or worse than any other friend I have. Many are completely uncomfortable with where this has gone, that they have to pretend to be more than they are. They struggle with the balance of work and home, of pressure and perception. ...

Yet they realize that the NCAA makes its billions off peddling college athletics as a more innocent and nurturing alternative than the professional ranks. A lot of it is reflected in their paycheck. This is the deal they have to make. ...

This is the box the coaches are in. They can’t have scandal, even if it isn’t their fault. (Pro coaches don’t get blamed when their players get arrested. Professors aren’t faulted when their students are in trouble.)
Howard Bryant of ESPN basically says the same about some athletes who appear to have halos, but, over Sandusky's Second Mile Foundation, really don't.

And, does homophobia influence why or why not people, like the Penn State coach, don't report instances of male child sexual abuse of boys? Here's an argument that it can.

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