Is there no Penn State fan who truly gets it?
I’ve been browsing fan websites for weeks, looking for a sign that Penn State fans understand why there is such enduring controversy surrounding their football program and school. I can’t say that I’ve seen evidence that even a single fan really gets it. The current president of the university seems to understand, but the most vocal PSU fans and alumni want to ride him out of town on a rail. The PSU fans seem to respond to the lunatic fringe of the blogosphere with answers to questions that no sane person is asking.
For example, PSU fans acknowledge that pedophilia is horrible and should never occur, but then act as though that somehow shows that they “get it.”
PSU fans list all the positive attributes of Penn State, its football players, its graduates, etc., etc. Yes, we sane “outsiders” all understand that there is more good than bad in Penn State and there is plenty to be proud of. Again, that’s never been in question, except to the lunatic fringe.
It is the next point, though, that begins to get at the crux of the problem. PSU fans point out the half truth that this sort of thing happens everywhere. Yes, child sex abuse is far more prevalent than most people realize, and most of us probably do know someone who has been abused and very well may know an abuser without realizing it. These truths, though, ignore the difference, the reason Penn State is singled out and stands alone among US universities (as far as we know): at no other institution were there repeated allegations of child sex abuse that rose to the very top of the university where the response was to cover up, protect the pedophile, thereby allowing him to continue abusing children for over a decade.
Now, many PSU fans do acknowledge this last point, but almost none without spinning it in such a way to convince themselves it was just an isolated incident with just a few bad apples (I don’t know how many times I’ve heard it was just one monster and two, perhaps three others) and they are now out of the university, so the problem has been resolved. That third individual, which many PSU fans still refuse to acknowledge, played a role in this is a if not the central figure in the cover up. Joe Paterno, for all the teaching and preaching (and leading by example) he did about honor, integrity, doing things “the right way,” failed miserably on the biggest test to ever come his way. There is no getting around this. But these are the points I’m waiting for a Penn State fan to acknowledge, and it is some semblance of refusal to acknowledge these or similar points that leads to many saying Penn State fans still don’t get it:
1) There was a cult of personality surrounding Joe Paterno. This is not unique to PSU, so I’m not quite sure why there is such resistance to acknowledging this point. The only difference might be that Joe Pa’s longevity and success led to a level of reverence perhaps never achieved at another university.
2) Joe Paterno was the most powerful individual at Penn State for decades.
3) While he might not be culpable legally under Pennsylvania law, morally and ethically Paterno failed the child abuse victims and the community by not doing more to stop Jerry Sandusky.
4) When the most powerful person on campus, the athletic director, and the president of the university all cover up and enable a child rapist to continue his abuse for decades, and others in far lower positions in the university are afraid to come forward with complaints there is a question that must be asked and answered: who or what enabled the enablers?