Say It Ain't So, Joe

As a huge fan of college football, the news from the Penn State football program of sexual abuse of young children by a Penn State coach in 2002, and the subsequent cover up by the men in charge of the program, was in my opinion one of the darkest weeks in college football history. 
Amidst it all are the allegations that Joe Paterno, the head coach at Penn State who has served the program for over 60 years and is the single winningest coach in all college football, has been aware of the scandal since 2002, when it was first reported to him by an assistant coach.  Although Joe reported the charges to the athletic director and president of the university at that time, all of these individuals failed to report it to the authorities.  Instead, the predator was reprimanded, leaving him free to continue abusing more boys.  After being fired as the head coach last week because of the scandal, Joe received a tremendous amount of support by fans and supporters, with many students protesting and rioting in the streets of University Park ... which for me, is just downright disgusting.

Although Joe has not been charged with anything, and it is still unclear exactly what he knew and when he knew it, he did say publicly, "I wish I had done more" about the accusations of his one-time assistant coach.  This, to me, says enough.  As well, the grand jury documents, which describe the eye-witness event reported to Joe in 2002 in disturbing detail, only begs the question: How could anyone who knew about this, much less even hear about this, sit and do ... nothing?

I am from the old-school style of parenting.  I was brought up sitting in the back window of my dad's car, riding my bike to the mall arcade and home on my own, trick-or-treating on Halloween with a parent-less group of friends.  I was allowed to make mistakes and hurt myself (mildly of course) in an effort to teach me life lessons and encourage independence.  I truly want to hang on to this style of parenting, as I feel it raises a better balanced young adult than having a kid on a leashed-backpack and with a constant flurry of "no"s.

But the one thing I fear the most, for my own kids and for those of others, is sexual abuse.  Ariel Swang, CEO of Safe Horizon, who provides services to young victims of sexual abuse, reports that 6 out of 10 young boys will be are sexually abused by the time they are 18, with 90% of these acts committed by someone the boy knows and trusts, like a friend, teacher or coach.  I find it difficult to believe the numbers, but even at half ... or even a quarter ... or even 5% ... it's still remarkably disturbing.  Sexual abuse is the one thing I hate being over-protective about, but it's the one single act in a young boy's or girl's life that will fundamentally alter the rest.  I want to encourage my children to be smart and independent, but I never want to think to myself, "I wish I had done more."

With that said, I like to believe that other people are looking out for my children, as I try to look out for all children myself.  It bothers me to no end that someone could have helped protect other children, but instead did nothing.  What if it had been my child?  Or yours?  If there is only one take-away from this Penn State story this week, I hope it is this:  It is NEVER acceptable to turn a blind eye to the sexual abuse of a child.  Report it at every cost.

I had the greatest admiration for "Joe-Pa" at Penn State, but the news that he knew of this scandal and his subsequent lack of action to avoid it in the future ... for 9 years ... has completely lowered Joe-Pa in my mind to the worst coach in football history.  He is, as are the rest of the individuals involved with this scandal, repulsive.  Even with all of his accomplishments, for the rest of time and history, this one black mark will now be what he is remembered for.  And I say ... so be it.

UPDATE: I was trying to find a way to express my disgust with the Penn State riots, but of course, John Stuart did it for me ...

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