By Maureen Dowd (New York Times)
November 8, 2011
My nephew Anthony, 10, is the proud owner of Penn State shorts, underwear, socks, jerseys, sweatshirts and plastic football players.
The thrill of his young life was seeing the Nittany Lions beat Indiana at FedEx Field last year. He even bravely broke with generations of family tradition to declare that he loved Joe Paterno more than Notre Dame.
So I've got to wonder how the 84-year-old coach feels when he thinks about all the children who look up to him; innocent, football-crazy boys like the one he was told about in March 2002, a child then Anthony's age who was sexually assaulted in a shower in the football building by Jerry Sandusky, Paterno's former defensive guru, according to charges leveled by the Pennsylvania attorney general.
Paterno was told about it the day after it happened by Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant coach who testified that he went into the locker room one Friday night and heard rhythmic slapping noises. He looked into the showers and saw a naked boy about 10 years old "with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky," according to the grand jury report.
It would appear to be the rare case of a pedophile caught in the act, and you'd think a graduate student would know enough to stop the rape and call the police. But McQueary, who was 28 years old at the time, was a serf in the powerfully paternal Paternoland. According to the report, he called his dad, went home and then the next day went to the coach's house to tell him.
"I don't even have words to talk about the betrayal that I feel," the mother of one of Sandusky's alleged victims told The Harrisburg Patriot-News, adding about McQueary: "He ran and called his daddy?"
Paterno, who has cast himself for 46 years as a moral compass teaching his "kids" values, testified that he did not call the police at the time either. The family man who had faced difficult moments at Brown University as a poor Italian with a Brooklyn accent must have decided that his reputation was more important than justice.
The iconic coach waited another day, according to the report, and summoned Tim Curley, the Penn State athletic director who had been a quarterback for Paterno in the '70s.
Curley did not call the university police, who had investigated an episode in 1998 in which Sandusky admitted he was wrong to shower with an 11-year-old boy and promised not to do it again. (Two years later, according to the grand jury report, a janitor saw Sandusky performing oral sex on a boy in the showers and told his supervisor, who did not report it.)
Curley waited another week and a half to see McQueary, who told the grand jury that he repeated his sodomy story for Curley and Gary Schultz, a university vice president who oversaw campus police.
Two more weeks passed before Curley contacted McQueary to let him know that Sandusky's keys to the locker room had been taken away and the incident had been reported to The Second Mile, the charity Sandusky started in 1977.
Prosecutors suggest that the former coach, whose memoir is ironically titled "Touched," founded the charity as a way to ensnare boys. They have charged Sandusky, now 67, with sexually assaulting eight boys he met there.
Despite knowing of the two similar rapes, The Second Mile did not do anything to keep Sandusky away from vulnerable children until 2008.
Curley said he told Sandusky he could no longer bring children onto the Penn State campus. In other words, Jer, if you want to violate kids who live in cow town where everything revolves around the idolatry of Penn State and Paterno, kindly take them off campus. The predator was still welcome on his own, though; he was spotted at the football team's weight room working out last week.
Curley told the university president, Graham Spanier, about the matter, and it got buried. Paterno, Curley and Schultz disingenuously claim they were left with the impression that the contact might have been mere "horsing around," as Curley put it. That's grotesque.
Like the Roman Catholic Church, Penn State is an arrogant institution hiding behind its mystique. And sports, as my former fellow sports columnist at The Washington Star, David Israel, says, is "an insular world that protects its own, and operates outside of societal norms as long as victories and cash continue to flow bountifully." Penn State rakes in $70 million a year from its football program.
Paterno was still practicing for the game against Nebraska on Saturday, and supportive students were rallying at his house. This is what Israel calls "the delusion that the ability to win football games indicates anything at all about your character or intelligence other than that you can win football games."
I can only hope that by the time Anthony's parents work up their nerve to have what they call "the conversation" with him about his fallen idol, St. Joe and the other Penn State scoundrels will have been ignominiously cast out of what turns out to be a not-so-Happy Valley.