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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Punish the Right People at PSU, Not Players


          I think Penn State should be allowed to play Saturday against Nebraska.

          I don’t know.

          Using those three words may be the cardinal sin of a blogger. Writing or talking about sports is about having an opinion. A strong opinion.

          But I can’t even find my way to firmly declare anything about most of the scandal that is rocking PSU. I have no problem with the notion that Jerry Sandusky should be lined up in front of a firing squad if the allegations are true that he molested even a single child, let alone the number of children he is now accused of abusing.

          After that, I think people should to take a deep breath.

          Mike McQueary is being skewered for not intervening when he witnessed the abuse. My gut tells me that he deserves every bit of the criticism. I’d like to think I would have intervened immediately. I don’t have children, but as an uncle of six and just as a man I can’t imagine walking away from a child at that moment. But the truth is I cannot imagine that moment either. I pray I’ll never be able to imagine such a thing.

          As for Joe Paterno, who has announced his retirement at the end of the season, he obviously had to do more than tell his boss about what McQueary told him. Yet, on some level, I question how he’s become the focus of the public’s scorn more than Sandusky. I understand he’s the known name and that’s just how the media works. To be clear, I’m not defending Paterno’s lack of action. The video of the scene outside of his house is a little strange to me, as it still seems possible that he committed a crime by not reporting the incident to authorities above his own bosses.

          It’s still hard to understand why he didn’t do that, but we haven’t heard the definitive explanation. I’m not completely ready to blame a football coach for the lack of justice in this case. Paterno has already hinted that he didn’t get a lot of details from McQueary. That’s not to argue one way or the other that Paterno should coach the rest of the season.

          I just don’t know.

          Quite frankly, neither do the people calling or even hosting sports shows right now.

          The one issue I feel mildly comfortable writing about is that the team should be allowed to play the rest of the season. The idea of canceling Saturday’s game was floated by 97.5 host Harry Mayes today. I generally like Mayes’ work, which is why I hear so much of it. I just disagree with him on this issue.

          If people want Paterno gone before Saturday, fine. I wouldn’t argue against it. McQueary likely will be gone before Saturday from what I have heard on the station, so he likely won’t be an issue.

          But the guys on the team should be allowed to play. College athletics has already had enough of punishing the wrong people. Coaches commit recruiting violations and the school goes on probation while the coach simply moves on to another school. The behavior at Penn State obviously reaches far beyond recruiting violations, but punishing the right people still needs to be a priority.

          At least with recruiting violations it’s possible if not likely that some of the players are involved. In the PSU scandal, there’s been no suggestion that any current player knew anything about Sandusky’s morally corrupt and criminal behavior.

          It serves no purpose to cancel Saturday’s game. The suggestion was that doing so would send a message that the events which have come to light are more important than football. Hopefully no one needs a game to be cancelled to get that message.

          The reality is that canceling the game serves little purpose. Talk of the scandal wouldn’t suddenly go away. The abused kids wouldn’t get the justice they deserve from it. Sandusky certainly wouldn’t get what he deserves from it.

          It’s not as though I want to scream “let them play” from a mountain top. Quite frankly, today I wanted to blog about how irrelevant the NBA could become if they miss an entire season. I didn’t really want to deal with the PSU issue any more after Monday’s post.

          But there really wasn’t much choice except to deal with it if I’m attempting to write a blog that’s relevant to the Philly sports scene. Penn State and its players sadly have far less choice. They must play through a scandal they had no part in. And they must be allowed to do so.

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