There are no words to convey the bitter sorrow I feel for the alleged victims of the current scandal enveloping the Penn State football program. The charges themselves are heinous.
There is a depth of depravity in the case that I have yet to experience in my sporting life. The details are vague so far but this is the gist: a man sexually exploiting children under the guise of a charity, the supposed aim of which is to empower underprivileged children.
University officials, for fear of speculation and limelight, did nothing to expose the once-heroic figure of Penn State football lore.
A coach – the coach – watched his distinguished career, one which began some 50 years ago and produced one of the most stable football programs in the country, burn in the fire of public outcry and perpetual scapegoating.
I am in no way saying that Joe Paterno has no responsibility in what occurred. He himself, though, was victimized by a growing trend in college sports.
He did what he was contractually obligated to do: he reported to his superiors what he knew of a particular instance when a former coach was seen in the showers assaulting a minor.
But then he did nothing.
Now he is in a place where all of his actions are tainted by his non-action. Joe Paterno did not sexually assault any children; he did choose not to act and that in itself is a crime.
The greater implications I draw from this sad situation pertain to the current state of sports, in particular, the question of loyalty. Loyalty obviously plays a crucial part in any fan’s actions. For example, I refuse to wear any form of pinstripes or travel on Jets unless otherwise unavoidable.
There is almost a feverish loyalty to the team for any true fan. All too often, though, good-hearted competition succumbs to a climate of immortality. Just this year, we have seen trees poisoned for the sake of a college football rivalry; a man beaten within an inch of his life in a professional baseball stadium parking lot; and, now, Penn State.
I think loyalty to a team must come hand-in-hand with a respect for human life; love of the game must reside within appreciation for one another. In the case of Penn State, it would seem loyalty to the institution, and to the team, replaced common concern for the lives of the alleged victims.
I urge, as we continue to enjoy sports in the future, that we keep loyalty in the proper perspective. No win is worth a life. No program is worth the destruction of one child’s innocence. No team is worth more than the love of one fan over another.
It is the beautiful community composed of respect and loyalty that makes sporting culture such a wonderful thing to be a part of. Do not let particular loyalties cause you to act foolishly or, as in one unfortunate man’s case, fail to act.
There are no quick hits for this week. Just prayers for the alleged victims in Pennsylvania, their families and all involved with this tragic instance of misplaced loyalty.