Everyone views life through a lens that is colored by their own experience, and the further one gets from an event, the sharper that lens becomes.
With the case of Jerry Sandusky and the recent punishments handed down by the NCAA to Penn State – and the decision of State College to remove the Joe Paterno statue from campus – the lens through which the incidents are being viewed is very sharp indeed.
Before I get too far into this, let me be clear: What Sandusky did is reprehensible. He broke the law, destroyed victim’s lives, brought shame upon himself and tainted his family, the school he worked for and the football program he was involved with.
Sandusky deserves all of the punishment he is getting after being found guilty in a court of law, and probably deserves more than what was allowed by the courts, but that isn’t for the general public to decide.
Beyond Sandusky’s behavior, there is a case to be made for the actions of four men who knew about the behavior and seemingly did nothing about it.
They should have forced the issue. They should have had the foresight to fire Sandusky after the first incident and let pigskin bounce whatever way it would. The janitor who observed the first incident should have had the courage to report what happened to authorities regardless of what happened to his job. Those young men should never have been molested.
They didn’t. He wasn’t. He didn’t. They were.
It’s reprehensible to the nth degree and now society views the decade of behavior through a lens that is ground to near perfect focus.
The difference between the event viewed close to when it happened and nearly 10 years later is like the difference between a 50 mm lens at f/1.2 and a 600 mm lens at f/64.
When a thing is viewed through a 50mm lens at f/1.2 – or immediately following an incident – only the item focused on is sharp, and everything else is so out of focus it is unremarkable, except to provide a hazy splash of color as a background to the event being captured.
When something is viewed through a 600mm lens at f/64 – or nearly a decade after the event happened – everything is compressed and equally in focus. The size of an object in relation to other objects in the same image is relatively equal due to the compression, and everything can be viewed with the same critical eye.
The sanctions handed down by the NCAA were handed down after being viewed through a 600mm lens. They have seen everything with a critical view and have passed down a decree from on high that is so heavy-handed it is almost laughable.
A reduction in the number of scholarships allowed, and a cap on the amount awardable to each athlete; a $60-million fine; a four-year bowl game ban; a five-year probationary period – during which the NCAA can hand down more sanctions; and a forced vacating of all wins from 1998 to 2011.
Not a complete demolition of the Penn State football program, but it might be just one stitch short of unraveling the entire pigskin. Only looking back in five years with a 600mm lens will tell the full story.
The problem with the punishment is that it doesn’t affect the guilty. It only affects the people currently in place.
Of the five – Sandusky, Paterno, Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz and Tim Curley – one is in jail, one is dead and the rest no longer work for the university. The punishment can’t touch them.
Viewed through the 50mm f/1.2 lens, it probably shouldn’t touch them – it probably shouldn’t be applied at all.
After reading the Freeh report, it is obvious that after each reported incident of molestation, the proper authorities were notified.
Corrective action was taken as far as it could be, but the events were viewed without any kind of discernible background against which to stack the behavior.
When viewed with the proverbial 20/20 hindsight with which all humankind is blessed, the patterns point to a criminal predator seeking the shortest path to his next victim and Paterno, et al., should have done something more about it.
When viewed closer to the date with the lens of the day in place, it’s not quite as clear cut.
The penalty doesn’t seem overly severe, with the exception of the vacating of wins over the 13-year stretch.
$60 million – just a year’s worth of football revenue for the school – but losing 111 victories and taking a football icon from the winningest coach in the history of college football to nothing ... that’s extreme.
Sandusky didn’t have anything to do with those wins. Paterno and his teams brought that glory on themselves. It wasn’t like they paid players to come to Penn State, or bought their star running back’s family a car, or allowed players to take classes that weren’t actually being taught. A coach broke the law, and did so in a horrific manner, but did it benefit the team? It didn’t.
Paterno – and his record – are dead, so who cares? Each and every coach who is currently in the NCAA football system should.
If the NCAA is going to step in at this juncture and hand down such stiff penalties, then they need to stop all illegal behavior in the NCAA, and not let anything be swept under the rug, from now until forever.
The good ol’ boy network that allowed the crimes to go unchecked is broken and justice has been meted. Whether or not it will be enough has yet to be seen.