Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Who Will Speak?

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.
The above quote is attributed to the Reverend Martin Niemoller.  Niemoller was an ardent nationalist and prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

The big news this past week has to do with the Penn State scandal involving their football team, administration, and legendary football coach Joe Paterno.  The simple version of the scandal is that the university administration, football staff, and others averted their eyes to the sexual manipulation and abuse of young children perpetuated by one of their own--former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky--for nearly fifteen years.  The result of this scandal has been a massive firing of those involved in the cover-up--including the legendary Joe Pa.

To say the least, there has been an uproar over Joe Pa's firing from the Nittany Lion faithful.  It is not every day that a legend and football icon with the winningest record of all-time gets fired.  Students rioted.  People cried, "Foul!" and "Joe Pa got screwed!"  But the end result was that the right decisions were made by the Penn State's Board of Trustees even if it was way too late and to cover their butts for what should have been done way back in 1999.  Their righteous indignation is a little too late and merely an attempt in protecting the university and themselves.  This scandal is far, far from over and will probably get much uglier before it is ever over.

I love college football and this scandal rocked my world.  Not because it was a black eye for college football--which it is, but because it produced an epiphany of how screwed up loyalty to a program can get when there has been a great injustice has been committed.  Let us not pretend that a great injustice--criminal action--has been not been committed because it has.  The lives of those thus identified, plus those who have yet to come forward proclaiming that they too were victims of this sexual abuse, have been damaged and made more difficult because of the sins that were committed against them.  Who got the worse of this situation?  Joe Pa and those who sat on this for years or those who suffered the abuse?  Loyalty to the program and the myth perpetuated the lie and the abuse for far too long.

It is never fun to be the first one caught doing a wrong--Penn State will attest to this.  Yet, I have no doubt in my own mind that Penn State is not the only university that plays sports that has not put the program and myth before the lives of those who have suffered injustice at the hands of the program, staff, and players. As a University of Nebraska football fan I have witnessed the program and university wiggle its way out of scandal several times over the decades--from Johnny Rodgers to today.  All them have skeletons in their closets.  Even here in Montana where the beloved Grizzlies of the University of Montana have had their own scandals this season, there must have been a collective sigh of relief when it was Penn State and not them who got caught.

I can remember the time when the beloved football god, Tom Osborne, saved the season manipulating the system when one of his players beat the crud out of his ex-girlfriend and another player seeing her.  I remember how that player ended up playing in the post-season bowl when he should have been sitting in a jail.  It was all for the good of the university and the football program--for saving the myth!  And, I bought into it when I should have spoken out for the victims.  Someone should have spoken for the victims.

That is the greatest sin that Joe Pa committed.  He had the responsibility to do more than the legal, bare minimum of reporting the offense to his superiors--he should have called the police.  The dominoes fall as they do as there were many who knew what was going on but chose to say nothing.  They chose not to speak for those who could not speak.  That is the greatest sin committed.

The legacy of the winningest collegiate football coach will be forever tainted because he choose not to speak up to an injustice that he was aware of.  Who knows the reasons that he chose to look the other way and do the bare minimum--friendship, loyalty, pride, stubbornness?  Who knows?  What we do know is that we can understand why he did what he did--we can understand his looking the other way--to protect the program and myth and integrity of the program.  In this, we too, we are implicated.  We are guilty.

For those young boys--some who are young adults today--our hearts should be broken and, our prayers for them should be lifted.  This should have never happened and when it did, witness by others, someone should have spoken up for those who couldn't speak.  Joe Pa got fired--but he did not suffer the trauma of being sexually abused or raped.  He will get over it in his retirement, but these boys have a long, long way before they will ever get over what happened to them.  Someone should have spoken out for them . . .

There are lessons to be learn, but the greatest of these is that each and everyone of us has a responsibility to speak out against injustice--whatever form it takes--so that those who cannot speak will be heard.  Trust me it is worth the cost because some day we may need someone to speak out for us.

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