I’ve been thinking about Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State football coach and convicted serial child molester. Sandusky is in prison, and his earliest opportunity for release will come when he’s 98 years old.
So it goes, as Vonnegut might say.
Justice for the victims of this horrific, prolific sexual predator was a long time coming, in part because he was shielded by head coach Joe Paterno, the athletic department and the university.
Wikipedia helpfully reminds us of Maureen Dowd’s words: “Like the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, the Penn State hierarchy appears to have covered up pedophile crimes to protect its brand.”
Just like the rest of us, Sandusky will die someday, and when he does, there’ll be those who insist on sidestepping the coach’s voluminous crimes as a sexual predator in favor of touting the positive impact he had on so many athletes—still busily protecting their brands.
I don’t see it this way.
That balance sheet is irreparably tipped. Look the other way if you like, but it doesn’t change the fundamental equation. When you actively strategize doing horrible things to young people and implement the plan, you’ve opted out of “coaching legend” status.
Furthermore, not a single one of us should make the mistake of imagining that the Jerry Sanduskys of the world are always preying on the powerless somewhere else, as opposed to right here, where we live.
Granted, the offenders aren’t always coaches (or priests). But too many like Sandusky have found it expeditious to prey in organizational or institutional settings like schools and churches, and benefited from wagons conveniently circled, perpetuating the outrages even as friends and colleagues refuse to cooperate with investigations.
So, let’s be clear about it.
If it transpired that a coach was caught molesting a student on school property, then was suspended, and later resigned, thereafter to be convicted of what might have been a felony, but was recorded as a misdemeanor because the law allowed it, one major ramification of which was forfeiting their teaching license, there is nothing in this chain of volition to suggest the teacher benignly “retired” from teaching.
Any second career was by necessity, not choice. Hopefully only adults worked there.
Yes, maybe the disgraced teacher in question subsequently turned over a new leaf, or was born again, or succeeded in becoming a genuinely useful citizen in the aftermath of plainly sordid actions that left permanent scars on the part of more than one victim (because there’s a reason why the last straw breaks the camel’s back).
That’s fine. Congratulations. But please, everyone, let’s not forget actual facts. Monsters like Jerry Sandusky ruin lives, and it’s an insult to those who’ve suffered for us to pretend otherwise.
Photo credit: ABC News (2013).