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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Game Over: Jerry Sandusky, Penn State, and the Culture of Silence

Bill Moushey and Bob Dvorchak, authors of Game Over: Jerry Sandusky, Penn State, and the Culture of Silence, have definitely struck a nerve with thousands of Penn State alumni and Happy Valley residents.  It appears, based opon the “reviews” of the book I see posted on Amazon, that the pair faces a vicious backlash based more on emotion than on reason – and that almost all of the negative “reviews” posted there have been written by people who did not bother reading the book before damning it.  It seems that it will be left to those without ties to Penn State, and a minority of Penn-Staters themselves, to gauge the objectivity and effectiveness of the book.

 On one level, Game Over is an excellent recap of the news that starting leaking out of Happy Valley, PA, in early November 2011.  Those that may have come to the story a little late will find the chronology presented to be especially helpful.  Others are likely to focus more on the additional details attached to the original revelations, disgusting as some of those details are.  Readers should, in fact, be forewarned that several descriptions of Jerry Sandusky’s alleged assaults of the young boys under his sponsorship and care are disgustingly graphic in nature and leave little to the imagination.

On a second level, what Game Over reveals about the culture espoused by Penn State administrators, its athletic coaches, its students, and the community that supports and benefits from the school’s presence, is almost as disturbing and horrifying as the crimes Sandusky is alleged to have committed against his young victims.  That there was, and to a lesser degree still is, a “culture of silence” surrounding Penn State that allowed this kind of criminal behavior to continue for decades, cannot be disputed.  Moushey and Dvorchak present their case in detail, naming names and shaming those who deserve it, in the process.  Only the court system can determine the degree of guilt or innocence of the various parties involved in all of this, but Jerry Sandusky should not be the only one facing a judge and jury of his peers before this is over.

From what the Game Over authors have to say, it appears that the second worst “crime” committed during this whole period, may lay at the feet of Coach Joe Paterno, the man who really ran Penn State while all of this was happening.  If the allegations are true, Paterno was instrumental in bringing shame to the university and he forever sullied his own reputation and famous catchphrase: “Success with Honor.”  Paterno’s silence seems to have been the signal to Penn State’s coaches, administrators, and others that the entire Sandusky matter should be kept within the confines of the Penn State “family,” and that outsiders were not to be trusted with this information.  Joe Paterno had just that much clout in Happy Valley – he had, in fact, almost been granted sainthood by the locals, making a cover-up of this magnitude a relatively easy thing for the school to pull off.

Halo Added to Wall Mural After Paterno's Death
(Portion of Photo from Game Over)
Much remains for the courts to determine, including: the culpability of two principal university administrators in the cover-up; the part in the cover-up played by The Second Mile insiders (Sandusky’s charity for poverty stricken boys); how much Sandusky’s wife knew of multiple crimes said to have taken place in her home; and whether Sandusky remained at Penn State (even after resigning from its coaching staff in 1999 while at the top of his game) simply because his charity provided him with a ready supply of victims of just the right age. 

As James Murtha, a 1977 Penn State graduate, put it, “…in retrospect, you could almost predict how this would turn out because of the way Penn State does business.  Isolation is one of its charms, but it’s also part of the problem.  They all drink the Kool-Aid up there.  They lost all focus.  The only way to solve a problem is to admit that you have one.  It’s crisis management 101.  When I saw the way they handled it, I wanted to projectile vomit.

So did I, Mr. Murtha so did I.
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