Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Jerry Sandusky: "I shouldn't have showered with those kids."

(So he told Bob Costas on NBC's Rock Center.)

Yes, that would have been a start.


I know, I know. Innocent until proven guilty. Despite all the signs pointing to some serious wrongdoing (to put it mildly).


Sandusky professed his innocence:

"I say that I am innocent of those charges," said Sandusky in a phone interview with Costas.

When asked by Costas, "Are you a pedophile," Sandusky responded, "No."

Joe Paterno's one-time defensive coordinator was charged earlier this month with 40 counts of sexually abusing eight boys. He is currently free on a $100,000 bond and has denied any wrongdoing. The allegations date back to 1994, according to a grand jury report. A grand jury report detailed claims of alleged sexual encounters with young boys in Sandusky's home, hotels and Penn State locker rooms.

"I could say that I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids I have showered after workouts. I have hugged them and I have touched their legs without intent of sexual contact," said Sandusky.

Hugged them? Touched their legs?

I don't want to spend much time on this. It's obviously a horrible story, and hopefully the truth will come out. I was disgusted by the response from students at Penn State last week, as if the everlasting glory and triumph of their beloved coach, Joe Paterno, was more important than the sexual abuse of children, as if anything that shattered the mythology of Paterno and the Penn State football program was bad and worthy of riotous protest.

Get your fucking heads out of your fucking asses, people.

What appears to have happened at Penn State -- the abuse, the cover up, the refusal to deal with reality, to risk bad publicity and the millions that the football program brings in for the university -- isn't just a Penn State problem, though obviously the focus will be on Sandusky, Paterno, the university administration, and who know what and when.

The larger problem, beyond the individual cases of criminality, is what goes on in American college sports, with iconic coaches who are bigger than their schools, who are basically beyond criticism, let alone investigation, with athletic programs, particularly football and men's basketball (and women's basketball at places like UConn and Vanderbilt), that make enormous amounts of money and give colleges enormous profile. (Do you know anything about Penn State academically? No? Well, you surely know that it's a football giant, right? Can you name a professor there? No? Well, you heard of Paterno before this, right?)

The problem is the culture in which all this took place. This is not to say that Sandusky was necessarily a product of that culture and that what he allegedly did can therefore be excused. Needless to say, it cannot. And must not. And, obviously, organizations often protect themselves by covering up criminality, whether it's sexual abuse or something else. But as Sandusky faces criminal charges, Penn State needs to account for itself as well -- and we cannot stop there. As Charles Pierce writes at Grantland:

It happens because institutions lie. And today, our major institutions lie because of a culture in which loyalty to "the company," and protection of "the brand" — that noxious business-school shibboleth that turns employees into brainlocked elements of sales and marketing campaigns — trumps conventional morality, traditional ethics, civil liberties, and even adherence to the rule of law. It is better to protect "the brand" than it is to protect free speech, the right to privacy, or even to protect children.

And this is certainly true not just in corporation but in big-time college athletics, where so much is at stake:

[T]he institutions of college athletics exist primarily as unreality fueled by deceit. The unreality is that universities should be in the business of providing large spectacles of mass entertainment. The fundamental absurdity of that notion requires the promulgation of the various deceits necessary to carry it out. The "student-athlete," just to name one. "Amateurism," just to name another. Of course, people involved in Penn State football allegedly deceived people when it became plain that children had been raped within the program's facilities by one of the program's employees. It was simply one more lie to maintain the preposterously lucrative unreality of college athletics.

It's time, long past time, to put an end to the lies. Not every college with a big-time football program has a Jerry Sandusky, to be sure, but the culture of deception is rampant, and abuse of some kind is everywhere. At Penn State, it was just worse.

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