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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Mike McQueary's hard lessons

New information is surfacing about Mike McQueary, the assistant who witnessed actual abuse on the part of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky.  You can read more HERE.

In some ways, I feel genuinely bad for Mr McQueary.  As a fellow graduate of Penn State, I know how easy it is to get fully caught up in the whole "Football U" thing.  Mr McQueary?  Heck, he spent years at ground zero.  Also, it appears that there are elements to his own personal story that make the whole abuse witnessing and trial pretty painful for him.

The whole thing reminds me of a sewage treatment plant.  Yes, the place your toilet ultimately flushes to.

You see, in a sewage treatment plant it stinks.  People that work there go to work knowing that it stunk yesterday, it will stink today and tomorrow will be smelly as well.  Now the folks in a sewage treatment plant have one advantage though:  they know about the smelly aspect of their employment.

With Penn State's football program, it's pretty clear that some things were smelly too, but yet so many, such as Mr McQueary, were so enthralled in a football culture that they were blind (or whatever the equivalent is to not having a sense of smell) to the real stench around them.  I refer to the stench of "what really and only matters is football; everything else...including those things that might take away from football...are secondary".  A boy getting raped in a shower?  Nahhh, just tell Coach Paterno and forget about it.  A boy getting raped in the shower?  Coach Paterno told his boss* so now he can forget about it.  Gambling problem?  That's okay, as long as you are betting on football and Penn State to win.

It really does boil down to culture:  when you live and work in a culture that says "the only thing that matters is football", then of course things like child rape get inevitably swept under the rug.  This was and still is, to this very day, pervasive in some corners of the extended Penn State community.  Some people actually believe that Coach Paterno did enough to stop the abuse, and yet the facts show that he treated the report by Mr McQueary at best as a "to do" item on daily check-list of of things that distracted him from football.   You can read an interesting and factually correct accounting of these events HERE.  Allow me to quote from the article:

According to the Freeh Report, in e-mails from February 2001—after Mike McQueary reported witnessing Sandusky rape a small child in Penn State's Football Program's Lasch building—President Spanier, Vice President Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley decided to confront Sandusky, alert Sandusky's charity/victim breeding ground The Second Mile and, most importantly, contact the Department of Welfare.
That plan changed only after Curley had a little chinwag with coach Joe Paterno.
In an e-mail to Spanier and Schultz Curley writes, "After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps."
The three decide to merely confront Sandusky and do not contact the Department of Welfare or any law enforcement agency. They decide to keep it hushed up because of a conversation Curley had with Paterno. We don't know what Paterno may have said, but we do have more than two functioning brain cells and can pretty much figure out that Paterno persuaded Curley not to take this outside the University. Keep it in house. And keep it in house they did.
(Source:  The Bleacher Report:  Penn State Football We Now Know What Joe Paterno Knew)

Now why keep it in house?  Because doing so minimized the damage to the Penn State football program.  That's why.

In the end, Mike McQueary is yet another victim of a system that was rewarding the wrong things.  I do feel genuinely bad for Mr McQueary, as his life is in shreds.  And yet, as difficult as he has it, he is still probably in far better shape than that boy Jerry Sandusky raped in the shower all those years ago.  That same boy that Mike McQueary could have helped, had he only acted.  History, it seems, repeats itself in oh so many tragic ways.

As I do with most of my Penn State postings (at least the one's that tend to cheese folks off), I'll sign this...

Steve Albert
Life Member, Penn State Alumni Association
Prior Board Member, Penn State Harrisburg Alumni Society
Graduate, Class of 1986

(*) Truly the saddest joke of them all, as anyone with any insight about how things actually worked at Penn State "back in the day" will tell you that Joe Paterno had no boss.  In fact, when the board once attempted to get him to retire he basically told them the equivalent of "No thanks boys; I think I'll stay on.  No get out of here, as I have a football program to run".

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