You survey the damage in the Jerry Sandusky sexual-abuse case and wonder: If only.
If only someone had paid attention. If only authorities had acted the way you would hope responsible people would in matters so serious. If only Penn State football wasn’t so incredibly entwined in the emotional, as well as financial, well-being of so many in that part of the world.
If only Joe Paterno, the Nittany Lions coach, had reacted the way he might have if a family member had been subjected to something that — even in its vaguest description — didn’t sound quite right.
If only people who had an inkling to what was going on had done the right thing. If only they didn’t fear for their jobs or the political fallout they might have to endure by going after someone associated with an institution so pervasive and so powerful in Pennsylvania.
If only Gov. Tom Corbett had shown similar concern when he was state attorney general as he did after Sandusky was charged.
But we cannot erase the damage that former Penn State defensive coordinator Sandusky did. He was found guilty Friday (June 23) on 45 of 48 counts.
If only Penn State had a 3-45 record at some point under Paterno, then maybe it would not have become the behemoth that it did during his reign. And maybe Penn State football would not have become the multi-million dollar industry that it is. And maybe school, law enforcement and governmental officials would have been more diligent regarding Sandusky.
If only the powerful had not granted special treatment to the world of Penn State football. Of course, even lesser programs enjoy such an exalted existence. If nothing else, you would like to think the Sandusky saga — with ensuing civil litigation a certainty and the school’s liability seeming a similar certainty — would serve as a cautionary tale of turning a blind eye to criminal behavior. You would like to think that but understand there is no guarantee.
If only restitution were possible. But it’s not. Sandusky used his position of power and abused young boys. Those lives were changed forever. No amount of money is going to undo the physical and psychological damage. You think it does? Ask yourself what amount of money would fix everything if such abuse happened to you, your brother, your son, your relative, your friend.
If only Paterno had lived long enough to see justice served. You wonder how many folks would be camped on his lawn in a show of support after the verdict came down.
If only the crowd outside the courthouse hadn’t behaved with a certain lack of civility when the decision came down. Dan Wetzel, who was outstanding in his coverage of the case for Yahoo!Sports, wrote: “The roaring cheers and screams of joy swept right through the courthouse door, up the stairs and into the second-floor courtroom. They startled Dottie [Sandusky, Jerry's wife], whose head snapped up at the noise and then sunk down as she realized the people of Centre County were celebrating her husband’s demise.” This wasn’t a game. And no matter how dreadful the crime, does cheering really have a place in the judicial process?
If only Penn State’s football program would have been at risk. Then, maybe, something would have been done to stop Sandusky years ago. But what do you expect the NCAA to do? Close down one of the most high-profile programs in the country? Maybe if Sandusky had been abusing recruits or violated some NCAA rule, Penn State’s program would be in jeopardy. Maybe if Paterno still was around and admitted to a degree of culpability — and even then, you can’t be certain any sanctions would be forthcoming.
You can go on and on. And it does no good.
There are no winners in this case — with the possible exception of the legal system. Of course, Penn State’s power still is to be tested with the school fairly certain to face charges of some form of malfeasance or coverup.
If only Paterno and his program had not been showered with lavish praise, then quite possibly Sandusky showering — and worse — with young boys would not have happened.
Oh, to be able to be able to go back and fix things so that lives wouldn’t be broken.
This space will return to its regular format (meaning gratuitous photos and videos, etc.) Sunday or possibly sooner. There simply didn’t seem any way to go from the Sandusky story to anything light-hearted and fun.