When the Penn State story broke this weekend, I was shocked to hear what had happened, but in the last 48 hours as the horrific details continue to filter out, I can only think of the children that were abused and how their lives were taken from them. Think about all the things we took for granted as kids with safety at the top of the list. And these children may never feel safe again - no matter what happens.
But the thing that really angers me is that there was not one adult that put the children's safety first. You know what they put first? The Program, football, wins, and the Nittany Lion legacy and that is why Joe Paterno should be asked to resign and if he refuses, the locks need to be changed on his office door. According to the Grand Jury documents, eight children were abused by Jerry Sandusky, but how many more are afraid to come forward because they were threatened? The testimony infers that children were taken on trips by the coach and if they did not comply with his request, they would be punished by being sent home.
The fact that in 2002 Sandusky severed ties with Paterno and Penn State and never got as much as a passing interest from another school should have been a red flag for everyone involved. It makes me think other schools heard the rumors and stayed as far away from him as possible. That is understandable for those schools, but for Penn State to look the other way and allow Sandusky to have access to the campus and bring young boys to practice as recently as 2007 is difficult to comprehend. Many people theorize Sandusky was revered in Happy Valley but my point here is a simple one -- Joe Paterno is the one person in this program that carried more clout than Sandusky and he could have pulled the plug here. Instead of doing that, he passed the buck by merely telling his superiors about it. Paterno could have demanded that more be done here and that is why he has blood on his hands as well.
And then there is the graduate assistant who witnessed a crime being committed in the shower of the locker room. All I can say is a reasonable person should have pulled that child to safety instead of waiting to tell his superiors. Every human being has a responsibility in this case to protect a defenseless child who is being molested by a predator. But even if he was unsure what to do, what happened when he told his superiors? They tried to sweep it under the rug and looked the other way. Disgraceful.
The DA said in her press conference this is not about a university or a football program and she was right. But in a sense, the Penn State football program is in question here as well. They had a responsibility to come forward and help. They had a responsibility to tell the authorities the truth--especially when being deposed by the Grand Jury. And for crying out loud, they had a responsibility to do all this so future children would not be molested.
The NCAA spends countless hours investigating whether a football player getting a tattoo for free constitutes a violation but in reality, the Penn State case is bigger than anything we've seen in recent years. Bigger than anything at USC, Miami, or Ohio State. And for that reason alone, both Joe Paterno and the University President should step down TODAY. All this happened on their watch, and in my opinion, they let it continue to happen. Firing them will NEVER get these children's' lives back but it may encourage other victims to come forward in this case or in other cases.
The future of our children is the most valuable commodity we have in society and it trumps everything else -- BCS standings, win and losses, national championships, or Joe Paterno's legacy. And the sad thing about this is all the things I just mentioned were placed at a higher value than the children. The actions of the people in charge at Happy Valley illustrate that point. And to say Joe Paterno did what the law said he should do is nonsense. Common decency tells us he should have done so much more.
When the playoffs began just a few short weeks ago, many experts felt the road to the Super Bowl was filled with land mines for the New York Jets. After all, they were a #6 seed and beyond that, their road to the first Sunday in February went through Indy, New England, and likely Pittsburgh which meant Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger. It could be argued no team in recent memory had to go through that tough a journey--all on the road. The fact that the Jets had became a hated team that talked far too much made the detractors of the team relish the chance to see them go up in flames.
But that very thing brought this team together and Rex Ryan used it as a motivating factor to "build the impossible dream." Don't get me wrong--Ryan did not only use words--he devised unique game plans that quite frankly, parked his "blitz first" mentality at the door knowing his defense needed a different strategy against both the Colts and the hated Patriots. It's the mark of a great coach to be flexible enough to change philosophies in order to win. Pat Riley did it with the Knicks as his philosophy changed dramatically from his "Showtime" Laker teams when he came to The Big Apple. His Knicks were "lunch pail players" that were physical and mostly about defense and rebounding, aside from Patrick Ewing's offensive prowess. But he did it because it was the shortest road to winning and that is the biggest strength of Rex Ryan.
I know he's cocky and brash and will mix it up with anyone but make no mistake--he is a tireless worker and an innovative game planner. And the adjustments he makes at halftime round out his resume as a complete coach. But the real value in Rex is he has an impeccable sense of what his team needs. Last week, he needed to be brash because of the history with the Patriots but this week, he's been humble and my sense is that's because this game will be more about bulk than syle. So, expect the Jets to build a more aggressive defensive game plan with complex blitz packages designed to confuse a Steeler offensive line that is hurting.
The Jets are breathing hard on their first Super Bowl appearance since 1969 and moments before kickoff I am sure Jet fans will think about the tarp that was missing in Miami in 1982, the second half meltdown in Denver, or last year succumbing to the arm and brain of Peyton Manning. But I suspect those thoughts will be long gone later in the night as Rex Ryan may finally deliver to Jet fans what so many coaches failed to do--a trip to the greatest of all sport spectacles--a Super Bowl.
And that will make Rex Ryan's name reasonate in this town much in the same way the names Davey Johnson, Mike Keenan, and Bill Parcells did when they satisfied long-suffering fans of their teams. It would be rarified air for a coach who would deserve every inch of praise that he would receive.