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Letter From The Editor

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As my wife and I were driving to a party Saturday, I turned on the Memphis Tigers football game. "Whoa," I said to my wife. "Memphis is ahead by 18 points. They might actually win another game." My wife continued to stare at her phone, checking messages, unimpressed. Of course, she would have been unimpressed if I'd said, "Memphis is winning by 642 points." She doesn't care about football.

Sadly, Memphis folded like a Dollar Store suit and lost to a horrific UAB team. On the same weekend, Ole Miss (Forward, Black Bears!) was blown out by a tech school, and Tennessee was noncompetitive against Arkansas, losing by 42 points. Times are tough for local football programs.

But not as tough as they are for Penn State.

I used to live in Pennsylvania, and I witnessed the maniacal allegiance to Penn State football — and the near-cult status held by head coach Joe Paterno among the blue and white faithful. Now, Joe Pa is gone, fired along with two school officials and the university president. They covered up — or, at best, ignored — a pedophile in their midst.

After reading column after blog after impassioned letter to the editor, I finally sat down Sunday and read the grand jury indictment against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. It's stomach-turning in its detail. The grand jury heard what it deemed credible testimony from or testimony about eight separate victims who were molested by Sandusky, often on Penn State property. Eyewitness accounts were numerous. It appears now that there were two cover-ups: one by police and the local district attorney after a complaint in 1998; and one in 2002, by Penn State officials, after an assistant coach reported witnessing a rape in a shower room.

Those defending Paterno say he did what he was supposed to do: He reported the incident to higher-ups. Sorry, but no. I'm a boss, of sorts. If an employee told me about seeing child molestation by another employee on company property and all I did was tell my boss about it, I should be fired. Especially if my boss did nothing. Whether or not Paterno is guilty of malfeasance in a court of law is not the issue. Character is. Paterno made a horrible misjudgment, and firing him was the proper response.

So remember, football fans, yes, it stinks when your team isn't winning, but it could stink a lot more. Even my wife knows about Penn State football now. And, in this case, that ain't good.

Bruce VanWyngarden
brucev@memphisflyer.com

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