In the interest of full disclosure, let me first state a few things: I don’t give a rip about college football, so if anyone thinks my rant today is because I’m a fan, they’re wrong. Second, I in no way condone what has occurred the past 10-plus years at Happy Valley. With that out of the way…
Today my unpopular opinion comes courtesy of the awful, awful situation surrounding Joe Paterno and Penn State football. What has occurred is a complete travesty in every shape and form of the word, but I’m a little troubled by the reaction of most people as it pertains to these incidents.
“I find it odd so many people are positive of what they’d done if they were in this exact situation, either as Paterno, or as the graduate assistant who allegedly witnessed these horrific acts being performed.”
Let’s face it: First of all, by human nature, how difficult is it to turn in someone you know? Right or wrong – and in this case so, so, so horribly wrong – we’ve all been in this situation, where we could have stopped something bad from happening, or at the very least tempered a bad situation from becoming worse. But we don’t. It might be a friend who is drinking underage every weekend, or it could be the ability to foil a bad plot before it happens, or basically anything that we know about ahead of time but turn a blind eye to. Now, this isn’t to put any of these actions on the same level as Sandusky’s, but in a sense I think it’s a microcosm of how we as a society respond to those we know closely, and likely like or respect. It’s an unpopular thing to do, and it’s not easy to be unpopular.
As for me if placed in this exact situation, I can state with absolute certainty that I would have been paralyzed with fear and horror. Absolute terror. I’m fairly certain, but not as sure as most, that I would have summoned the courage to do something about it in the moment – simply for the sake of the child involved – but it’s not unfathomable to me to think that someone would run away from the situation and tell someone about it rather than step in. It’s just not as simple as people on the outside are making it, I believe.
I guess my overriding principle or feeling about this situation is that we’re not really in a position to judge those who didn’t act. What’s done is done, and they have to live with those consequences (as do the children, for what it’s worth). Should Paterno have been fired? I’m not really sure, to be honest. Probably, but nonetheless, it’s too little, too late, and seems to be hardly condolence to any of the victims.