The Millstone Around the Neck: Penn State, Sanctions, and Paterno’s Tarnished Legacy
I recently did a video blog on Joe Paterno, Penn State & our culture of hypocrisy, but I wanted to do a new piece in light of further developments in this horrendous saga.
With the revelation of the NCAA sanctions on Penn State in the wake of reign of Jerry Sandusky’s child molestation and the cover up of this heinous crime by Joe Paterno and others at Penn State, the debate has shifted: were the sanctions fair or foul? Did the NCAA overstep its boundaries and mandate?
Many say the NCAA’s mandate is to focus on incidents that give a school a “competitive advantage.” And USA Today reports, “No obvious on-field competitive advantage was gained by the misconduct.”
Yet, there was competitive advantage. By living a lie, Penn State was able to create an illusion of grandeur: a vaunted program known for the football glory that recruits seek and the character reputation that parents desire. The combination of these two features united top-recruits and their parents in agreement at signing with Penn State. Because of the image Joe Paterno was able to create and the stature his mystique brought to the institution (coupled with their on-field success), Penn State had a competitive advantage in convincing the best football recruits to become part of Penn State football. Did the image of Penn State, built upon the image of Joe Paterno, not give Penn State a competitive advantage when it came to recruiting? Did that competitive recruiting advantage not ultimately give Penn State a competitive advantage in terms of the team they were able to put on the field?
I’m with Stephen A. Smith on this point: I don’t care who meted out this decision. It could have been the State of Pennsylvania, the NCAA, or the Big Ten. I had hoped it would have been Penn State University, itself. For it is with Penn State as Jesus Christ is recorded as having said in the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 9, verse 42-43:
But whoever causes on of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched
Some say this punishment it too punitive for those who “were not involved.” Yet, all are responsible. Throughout the 14+ years of Sandusky’s terror, do you think there were NO players who heard the rumors and said nothing…questioned nothing? Throughout the 14+ years of Sandusky’s terror, do you think there were NO students who had heard the rumors and said nothing…questioned nothing? Throughout the 14+ years of Sandusky’s terror, do you think that NO store owner…restaurant owner…bed & breakfast owner, heard the rumors of pedophilia occurring in their community and said nothing…questioned nothing?
Someone heard the rumors…many had to have heard the rumors. Yet, in every sector of the economy that is Penn State football, dollars to precedence. Many were satisfied with preserving their positions and social location…turning a blind eye on those the Gospel charges us to defend, ultimately causing many of those little ones who believe in Him to stumble. It is better for them to have this millstone of NCAA sanctions hung around their necks that to be thrown into the fire that shall never be quenched. Honestly, it would have been better for Joe Paterno to have had the opportunity to endure a similar millstone, rather than to leave this life, possibly, unrepentant.
The lesson is for us to learn: we are all responsible. We are all to be held accountable for what we see and remain silent about. We see things daily in our lives, in our work, in our communities, in our world. Like Proverbs 29:24 says, “Whoever is a partner with a thief hates his own life; He swears to tell the truth, but reveals nothing.” Jerry Sandusky stole the innocence of countless children. In turning a blind eye, Joe Paterno, Penn State and the Penn State community partnered with this thief. And, being sworn by human law and godly morality to report such an offense they all revealed nothing.
If the grandeur and economics of football caused Penn State to sin, shouldn’t football be cut off? It is not better for the Institution to enter into life maimed, rather than keeping its football program “to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched?” What do you think of the sanctions, in light of those realities beyond football?