Rush to Judgement: The Penn State Fiasco

I am not a Penn State football fan. I am not a college football fan. While I have a mild interest in the major spectator sports, my attention has been attenuated in recent decades by the culture of dueling millionaires whining about how bad they have it.

At one time I admired Joe Paterno because of his sterling record of no NCAA sanctions and his generally admirable demeanor. When he clung to his position through his 70’s and into his mid-80’s I began to suspect that maybe he wasn’t the paragon of virtue he had been portrayed to be.  What sort of man prefers a game to his family when he’s 80 years old and comfortably wealthy? Not that its an evil choice or necessarily indicative of moral depravity, but it certainly does hint at extreme self-centeredness and an out of control ego when even 40 years of being Mr. Big is just not enough.

I have nothing at stake in the Penn State case however it’s resolved. Beyond my natural concern for our society at large, I have no skin in the game, it does not and will not affect my life or the lives of anyone I know.

The penalties levied by the NCAA and the gang tackle of Penn State University by conservatives including many on this site is misdirected and unfortunate. It has its antecedents in countless efforts by those on the left to score points and pass laws during the flame of emotion in the aftermath of violence and tragedy.

Conservatives should be better than this. Conservatives should be able and willing to step back from the emotion and insist on sober investigation, followed by determined prosecution of the guilty. A flailing witch-hunt that serves mainly to indulge the understandable anger felt by decent people everywhere can not serve justice because it is itself of an unjust nature.

To those who wish to blow up the Penn State football program, I ask that you consider: What if this was a Walmart store? What if the most successful Walmart outlet in the world was rocked by revelation that an assistant manager who worked for the store eight years ago had abused children. Would you advocate closing the store? Closing every Walmart in the region? Should Walmart be enjoined from “rolling back prices” for five years as a penalty? No advertising on TV? No new stores?

Penn State football is first and foremost a business. A very big business. Tens of thousands of people make their living either directly or indirectly as a result of the program. Hundreds of small businesses will be hurt by the destruction of this business entity.   By advocating the annihilation of Penn State football, you are supporting the crippling of State College Pennsylvania’s largest employer. (As an ideal, I wish college football had never been invented, and if the entire edifice burned to the ground I would cheer. However we live in a reality where college football is a not inconsiderable economic engine in many small and midsized communities.)

This unreasoning frenzy of finger-pointing and revenge is not how our criminal justice system dispenses justice.  The fact that vigilantes frequently hanged guilty men in no way legitimized their actions or made their actions synonymous with conviction and punishment by a jury of peers in an open courtroom.

The NCAA has rushed in to pile on and levy penalties that it may well not have the right to.  The NCAA has conducted no investigation and is apparently relying on what the Freeh Report contains.  I haven’t read the Freeh Report but based on what the media has reported (and presumably they are reporting the worst) I will not be shocked if it eventually is revealed as being long on speculation while proving very little.

If an entity as powerful as Penn State University can be railroaded (guilty or not) then imagine how easily you or I could be so treated. If the entire Penn State football program can be demonized and made persona non grata via Trial by Media, think how easily you or I can be destroyed.

The need for even-handed administration of justice doesn’t ebb and flow depending on the severity or perversion of the crime. The Allies were punctilious in providing a fair and open trial for the Nazis who survived World War 2. The reason was simple: A hasty show trial would have given the Nazi’s and their fellow travelers something with which to undermine the validity of their convictions and obfuscate the evil of their deeds.

Let us follow that example. Let us be focused on a careful and relentless investigation followed by prosecution of those who enabled evil. This process should be a beacon to the world that we will not allow our children to be used as pieces of meat for the pleasure of sick monsters.

This should not be about revenge. The goal should be justice, quick uncompromising glorious Justice.