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I wasn’t writing much in November, when the grand jury report about Jerry Sandusky came out, Joe Paterno was fired, and Penn State rioted. It was disturbing then how many people were completely missing the point — which was that the university did next to nothing to stop Sandusky, despite numerous warning signs. People were OUTRAGED! that Paterno was fired despite the fact that he told his boss who really wasn’t his boss, and anyway, JoePa is a cute old man with huge glasses and a funny voice who donated millions to the university and turned a tiny agricultural school into Penn State (TM) and he was literary and hey, did you know a lot of his players graduated?

However, all of that does not negate the fact that he failed in a big way when it comes to Sandusky, and that failure means he had to be fired. The Grand Experiment and a library are not a valid defense.

But why are we still talking about Paterno?

Last night, Penn State president and executive stereotype Rodney Erickson went to King of Prussia to do some shopping, battle traffic, and hold a town hall-esque meeting with school alumni,

many proudly wearing blue-and-white jerseys and brimming with criticism of the university’s handling of the child sex-abuse scandal that has gripped the university for more than two months.

The jerseys are kind of weird, but yes, the school should definitely be held accountable for how it handled Sandusky. At best, the school failed to take appropriate action and turned a blind eye toward Sandusky’s alleged actions, and at worst, there was an intentional cover-up. Even after the grand jury report came out, Penn State employed its typical secrecy in handling the response. The school should face questions about who knew what and when, and how it can prevent this kind of thing from happening again. People need to know that Penn State will do everything it can do prevent abuse and respond to allegations appropriately.

So, fellow Penn State alums, let the rhythm hit ’em:

Many demanded answers on why famed football coach Joe Paterno was fired by the trustees before an internal investigation, and several called for the removal of the trustees for taking that action and failing to protect the university from such a scandal. The large majority of the comments and questions centered on those issues.

I really have to wonder what is going through people’s brains. Why in the hell are you so concerned for Joe Paterno? Look at the quotes from that story:

“Joe Paterno was the brand for Penn State,” one alumnus said. “It’s really put a knife through my heart.”

“He’s the single most important Penn Stater in the history of the university.”

“Despite how we treated him, he’s still thinking about us.”

To me, this sort of thinking smacks of people unable to deal with the fact that their idol, Paterno, may have been flawed and not the khaki-wearing PR-perfect creation that the school made him out to be. They’re not able to reconcile the fact that he might have done 99 out of 100 things right, and those 99 things were great, but that one other thing was a gigantic misstep. They’re not able to consider that a person can do great things but still make a grave mistake.

More importantly, they’re not willing to focus on the victims who suffered in a horrific way. And no, alums, don’t show me a blue ribbon and tell me you’re concerned. Show me you’re concerned about them. Stop asking about Paterno and trying to put the myth back together. It’s broken, and the school and world will be better off for it, but only if we take a long, hard look at the institution that allowed Sandusky to stay free. The school will be better off for it only if we examine why powerful men — including Paterno — thought they were powerful enough to keep this hidden. The school will be better off only if people start asking the right questions, start challenging statements like this:

“It grieves me very much when I hear people say ‘the Penn State scandal.’ This is not Penn State. This is ‘the Sandusky scandal,'” he said. “We’re not going to let what one individual did destroy the reputation of this university.”

Yes! Yes, it very much IS the Penn State scandal. Because while Penn State did not abuse children, numerous officials within the university apparently tried to save the school’s reputation by covering up Sandusky’s actions. They were not upfront about him, to the police or public. They tried to save their own skin by putting their hands over their eyes and ears and claiming ignorance. Who knows what else the school might have done to keep the news from breaking? With people like Erickson running the show, we won’t know, because he is on a glorified PR tour to repair the university’s image.

Whether Erickson or alumni like it or not, Penn State’s reputation IS damaged, precisely because the university was not honest about Sandusky. Any reasonable person knows that not every person associated with Penn State is complicit. It’s too large a university, with too many schools and administrators, for that to be the case. But Penn State, as an institution, is complicit.

Erickson is, of course, trying to convince people otherwise. From the Inquirer story:

“We cannot forget that Penn State is and historically has been one of America’s great universities. Under my administration, I will not allow this great university . . . to be defined by this horrible tragedy. Nor should this tragedy define our outstanding football program.”

This is also true that Penn State is a good school, academically. But can you stop talking about all that for a minute? Responses like Erickson’s basically amount to “yes, but.”

Can everybody start to focus on what matters? We really do need to figure out why Sandusky was allowed to stay free for so long. We need to figure out why Penn State, the school that employed him, didn’t detect his alleged behavior sooner, and we need to figure out why it didn’t have a better reaction when Mike McQueary alerted Paterno that he saw Sandusky and a young boy in the shower. We need to figure out if, and how much, Penn State covered up Sandusky’s alleged actions.

We need Penn State to be concerned with that, not with protecting its image. And we certainly don’t need to be concerned how it affects the football program, not if we care about what matters.

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Every post I’ve published this racing season has been full of words. And they’re nice. Obviously I love words. But pictures are nice, too. Not many of these are Mike-on-bike pictures, because all race pictures tend to look the same. I wanted to show things I see during daily riding and racing.

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