By Jason Keidel
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The jurors in the Jerry Sandusky child molestation trial have pondered the biggest tragedy in the history of American sports. And Jerry Sandusky has enjoyed his final day as a free man.

Maybe it takes a long time to write “guilty” 45 times (the number of criminal counts Sandusky was convicted of). No doubt that even the most guilty and galling of men must be regarded with some sense of fairness while deciding when he goes to prison.

But you know you’re in trouble when your victims have to take a number. And when said numbers reach double-digits you’ve entered a netherworld of Satanic conduct and surreal concealment. The fact that the ten victims in this case are kids makes the mood in the courtroom and beyond more ominous. And it sure isn’t good when your own son – adopted or not – volunteers to testify against you, while branding himself victim No. 11.

So, unless we’ve been dreaming about the ghastly revelations that swallowed Penn State and Sandusky over the last seven months, he’s going to prison for the rest of his life. Which raises a few questions…

How long is the rest of his life? It doesn’t take a warden to know that there’s no offense on the board more baleful than child molestation. Indeed, some inmates make it their life’s work to hunt and kill child predators. And as prison gangs joust and jostle for supremacy, from acreage of the recreation yard to greater shares of the booze, tobacco, and drug trades, new inmates need to pick a side in order to survive. And a perfect initiation into a gang is to whack a pedophile. No doubt he will be put in a special segregation unit for that reason, but ambitious inmates have been known to circumvent any safeguard.

And they’d all be on board to get Sandusky. Bloods, Crips, Aryans, and the Mexican Mafia would find rare solidarity with a shot to shank perhaps the most reviled man in America. As such, you wonder if one day an army of prison guards will suddenly take their lunch at the same time, making way for another army to assassinate Sandusky.

And now where does this leave Penn State?

Beyond the obvious fact that Sandusky could not have roamed State College, stalking and sodomizing underage boys with impunity without a little help from his friends, the trial unearthed some troubling news about the peripheral players at the formerly pastoral Mecca for college football.

NBC issued a devastating report that revealed an email from former Penn State president Graham Spanier in which he said that keeping info of Sandusky’s child rape away from police would be “humane.” Now we have a report from Pittsburgh TV station KDKA about secret files on Sandusky shared by former athletic director Tim Curley and former school vice president Gary Schultz. Curley and Schulz, not coincidentally, are facing perjury charges regarding the rampant cover-up by the university that has morphed from ubiquitous to iniquitous in a matter of months, if not weeks.

And where does this leave Joe Paterno? Mike Francesa, who has vehemently tracked this story with ardent neutrality, said he’s uncomfortable attacking Paterno now that “Joe Pa” is dead and obviously unable to defend himself.

Well, some of us aren’t. Paterno’s hands are all over this story, even from the grave. By all accounts, Paterno wielded more power than anyone on the team, the campus, in the entire town, if not the entire commonwealth. Paterno’s apologists want us to believe that he knew about a middling, mediocre player cheating on his midterms but had no idea that his top lieutenant was raping boys. And we’re also supposed to believe that Sandusky, in his coaching prime and Paterno’s presumed successor, miraculously retired at age 55. He also had just won college football’s Assistant Coach of the Year award the very year he retired (1999).

So not only did Paterno know about Sandusky, he fired him and then let him live his life, which included more sodomized boys on Penn State’s campus up until perhaps 2008, and, appallingly, free reign on the campus in perpetuity, which – you can’t make this up – included taking in a game last fall from the school president’s luxury suite. This is over a decade after Paterno got first whiff of Sandusky’s malfeasance and Mike McQueary’s infamous jaunt into the locker room and subsequent rap session with Paterno about what he saw between Sandusky and the raped child.

We can’t bring Paterno back, but his apologists will make it feel like we did. The Paterno zombies will stagger out from the woods, reminding us that it’s okay to harbor a child molester as long as you win enough football games.

Perhaps the signature beauty of America is the monolithic legal maxim that a man is innocent until proven guilty. Truth and justice are to be regarded blindly. That is, when the truth is readily available. And for too long, truth and justice were relative to the whims of wins and losses. This Banana Republic sense of justice can’t apply to Penn State, or any college or campus in the United States.

Now that the gavel has fallen and the bars clicked on Sandusky’s cell, we can explore the rest of the posse, the ones who didn’t commit the crime but didn’t think much of them when told of them. “Let Paterno Rest In Peace!” you say. Do you say the same of all the children raped on his campus during his watch? Do you even care to know their names?

Once we can rip the caveats, provisos, and politics from history – which is doomed to be dark over State College for years, if not decades, if not centuries – we can talk earnestly and honestly about all of Penn State’s predators. And then we can pray for the prey.

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