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Keidel: From Happy Valley To Death Valley

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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By Jason Keidel
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For four decades, Penn State, their fans, and the folks in Happy Valley flaunted their football program as not only an amalgam of talented young men, but also imbued with biblical virtue, framed in angelic nobility every Saturday, surrounded by family and foliage and Americana. They weren’t just better players; they were better people. You saw the lilywhite helmets with no names on the jerseys, each man part of not only a unit, but also a collective, a tree watered by the wisdom of Joe Paterno.

And as each piece of evidence slithered through their grasp and into public domain – an email here, a deposition there – damning the formerly avuncular icon of college football, it formed a macabre mosaic, one that the world won’t ever forget. Many Americans looked toward State College in horror, one eye closed, hoping that the scope of the squalor was limited to Jerry Sandusky, and that once the door locked on his prison cell, we could carry on.

Ironically, it’s the investigation commissioned by Penn State that will never allow that to happen.

This is the death knell. This ends all debate.

Former FBI director, Luis Freeh, who released the results of his 8-month investigation into the atrocities perpetrated at Penn State, spoke in excerpts, each one a deeper dagger into the clogged moral arteries of that program. Freeh has released a 267-page treatise on the black hole they once called Happy Valley. And not one vowel will vindicate Joe Paterno.

Listen with me. Read slowly. Absorb the wretched truth. Follow the echo to the last octave.

“In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the university — Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley — repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse.”

Or…

“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” Freeh said. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”

As you know, I’m one of the few media members who instantly and publicly targeted Paterno. For that, I was incessantly stalked by his defenders, demanding that I provide proof. It wasn’t proof I had, but logic, the immutable truth that the most powerful man not only at Penn State or State College, but perhaps the entire commonwealth, had to know that his top lieutenant was raping children.

And now that the proof is here, I expect no retractions from the zombies who staggered out of the Pennsylvania woods after every column I wrote, branding me every vulgarity in the lexicon. Since theirs was a most perilous premise – Joe just couldn’t have done it because we love him – we can’t expect veracity to suddenly free them from the shackles of mendacity.

To the Paterno Apologist who has been so vocal in not only bashing me but also defending their hero, the disgraced gridiron professor with marble lenses who spoke in his hoarse, Brooklyn baritone, extolling Penn State’s higher calling, you may go home now. Don’t speak. Ever.

If you do speak, don’t apologize to me. Apologize to those kids whose lives were not just ruined by Sandusky, but also trivialized by Paterno. This is the man you’ve defended since last fall, since he fell.

To the Paterno family, who issued that appalling statement this week, a preemptive strike filled with provisos, deceit, and duplicity, we implore you to join your fallen servants in silence.

“Joe never had a chance to tell his side!”

Actually, he had 13 years to tell his side, and instead put himself, his team, and his school, bundled as a brand, before sodomized boys in an anonymous shower by a monster – a monster whose office was just a few feet from Paterno’s. As Mr. Freeh told us, Paterno didn’t even have the stones to speak to Sandusky about the matter. And when the brass agreed to tell the cops, Paterno stopped them.

Now that Sandusky has been issued what justice is left, none of it commensurate to the agony he inflicted, it’s time to turn to Penn State. What should become of the Nittany Lions?

Bury the program beneath the very boulder they trembled under while Sandusky raped boys on Penn State’s shattered campus. Let’s say 14 years of no football. The symbolism is seamless: one year for every year that the infamous quartet of Curley, Spanier, Schultz, and Paterno passed on the problem, playing hot potato with the biggest tragedy in the history of American sports.

An appalling Paterno Apologist named Mark Brennan was a guest on WFAN this morning, almost indignant at the suggestion that anything might happen to the Paterno statue on campus, and was quite confident that the Sandusky scandal and rampant cover-up was not an NCAA violation.

It is this kind of hubris from Brennan down the line of haughty henchmen who are swathed in this groupthink that just widens the chasmal gap between the State College zombies and the rest of the world. There’s an Orwellian energy that bonds these people, and they think that if they keep regurgitating the misguided mantras that got us here in the first place, the problem will just vanish.

Brennan twisted a fine quote by John Amaechi– “you can’t be principled 99 percent of the time” – to exonerate Paterno, saying that the Sandusky horror was part of Paterno’s one percent, and hence it was mathematically impossible to negate the fine deeds under fall leaves 50 years ago.

The rest of the world disagrees. And it is up to us, the lucid legions who don’t think it’s okay to rape boys and hide it behind the brand, to sing the siren song so loud that it will mask the cries of assaulted children, to make this stick. Keep on the NCAA to put the program under the guillotine.

And don’t patronize anything to do with Penn State football. Don’t go there; don’t give them your business or tourist dollars; don’t associate with the apologists, the amoral ghouls who think of the children whose souls Sandusky snatched as collateral damage.

This story, of course, has morphed into an American tragedy, far beyond the rules of and regard for football. But making this case exponentially worse is that it happened on a gridiron, a cube of sacred grass where American boys have worshipped for fifty years. Football isn’t just about a pigskin and shoulder pads. It’s about friends, fathers, and sons, a metaphysical baton passed down the decades. Football was a way of life for us, and a way of death at Penn State.

Feel free to email me: Keidel.Jason@gmail.com

www.twitter.com/JasonKeidel