I think it's fair to assume that just about everyone with a television or a working internet connection has heard about the current fiasco at Penn State University. ABC and their ESPN affiliates have been running non-stop coverage of everything that has occurred within the past week. Yahoo! Sports and their football writers have totally forgotten everything else and have only focused on Joe Paterno. Yes, Joe Pa, a man who has been lauded as being one of the best people to represent sports, is now jobless after 46 years of being the head coach at Penn State. The question now stands:
When is enough coverage actually enough?
Make the jump with me as we explore the role of sports media in social issues.Now, let me be totally clear: I WILL NEVER ACCEPT ANY TYPE OF CHILD ABUSE!!! I'm not here to advocate that we just let everyone off the hook. In fact, I would personally love to see the guilty parties spend the rest of their miserable and disgusting lives in a prison where the inmates do NOT take kindly to child abusers; however, that's not the issue I'm here to talk about.
Since this scandal broke, ESPN and Yahoo! Sports have done nothing but beat the horse without a pulse. The story has been reported, the public knows, yet the coverage has continued to the point where I actually though that the NFL and NHL went into lockout with the NBA. Someone at ABC needs to clue in Scott Van Pelt that he is not a legal expert or a social commentator. He's a sports analyst. His job is not to lecture us on the rights and wrongs of the world. He's there to give highlights and talk about sports. Now, I do understand that he, along with all other ESPN anchors, are using their pulpit to try to "enlighten" their viewers/readers/listeners; however, their continual coverage of just one man (Joe Paterno) clouds the true issues and culprits in this matter.
First, how many people knew the name Jerry Sandusky before all of this broke? For anyone who isn't clear, Sandusky was a former defensive coordinator for Penn State under Paterno. He has been arrested and charged with child molestation, with some incidents occurring while coaching, and other incidents happening after he left in 1999. Sandusky brought little children with him to practices, touring the facilities, and allegedly sexually abused them in the showers, among other places.
Ok, so how many people knew about Mike McQueary? He was the man brought in to replace Sandusky in 1999 as the new PSU defensive coordinator. He reported to Paterno in 2002 that he walked in on Sandusky with a boy in the showers. That was that. McQueary fulfilled his "legal obligation" by reporting the incident to the head coach.
Paterno, in turn, reported the incident to PSU Athletic Director Tim Curley. Curley brough in McQueary and questioned him, but that ended that. PSU Vice President for Business and Finance Gary Schultz was also at that meeting. At this point, I believe that PSU and the Regents knew this was going on. Their response was to tell Sandusky not to bring children around the University.
PSU President Graham Spanier knew everything. Presiding over PSU for 16 years, Spanier went along with the haunting silence. As the head of one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning, Spanier decided that the image of the university was more important than the moral ethical code of being a decent human being.
Ok, so now we have a list of people who are all in the wrong, along with the Board of Trustees and the Regents of PSU. Despite all of that, Paterno was the man zeroed in on by ESPN and other sports media outlets. His name, not anyone else, was recognized and thus drove ratings.
How many stories have been published that specifically target McQueary? He was the PRIMARY WITNESS, yet no one has come out and said that he was morally bankrupt in not taking this story straight to the police. Instead, that was the fault of Joe Paterno. What about the stories of Curley and Schultz not going straight to authorities once they talked to BOTH McQueary and Sandusky? Why aren't those two names just as morally guilty as Paterno? Spanier was fired last night, but what about his place in this story? Despite the fact that a press conference was called to announce his firing, the focus was still on Paterno. Both Paterno and Spanier were fired by the Board of Trustees, yet aren't they just as guilty? They gave Spanier a slap on the wrist, yet they never went forward to the authorities despite the fact that they knew SPANIER WORKED WITH TROUBLED YOUNG MALES!!!
In addition to ostracizing Paterno, the good folks over at ESPN have continued to keep this story in the limelight, all for the sake of ratings. If they were a morally led company doing their job, they would report it and then allow the PROPER AUTHORITIES to continue with their PRIVATE investigation. How many of the victims want their story aired on national television? After so many years, these young people need to have closure, not mass media whoring. Allow the Justice System to do its job instead of beating this story into the ground.
Now, I'm not here to save the reputation of Joe Paterno. I'm not here to advocate against silencing the media. I'm just opening the dialogue. ESPN is supposed to do sports, yet they have tried Paterno in the court of Public Opinion. There were plenty of collaborators to share the blame, yet Paterno was singled out. They only reason to place blame on a coach would be the ratings. If ESPN was actually interested in doing something good, they would have brought in all the angles. There would have been more important questions than, "Will Joe Paterno get fired?"