The question now for the folks in my (Ben’s) hometown of State College, Pennsylvania, is where do we go next. I have continued to follow the developments involving Jerry Sandusky and the sex abuse scandal with morbid, guilt-ridden curiosity: I am sickened but I can’t look away. I read updates for an hour or so every night and then feel heavy with the weight of them. I listen to the excerpts from Sandusky’s disastrous Monday night interview with Bob Costas (who did an excellent job demonstrating how a professional interviewer conducts himself). I wonder what it will be like the next time we visit “home,” and how a community that has always identified itself with the university and, specifically, the football program — We Are Penn State — will find a new identity in the wake of all this.
No easy answers anywhere. But there have been some helpful things for me to read. If you have also been compelled by this sad saga, you may find some insight and perspective in these links:
- John Amaechi, a 1995 Penn State grad (and my high school graduation speaker to boot), reflects on what it will take for Penn State to heal and move forward. “I will never forget or regret going to Penn State,” he says, adding, “I have great affinity for a place that helped me become who I am.” Amaechi also talks about his volunteer work for The Second Mile, lamenting that his and other athletes’ involvement were part of the draw for at-risk kids to get involved with the program.
- Joe Posnanski, a columnist for Sports Illustrated, writes about “The End of Paterno” (h/t Scott Guldin and Emily Huie) and offers a note of perspective about the rush to judgment from many commentators on the scandal — “a piling on that goes even beyond excessive, a dancing on the grave that makes me ill,” as he puts it. Posnanski’s situation is a bit more complicated than most — he was already in the process of writing a book about Paterno when this all unfolded — but he writes about it with typical lucidity and insight while acknowledging that the real scandal was not Paterno losing his job or having his legacy tarnished. It took many sports writers a while to find this same context and footing. (ESPN’s ombudsman’s take here.)
- Ben McGrath of The New Yorker sits in on Penn State’s “JoePa class” — Comm 497g: Joe Paterno, Communications, and the Media — and observes that “it seems clear that the national media and the campus have been engaged in two essentially separate conversations, almost from the start.”
- Finally, Michael Weinreb, who grew up in State College and went to Penn State, writes for Grantland about going home last weekend. “In State College,” he says, “we liked to think we looked after each other, and then we found out that some of the most prominent members of our community had failed to look after helpless children, and because of our lifelong emotional attachments we now feel like we are being branded as complicit in these crimes.” That pretty well sums it up for me.