The World Is Watching: Media Respond to PSU Charges

The title of this post is not hyperbole. It’s not just the college football world that has turned its eye to Penn State, it’s curious individuals from every corner of the globe. And perhaps it’s only when Al-Jazeera feels it necessary to chime in with a report on the case that has rocked State College that you realize the true scope of these alleged crimes and cover-ups.

Although we’ve been bringing you the latest developments in this case, keeping the community updated with news and commentary, we know we’re hardly the only source. With that in mind, we’ll highlight some of the best reactions we’ve seen from the media both at home and across the country.

Former Penn State great LaVar Arrington spoke on The Fan 106.7 in Washington to articulate some of his thoughts, as compiled by the Huffington Post. Arrington wrote of the “empty” feeling he had after finding out that a mentor and a legend had allegedly committed these despicable acts.

I’m upset, I’m shocked and I’m disappointed. Disappointed that, no matter what the outcome is, there were so many lives that were affected and impacted the wrong way. And so for me — and I know I’m speaking not only on behalf of myself but I’m speaking on behalf of every person who has ever went into a classroom at Penn State and has tried to do things the right way and what we call ‘The Penn State way’ — the reason I’m speaking out is because that’s how I feel.

That sense of betrayal was a theme in the article Penn State alumnus Dana O’Neil wrote for ESPN.com. O’Neil summarizes the way all of Penn State feels right now–we’re not trying to sweep these allegations under the carpet, or find someone else to blame, we’re just in shock trying to process that our school could be so wrong.

There’s no other entity to blame here, no search for a logical explanation. The allegations against Sandusky are impossible to comprehend, but it is the inaction that has people equally confused.  People simply want to know, “How?” How could five grown men — Penn State president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley, vice president for finance and business Gary Schultz, football coach Joe Paterno and graduate assistant Mike McQueary — fail to turn this over to authorities?

Joe Posnanski is a writer for Sports Illustrated, and has lived in State College for the past few months while writing a biography of Joe Paterno. From a news standpoint, his timing can’t be beat. But he advocated restraint in a post on his blog last night, saying that we should neither vilify nor protect Paterno until the facts are established.

Writing about Joe Paterno is a challenge for many reasons, but probably the greatest challenge is that his personality attracts extremes. He is called saint. And he is called hypocrite. He is a hero. And he is a villain. He is real. And he is a phony. And I believe deeply that he is none of these things… it wouldn’t be much fun or a challenge to write about him if he were a simple label or a simple man. I came to State College to write about a real man. I won’t tell you anything surprising: This terrible, evil story has made it harder. But I do buy into Tom Hanks’ line about baseball. It’s supposed to be hard.

Posnanski’s colleague at Sports Illustrated, Michael Rosenberg, wrote one of the more pointed columns of the day, comparing the situation at Penn State to the one which left a black mark on the Catholic Church. He also claims that Paterno has a record of ignoring serious allegations, and that his presence may have prevented the appropriate steps from being taken.

Today, Penn State looks precisely like the Catholic Church looked for so many years. There were accusations of pedophilia. The allegations were so horrific that they threatened to undermine the reputation of the institution. The people in charge should have brought the allegations to light. But they were more worried about how the institution would look than the values it is supposed to uphold.

Pat Forde of Yahoo.com came to State College, like so many other members of the media who have flooded campus, to chase down this story. Forde chronicles the student reaction well, writing just what a shock this news has been to Penn State.

On campus buses, students read the headlines and discussed the fallout. Students could be overheard on their cell phones discussing the lurid details. Parents called students to see what the mood of the campus was like.

The thought was almost too much to verbalize for a student body that reveres the 84-year-old Paterno. As college sports has hemorrhaged integrity in recent months – from coast-to-coast scandals to mercenary conference realignment developments – Paterno’s reputation further elevated him above the fetid fray. He was the white knight of college athletics, the last legitimate hero in an increasingly tawdry enterprise.

The New York Times’ George Vecsey drew a parallel from the situation at Penn State to the national landscape of college football, the “Dangerous Cocoon,” as he calls it. Vecsey put the blame on college athletics for creating at atmosphere where coaches and administrators could turn a blind eye to these sorts of serious allegations.

Lots of Happy Valleys out there. Occasionally a critic like Taylor Branch or a panel calls for reform. At Penn State, it was even worse than prostituting education for the sake of a football powerhouse. The entire old-boy system in that university managed to overlook the possibility that children’s lives were being ruined, within the dangerous cocoon of King Football. We need to look beyond the alleged abuses. We need to look at the system that encouraged people to look the other way.

Really, we need to do something about big-time college sports.

Lastly, on Grantland, State College’s own Michael Weinreb wrote about what it was like to grow up in Happy Valley, going to school with the children of those in the spot like today, and how he and his friends are handling the scandal.

I can’t add a lot to what’s been written about the facts of the burgeoning scandal at Penn State, except to tell you how strange it feels to type the phrase “burgeoning scandal at Penn State.” I know that I’m in denial. I know that I’m working through multiple layers of anger and disgust and neurosis and angst. I know that I’m too emotionally attached to the situation to offer any kind of objective take, though I don’t think I realized how emotionally attached I was until this occurred. I never understood how much of an effect both football and a sense of place had on my persona. I apologize if what follows seems disjointed, because I am still coming to terms with the fact that this is real. “What can I say?” my mom wrote me from State College on Monday afternoon. “We’re sort of going around in a daze.”

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About the Author

Devon Edwards

Devon is a 2012 Penn State graduate and current law student at NYU. Devon joined Onward State in January of 2011, after a lengthy stay in the comment section. His likes include sabermetrics, squirrels, and longs walks on the beach, and his dislikes include spelunking, when you put your clothes in the dryer and they come out still kinda damp but also warm, and the religious right.

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