Sports

Eric Thomas: Beware the Mob Mentality In Penn State Situation

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Head coach Joe Paterno of Penn State during the Nittany Lions 34-17 win over Pittsburgh University at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania.  Credit: Rick Stewart  /Allsport

Head coach Joe Paterno of Penn State during the Nittany Lions 34-17 win over Pittsburgh University at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania. Credit: Rick Stewart /Allsport

By Eric Thomas

Look, I will admit I have some serious issues processing this Sandusky scandal. Every single detail of this story is absolutely disgusting and it gets worse every day. In this society, we cannot agree on anything, yet all agree that crimes against children are most abhorrent. I have not made it past “victim 1” in the grand jury report because I am so horrified.  What really chills about this is Sandusky allegedly committed these crimes casually in public places, revealing a comfort to his actions that sends this beyond the pale.

Paterno should have been fired, without question. Paterno was tone deaf and seemed to only consider himself when volunteering to step down at the end of the year. But we need to keep in mind when adjudicating this case in the court of public opinion that we don’t have all of he facts yet. One of the MAJOR flaws of the grand jury system (in this instance) is secrecy.

If Paterno covered this up, he would be under indictment along with Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz. If McQueary was involved in a cover up he would absolutely be charged. Why weren’t they charged and the other men were? Beats me. But no one can be convicted when there is simply an absence of evidence.

Let’s also stop saying that these people are presumed guilty until they speak out. McQueary’s father told the New York Times: “It’s not that he’s not willing [to speak].”, but he has been told not to by the Harrisburg attorney general.

This is a horrible scandal, easily the worst in the history of sports. But it is important that we take a step back from the lynch mob. One of the most lethal parts of our 24 hour media cycle is there no mediation lever. Thundering blogs, Twitter and columnists (I THINK HE SHOULD BE SHOT!!) get mixed in with actual journalism.

This obfuscates the confirmed information from conjecture and rumor. Remember: the contents of the grand jury report are alleged and grand jury reports have been wrong before. You need look no further than the 1998 investigation into Sandusky’s activities that produced no charges. One could argue that very exoneration was all the ammunition Sandusky needed to take his predatory practices to the next level.

Beware the mob. Its rarely right. The Duke Lacrosse scandal was the most recent, where the team had their season cancelled before anyone even bared to notice the Attorney General demagogued the case in order to get free publicity for his re-election campaign.

There are worse examples, like Richard Jewell, the hero that saved lives from Eric Rudolph’s 1996 bomb at the Atlanta Olympics only to be branded a terrorist by the media before anyone bothered to ask if there was any proof. On the subject of child molestation, there is the McMartin preschool case in California where a single preschool was charged with 321 separate counts of child abuse.

The McMartin case was hammered in the media by Morton Downey Jr, Geraldo Rivera (whose tabloid style “journalism” almost provides a Rosetta Stone for many media outlets today) and others who wanted the McMartins’ heads on a pike for child molestation and satanic rituals. After 6 years of trials, all of the allegations proved false. Bruno Richard Hauptman was tried and executed for the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby and history has concluded he was completely innocent, swept away by the mob covering the “Trial of the Century”.

The charges are awful. The story, if true, is inexcusable. Whoever covered this up should be in jail along with other common criminals. Some are pointing out that McQueary was promoted right after he reported the alleged incident in the shower. If that was in exchange for his silence, he is an accessory to the initial crime itself.

Shouldn’t we know all the facts before we load these people into the Tumbrils? Sandusky is in jail, and he will hurt no one else behind bars. Before we ruin anyone elses’ life and reputation.. shouldn’t we first make sure they deserve it?

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