"A king like you has policy prepared on everything. What's the official line on sodomy?" King Phillip to King Henry in The Lion in Winter
Happy Valley is no longer so happy. Sadness and revulsion increase with each new revelation in the scandal involving Jerry Sandusky, who coached at Penn State from 1969-1999.
Sandusky has been arrested and charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse against eight victims. Another nine victims have since come forward, and no one will be surprised if others do so. One hesitates to think how many more victims will choose to privately bear the burden of Sandusky’s heinous acts.
Sandusky may have committed these crimes, but let’s be frank; they could not have continued without being aided and abetted by others at the University. In fact, former athletic director Tim Curley and senior vice president Gary Schultz have been charged with lying to a grand jury investigating the crimes. They’re also likely to be charged with failing to notify authorities about them.
It as been widely reported that someone currently on the coaching staff at Penn State caught Sandusky in the act of sodomizing a ten-year old boy in a shower at a campus athletic facility. After that incident, Sandusky was forbidden to bring young boys on campus.
Surely, that suggests people in high places knew what was going on. But rather than report the crime and protect children, they chose instead to protect the image of their institution. That sort of reprehensible behavior is not limited to the Catholic Church.
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The big question in all this, is what did saintly Joe Paterno know, and when did he know it? One hint as to what he knew and when he knew it was that in 1999 Paterno informed Sandusky he would not be his successor as head coach. Sandusky left his position not long afterwards.
That is supposition, of course; what’s been reported is that when Paterno was made aware of this specific crime, he passed on the information to his immediate superior. But for Paterno to have left it at that makes a mockery of everything we have been led to believe about his high moral character.
Surely a man held up as a moral exemplar should be expected to do more than the bare minimum in reaction to such a heinous crime. That begs the question: Is Paterno really a man of high moral character, or just another coach willing to bend the rules to succeed in the ultra-competitive world of big-time college athletics?
The answer to that question will be revealed in days to come, but surely no mortal man is capable of remaining unaffected by the kind of praise, nay adoration, heaped upon Paterno in that once happy valley – to say nothing of the rest of our sports-obsessed world.
That near-deification of Paterno kept him in a position of absolute authority long past his sell-date. It allowed him to operate as a dictator long after he was capable of making sound decisions. If he were capable of making sound decisions, he would have retired long ago.
But that’s always the way with old lions, so now he must suffer the same fate as befalls every lion in winter.
The Lion in Winter
All hail the conquering hero, his broadsword in his hand
Is there anything we worship like the warrior in a man?
Hoist up the tattered battle flag and see his sharp salute
Misty-eyed at memories of a once and glorious youth
September's a seductive month, or so it's always said
Cascading in a symphony of brown and gold and red
One almost doesn't recognize the quickening of days …
The lion lifts his nostrils as the leaves are set ablaze
And December, ah! December, and the very first snowfall
Spreads an easy ermine blanket and makes virgins of us all
One almost doesn't recognize the cold chill in the air …
The lion looks on listless as he paces in his lair
And winds will howl and storms will rage
And drifts will block the door
And the lion roars inside his cage
And licks the wounds of war
The warrior waits in winter and denies his growing old
And no one ever told him it was going to be this cold
He swears that in the distance hears the sound of fife and drums …
The lion waits in winter for the spring that never comes
©2011 Tom Cordle