In testimony during the Jerry Sandusky trial, one of the things that came to light is that the former Penn State defensive coordinator used to refer to himself as the “tickle monster” in the presence of at least one of the young men who accused him of sexual abuse.
Friday night in Bellefonte, Pa., a jury removed the “tickle” part.
Sandusky is now a convicted felon 45 times over, found guilty of molesting young men from at least 1994-2009, part of that time while a member of the Penn State coaching staff until he retired in 1999. He will never be free again, unless he finds a fountain of youth in the prison yard and lives to be about 510.
Some have talked about closure and healing for the victims and their families. That is a nice thought, but hardly realistic.
“Nobody wins,” said the mother of one of Sandusky’s accusers, only known as Victim No. 6. “We’ve all lost.”
If there is a silver lining to this sordid tragedy, it’s that perhaps victims of sexual abuse — similar to those whose lives Sandusky shattered — will come forward and face their accusers. If a man who served as a cornerstone of the mighty Penn State football program could be taken down, there’s a better chance of justice for others.
“One of the recurring themes in this case was: ‘Who would believe a kid?’ ” Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly said. “The answer is: ‘We here in Bellefonte, Pa., would believe a kid.’ ”
This is hardly the end of the Sandusky saga, though. His victims will always be victims, and there will be investigations into how Sandusky was allowed to prey on young boys, even within the very walls of a football program so many considered a bastion of high ethical standards.
But we are left to ask: How could this have happened? How could Sandusky have been allowed to continue at Penn State while this was going on, and how could he have been allowed to continue to prey on these boys after he retired from the football program?
One is harshly reminded of the words of 18th Century Irish statesman Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
Joe Paterno. Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley. Former Penn State vice president Gary Schultz. Penn State President Graham Spanier. We don’t yet know whether they engaged in cover-ups, and technically, they may not have done nothing. But clearly, they didn’t do enough.
Why not? Probably in part because, as human beings, we don’t want to believe such horrible things happen in our very midst. But also in part because Penn State football was so untouchable, that umbrella extended to Sandusky — even after he stopped coaching.
Hopefully, that amount of reverence for sports programs and their leaders has also disappeared, along with the notion that Penn State somehow cornered the market on morality in a college football world gone mad.
Sadly, we know now that the opposite was true.