Much has been said about the Penn State incident and I have remained silent on this topic because of the plethora of views on this. But my local newspaper, the Denton Record-Chronicle, printed an editorial on this case this last Tuesday and how it relates to the actions of people who forget what the broader and more important issue is about in this tragedy. I re-print it here without adding or subtracting from it because it sums up everything so cogently and reflects what should hit home to all who were and still are too willing to give the great football coach at Penn State a pass on his actions related to this incident.
Matko speaks truth to stupidity
We may have found one admirable figure in the tragedy that is the Penn State child rape scandal. Not surprisingly, he has been abused — verbally and physically — for his trouble.
John Matko is a 34-year-old father of a 4-year-old son. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he was shocked and angered by the news that Jerry Sandusky, a retired assistant football coach at Penn State, had been charged with eight counts of rape in the alleged sexual abuse of young boys. He was also upset that Penn State officials had apparently learned of at least one of the incidents as far back as 2002 but had not notified law enforcement officials.
So John Matko made a couple of hand-lettered signs and made the three-hour drive to State College on the morning of Penn State’s football game with Nebraska. He stood silently in the Beaver Stadium Parking lot, holding one sign, propping the other against his leg.
“Put abused kids first,” said one sign. “Don’t be fooled; they all knew. Tom Bradley, everyone must go.
Another sign read, “The kids are what this day is about, not who wins or loses or who lost their job and how! Honor the abused kids by canceling this game and season now.”
Nathan Fenno, a reporter for The Washington Times, was watching Matko in the parking lot before the game, and here are some of the things he saw:
• “‘That is such [expletive]!’ one young woman screamed at him after glancing at the signs. ‘Who the [expletive] do you think you are?’”
• “A beer showered Matko. One man slapped his stomach. Another called him a ‘[expletive].’”
•n “‘Not now, man,’ one student said, shaking his head. ‘This is about the football players.’”
•n “Abuse flew at Matko from young and old, students and alumni, men and women. No one intervened. No one spoke out against the abuse. Over the course of an hour, a lone man stopped, read the sign and said, ‘I agree.’ Those two words were swallowed by the profanity and threats by dozens of others during the hour.”
Matko never responded to the taunting, the curses, or even the physical blows, Fenno reported. He just stood quietly, moving only to retrieve one of his signs when it was kicked away or snatched from his hand.
Matko was punished, of course, not for speaking out against the sexual abuse of children, but for daring to say a discouraging word about Joe Paterno, the legendary Penn State head coach who had just been fired for not reporting an account of abuse to the police back in 2002.
To criticize Paterno in Pennsylvania is blasphemy, it seems, and Matko was duly punished for his apostasy.
Let us be clear: We have a degree of sympathy for Joe Paterno.
He is an old man in his 80s. Men’s fears can metastasize in old age, like cancer, and consume them. Paterno was apparently consumed by fear for his legacy as the builder of a legendary football program. When a young assistant coach told him of witnessing the rape of a young boy in the Penn State shower room, Paterno told his boss, but not the police.
It was a shameful sin of omission, and Paterno knows it. He has already said he wishes he had done more at the time. It is a wish he will contemplate for the rest of his life.
We have less sympathy for Mike McQueary, the young assistant coach who says he saw Sandusky raping a young boy in that shower. Not only did he not go to the police; he did not stop the attack.
He will endure his own long nights of the soul, and he will deserve them.
But we have even less sympathy, and no respect at all, for the thugs who insulted and attacked John Matko on Saturday as he stood silently and let his hand-lettered signs speak the truth.
They have sullied Penn State; they have sullied all of sport.
They have proclaimed for all to hear that nothing, not even the rape of innocent children, takes precedence over “the program.”
Happy Valley is the Vatican, and Joe Paterno is the pope, infallible and above reproach.
“Not now, man. This is about the football players.”