We have a picture of our son Josh with Jerry Sandusky. During his middle school years, Josh attended Coach Sandusky’s local football camp. Meeting Sandusky was a treat. The guy worked under the legendary Joe Paterno, he was the defensive genius credited with creating “Linebacker U,” and he cared enough about kids to start a foundation for kids. Jerry Sandusky was admired and respected for so many reasons. As the father of a football player, I was thankful for the opportunity afforded Josh to learn under a guy like this.

Now there’s what’s happening today. The allegations have been floating around for years. Now, there’s at least enough credence to warrant his arrest. And the Penn State football program and community is hanging out there in uncertainty. The court of public opinion has been working overtime the last few days, with media outlets across the country hashing, speculating, and editorializing non-stop. . . a contemporary reality that makes it increasingly difficult for the greatest judicial system in the world to function at an optimal level.

In thinking about this story over the last few days, there are some themes that keep popping up in my head.

First, if these allegations are true, Sandusky has perpetrated some horrible, horrible things that have harmed and hurt far too many people. . first and foremost, the alleged victims. Whether you call them predators, child abusers, or creepers. . . these guys are good at lying, cultivating/grooming victims, and keeping up appearances. They’re incredibly shrewd. I’ve seen it up close a couple of times in recent years, and it’s scary. I liken what these people do to meticulously creating a bomb. When the bomb explodes, the fallout and shrapnel is spread far and wide. . . echoing on and on and on. The shock waves are rippling through Penn State as we speak.

Second, the legal process needs to be allowed to work. Let’s not forget, Jerry Sandusky is innocent until proven guilty. We need to embrace that reality as if we were the one’s on trial.

Third, the aftermath of these things can be so upside down. . . horribly upside down in fact. I have seen it happen and heard too many stories. . . blaming the victim while blindly believing and supporting the lying perpetrator. Reality is, they are such good liars that they can convince people that what really happened didn’t really happen. . . even when the evidence that it did happen is undeniable. If the perpetrator is someone near and dear to us, many of us just can’t and won’t believe the allegations to be true. We might need to have the scales fall from our eyes.

Fourth, welcome to our contemporary world. In a culture saturated with sick and sinful distortions of God’s good gift of sexuality, it’s no wonder this stuff happens with increased frequency and depth. It’s going to be happening more. That should make us wonder: if it starts to happen more, when will it be normalized, overlooked, and no longer criminal?

Sneaks are in our midst. When they’re exposed or sniffed out, do everything you must to intervene so that future victims can be spared from having to deal with the detonation that will leave them broken and shell-shocked for the rest of their lives.

As you watch this story play out, learn from it.

5 thoughts on “Thinking About Coach Sandusky. . . .

  1. Hi Walt,
    I think one thing missing so far in the media blitz on the Sandusky case is how sports have corrupted our educational system. If these allegations are indeed true (and I won’t presume guilt since I completely agree with you that we have to embrace our system in which one is innocent until proven guilty), I think it goes to show to what degree an educational systems will go to protect the “sacred cow” of its athletic department. I fear sports is a major culprit in putting us behind many other industrialized nations in educational achievement. I also fear that disenfranchised (poor and minority) communities are hardest hit by this hyper-emphasis on sports to the detriment of educational achievement. I think the Sandusky case provides an excellent opportunty to examine our American sports culture, including its benefits but also its harms. And as Christians, I think we have to be honest about the degree to which sports “idol worship” has permeated the church as well. Let’s be honest, Sunday is all too often nowadays more a “day of football” rather than a “day of worship.” I’m always surprised to learn too about grade school sports events and practices being scheduled on Sundays. It’s an ingrained culture which is hard to go up against, though, for the parents who try to introduce a healthy dose of de-emphasis on sports among their children. My children are young and I’m learning this already. Don’t get me wrong, I completely enjoy sports. Just think there’s a potentially missed opportunity here to have a discussion about sports culture in the context of the Sandusky case.

  2. Bret, I think your comment is spot-on. If I may add further, I’d like to see our churches, our media, and our educational system grapple with the disproportionate emphasis on sports in schools – often above education, family life, and in cases like this, quite possibly above the law. I also think that there is too much emphasis, starting in grade school, on competition and winning rather than fitness, good sportsmanship and inclusion for all youth, not just the most athletically gifted. While it may be an extremely provocative comment to some, I would argue that [intercollegiate] sports have no place in institutions of higher education (club and intramurals are fine). At best, intercollegiate sports are a distraction from the educational purpose of universities (most universities in other countries have no parallel to our system). And at worst, too often there is the tolerance or even promotion of destructive lifestyles for too many college athletes, whose offenses (rapes, drug use, violent fights, etc.) are often then covered up by an elaborate PR machine or glossed over by fans, many Christians among them. But this is a discussion that few want to engage in – it’s too much of a sacred cow. Walt, have you written on the sports culture in the US? I’ve only recently started looking at your blog so I have to admit I haven’t seen whether you have or haven’t.

  3. Walt, although I’ve let many of your hyperbolic statements pass without comment, I cannot do so here. “The greatest judicial system in the world.” What makes it better than the judicial systems in Sweden, Germany, Costa Rica, New Zealand…? What is your basis for making such an absolute statement? It begs for documentation and/or supportive reasoning. I’m confident that even after extensive and exhaustive research, both would still be lacking. As I’ve suggested before, I really believe that you would benefit by extending your voracious appetite for reading, to areas beyond religion.

    Are you aware that capital punishment has been abolished, either de jure or de facto, in every single Western industrialized nation except for the United States? That a vastly, over proportionate number of minorities, and those with incomes below the poverty level, are on death row? That certainly doesn’t sound like “the greatest” to me.

    In addition, a person is NOT innocent until proven guilty. A person is “presumed” innocent until proven guilty. Big difference. If a person “is innocent”, there would be no grounds to bring them to trial.

    I also must comment on,
    “… it’s no wonder this stuff happens with increased frequency and depth. It’s going to be happening more. That should make us wonder: if it starts to happen more, when will it be normalized, overlooked, and no longer criminal?”

    First, there is absolutely no documentation whatsoever for you to say, “no wonder this stuff happens with increased frequency and depth.” other than the fact that the population is increasing, and that this type of crime is increasingly being reported.

    “It’s going to be happening more. That should make us wonder: if it starts to happen more, when will it be normalized, overlooked, and no longer criminal?”

    WOW, could you be any more sensationalistic? Usually there’s a reason for persons or organizations being sensationalistic, and it’s not good.

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