Whatever the legal outcome of the charges against former Penn State defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, one thing is clear. The reaction of Penn State students to the firing of Joe Paterno reveals seriously twisted values. When the students filled the streets in protest, they were, in effect, saying we dont care about the victims. Winning is more important.
Weve seen this bankruptcy of values for many years in sports; particularly football. In places like Auburn, Iowa, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Nebraska, and USC, the institutions are expected to win at any cost. Athletes are allowed to assault, rape and rob with little consequence as long as they perform well on gameday. Boosters are allowed to make illegal payments under the table without fear. Coaches earn millions for finding ways around the NCAAs rules. If theyre caught, they take the money and leave knowing they will be able to continue their careers at another school with the same values.
Before you think sports are unique in their lack of ethics, consider that the same kind of behavior is rewarded in politics. Politicians can lie and cheat without repercussions. They can pad their bank accounts and earn large pensions just by getting elected.
Business leaders are rewarded with multi-million-dollar salaries, stock options and bonuses for cutting employees and shipping jobs off-shore. The long-term health of their companies, or even our nation, mean little. After all, the executives can make enough in a year to retire comfortably.
This win-at-any-cost, ends-justify-the-means attitude permeates virtually every aspect of our society. For generations, the Catholic Church has swept child abuse under its sacramental rug then acted shocked by the outcry. Evangelical churches believe that its acceptable to lie to obtain new converts, to increase donations, or to rally adherents to their political causes. At the same time, they deny their political motivations and cover up their excesses.
Even worse than the excesses, themselves, is the fact that we all have been aware of them for decades. But we have done little to speak out or to try to change them. We not only accept that entertainers, sports stars and CEOs make millions a year while demanding even more. We admire them. We turn them into celebrities. And if they are caught for misbehaving or abusing their power and wealth, we turn on them. We vilify them. And we ask ourselves how we could have been so easily fooled.
If Sandusky actually did what he is accused of doing, he deserves our wrath. At the same time, we all need to look into the mirror and ask ourselves why his actions and similar actions of others are allowed to continue for so long.