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Running Chicken: Scandal, Celebrity, and Morality


But this isn’t really a football or sports story; it’s a story about rape, abuse, cover-up, and criminal justice. Strangely, with the firing of Paterno, it’s become a sports story that — somewhat predictably — now also includes college students behaving very badly as a result of their love of college sports. But Paterno and football aren’t really at the heart of this story; that seems to me to be more a narrative of convenience.

This is an excellent point. My thinking about the Sandusky event had to do with the preexisting power structures within sports and institutions that allowed this to happen. I think Sandusky’s actions have been ignored for the most part because they’re so other, so unthinkable. Whereas with Paterno, it’s conceivable that anyone could behave similarly. If your husband were embezzling from his job, and you knew, would you turn him in? If your daughter murdered someone, could you call the police? This is the stuff of the foundational mythology of western civilization, literally — what to do with accursed knowledge.

Sandusky’s crimes are also the stuff of ancient legend, but one that’s somehow been pushed aside in modernity. (Thanks, Victorians.) The taboo/prohibition-against-speaking-on-child-sexuality, though, actually reinforces and contributes to the cycle of child abuse. And the media’s/blogosphere’s recalcitrance to talk about Sandusky — even if to mention the open-and-shut nature of his crimes — is another part of that reinforcement. The assholes in College Town USA or whatever can still go fuck themselves, but Sandusky’s crimes deserve attention.