Column by Ken Cohen
A few things on my mind about recent events in the sports world…
I can understand Franco Harris and other loyal Penn State supporters questioning the accuracy and conclusions of the Freeh Report, which essentially found the powers that be at Penn State, including Joe Paterno, seriously negligent in the Jerry Sandusky tragedy. After all, these kinds of independent reports conducted by a private firm have been known to have holes in them before. I have to say though, I read much of this report and it appears airtight the e-mail exchanges and testimony of eyewitnesses are simply overwhelming. There doesn’t seem any escaping the fact that Paterno along with the athletic director Tim Curley, university president Graham Spanier and Gary Shultz, vice president of finance and business knew about Sandusky’s encounters with young boys in the Penn State showers and did nothing about it.
I’m not sure what Harris was reading when he said, “after I read the Freeh Report, I feel even more strongly about Joe and about his non-involvement in any type of cover-up. There was no cover up…No way would Joe ever cover-up anything like this. No way would Joe protect Sandusky or protect the football program."
Even if you defer to Harris’ seemingly blind patronage of Paterno and throw out any conclusion of the Freeh Report, there is one simple statement that cannot be ignored.
“I should have done more,” said Paterno when the allegations about Sandusky first surfaced. He was referencing the fact that after assistant coach Mike McQueary told him what he saw Sandusky doing in the shower, Paterno turned it over to people he thought would know how to handle the situation.
“I should have done more” are Paterno’s own words not a conclusion drawn from any report. They couldn’t be more condemning. If Franco Harris doesn’t believe the Freeh Report is convincing in its assertion that Paterno was involved in a cover up, how does he explain “I should have done more.” Those five words are essentially an admission to a cover up. The only reasonable explanation of what Paterno meant when he said those words was that in hindsight, knowing that Sandusky was now charged with sexually abusing many boys, he would have tried to stop it.
That is the classic example of a cover-up: knowing something potentially bad has happened and not revealing it. This is what Joe Paterno did not by decree of the Freeh Report, but by his own words. That’s what Franco Harris should be reading.
On to the Olympics, I was watching a piece they did on the extraordinary expense involved in shipping the horses used by the United States equestrian team to London for the Olympics. It was really the icing on the cake for me as far as the ridiculous amount of money that is spent on these games given the economic climate we live in. Sure it can have a huge financial impact for the host nation, but that’s an isolated beneficiary.
I lost interest in the Olympics years ago when it became a commercial opportunity for professional athletes rather than the pinnacle of amateur competition. It would be a little easier to digest if the Olympics actually had a meaningful charitable arm and hundreds of millions of dollars were raised for essential world causes. But that is not the case. Most of the money generated through television rights, ticket sales and merchandise is plowed back into the Games, such as paying for the construction of new venues and transporting, outfitting and housing at least two athletes from all 204 representative nations.
You would think the Olympics would be the greatest philanthropic vehicle in the world, yet it falls way short of earning any medals in that regard.
Ken Cohen brings 30 years of publishing experience, many covering sports and working for sports companies, His column, “Further Review” will appear every Friday.