Somewhere a new PR text book is being written following early news of the worst collegiate sports, make that collegiate, scandal of all time. Who could have predicted that Penn State University and Joe Paterno could have gone from squeaky clean to skeevy in a matter of days. Heads have rolled, arrests have been made, investigations have been launched, and the rumor mill continues to churn. After what has already been divulged, pretty much nothing is out of the realm of possibility now.
Fewer and fewer people are leaping to the defense of Joe Paterno because of his apparent lack of action in this scandal, although one who is, NFL great Franco Harris, just lost his spokesperson gig with a western PA casino for his vocal support of JoePa.
Every day, another stunner. The Bob Costas interview with Jerry Sandusky left viewers feeling slimed. Friday, Michael Smerconish’s column in the Inquirer revealed that the university had six months to prepare for this coming storm . It continues to be hard to imagine how you could possibley put any kind of positive spin on charges of pedophilia and cover-ups. As evidenced already, words like “horseplay” don’t cut it.
Only two things have given me pause about completely rushing to judgment about this debacle. One is the way certain high profile cases, from the Duke lacrosse scandal, to the Amirault day care kangaroo court saga, have turned out far differently than initially reported.
The other is the brilliant Akira Kurosawa film Rashomon, in which an incident involving rape and murder is told from four different perspectives, the attacker, the two victims, and a witness. The truth in this case (and every case), when told from different perspectives, can change like shifting sands.
This 1950 world cinema classic deserves regular screenings on the State College campus in the months ahead. It is important to remember that not all that is being reported now is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We owe it to the real victims, the crumbling Second Mile foundation, and every PSU student, faculty member, administrator, alumni, and alumna affected by this outrage.