Sandusky case teaches us to heighten vigilance

What to do when the animal finally has been captured?

Pray for the victims.

Curse the predator and those who protected him.

Mostly, learn.

Jerry Sandusky was said to have an appearance of acceptance as a jury found him guilty on 45 of 48 counts of sexual predation, as if the monster knew his unforgivable acts one day would deliver him to the cage in which he deserves to take his final breath.

Do you believe that out of evil always comes some good?

I’m not certain the men who were sexually abused by Sandusky as children ever will accept such a claim, no matter how many zeroes Penn State eventually will include on the checks written to each in hopes that monetary compassion somehow can compensate for a lifetime of psychological damage.

Think about it. Where on earth does the dollar amount begin?

To those of us on the outside looking in at a real-life horror story, the Sandusky case reinforces hard and sad truths, both of the dark kind and also one that defines many of the same college towns and athletic programs as the one in State College, Pa., where the obsession and hero-worshipping existence for a team allowed many to shelter a depraved pedophile for years in hopes nothing would stain the almighty bottom line that runs from a tunnel in white helmets on majestic Saturday afternoons in the fall.

We are a society whose addiction to sports leads to such detrimental acts as some at Penn State, those unable to see beyond their love and devotion to a longtime head coach and his team by deserting every sense of virtue and choosing to protect Sandusky rather than demanding justice for the victims.

Believe it. Joe Paterno was among such cowards. He, as much as anyone, feared the fallout of exposing the monster.

Which brings us to today: A popular theory is that only now will we see what long-term damage Penn State faces, that the trial merely was to put Sandusky away for life and the university still must endure two criminal trials of a former athletic director and vice president, perhaps one of a former president who could be indicted, the countless lawsuits coming from victims and an independent investigation by the former head of the FBI.

Now, Penn State goes on trial.

While it plays out, while we ultimately see how many protectors were out there and how much culpability Penn State ultimately will own, it’s important to continue watching and protecting our children and those of others, to know that while 99 percent of those who coach them and lead them and mentor them do so with the purest of intentions, the mind of a monster exists in some.

“One thing Sandusky exploited was the concept of mentorship and ‘I’m going to be a father figure and teach you how to be a man,’ ” said Dan Wetzel, columnist for Yahoo! Sports who covered the Sandusky trial. “It was like, ‘I’m Coach Sandusky.’ Most of these kids didn’t have a father around, so most of (the talk) coming from their mothers and everyone else was, ‘This is a guy that’s going to help you.’

“Sandusky was put on this huge pedestal and then was able to exploit it. And that’s a sick, sad thing that someone would do, to exploit what really is a great concept.”

Wetzel tells of one chilling part of the testimony, when a then-10-year-old victim was at Sandusky’s house the evening before a Penn State football game, wearing a T-shirt and shorts while preparing for bed in the basement.

“And Jerry tells the kid, ‘Men don’t wear a T-shirt and shorts to bed, they just sleep in their underwear and no shirt,” Wetzel said. “So the kids thinks, ‘OK, this is my father figure, and I’m supposed to listen to him.’ He gets undressed, and it leads from there.”

The monster exists in some dark places, in basements filled with despicable, indefensible acts, so it is incumbent upon all of us to watch and listen and be vigilant when choosing those activities our children will pursue and who will be instructing them.

What to do when the animal finally has been captured?

Ask more questions. Heighten our awareness. Pay closer attention.

Know that while the monster looks like everyone else on the outside, the evil lurks within. They are not humans.

It is our responsibility to make sure their cage always is ready.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.

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