Over the coming weeks, much energy will be devoted to the attempted closure of the Penn State scandal; to the isolation of Jerry Sandusky as a disturbed man with serious and criminal psychological problems; to the alleged dereliction of duty by Penn State administrators, two of whom, like Sandusky himself, might ultimately wind up in prison; and to the renewal of a university now home to the worst scandal in the history of American sports.
There will be talk of the judicial system, which took less than two weeks of trial and less than 48 hours of jury deliberation to hand down a guilty verdict on 45 of 48 counts of sexually assaulting 10 boys over 15 years. There will be talk about how so many people in the Penn State community suspected what Sandusky was and yet did nothing. Hopefully, more than just the reading of the verdict and the relief that brings, there will be a lifetime's worth of full compassion and assistance and resources for the young people and their families, whose lives can never be completely rebuilt.
The most important element of this tragedy, the element that demands the most attention and yet is at risk of disappearing fastest from the national conscience, is the enduring question of why. Why Jerry Sandusky was allowed to prey on children for so long when his trial revealed an intense level of suspicion of him over several years by people in sufficient position to stop him. Why so many supposedly concerned, educated and well-meaning people allowed such a person to exist in their community.
While Sandusky must stand alone, responsible for his individual choices and pathologies, the answer to why he was allowed access to kids, why no one stood up to stop him, why so many people felt it necessary to make phone calls to everyone -- to their fathers, to the coaches, to administrators, to each other -- but not to the police, is simple: Joe Paterno and Penn State football. There is no other reason.
For Howard Bryant's full column, click here.