The defensive coordinator on any team, really on every team, occupies a very specific place within the program. He possesses a very specific persona. He reinforces the most basic fundamental element of football -- toughness. He's often more intimidating and less approachable than even the head coach. The defensive coordinator embodies all the manly virtue we equate with football.
So what would you do if you saw this particular man committing the most unthinkable act? Maybe that's not the first question. There are other questions to ask. Like, how long would it take you to get your head around what you were witnessing? How long would it take to deconstruct everything you had ever known in your life and then to remake reality to fit the image of what you were seeing?
I'm asking these questions because, like everyone else, I've been trying to figure out why Mike McQueary took no action against Jerry Sandusky.
To do that I have to imagine every coach I've ever had committing this crime. Actually, what Sandusky is accused of isn't a crime -- it's the crime. It's not a mugging or robbery, or even domestic abuse on a spouse. What McQueary saw was the one act that can't be explained away by anything -- not rage, revenge or insanity.
Once I successfully imagine one of my coaches doing this (and to be perfectly honest I cannot) I have to imagine what I would do in that situation. Well, of course I would leap to the child's defense. And I would pummel the offender with one hand and call the police with the other. And I would do so without hesitation and with extreme prejudice.
Of course everything is clear in the abstract. In the abstract I always do the right thing. Everyone does.
I know what I'm hearing. I know what I heard from Lavar Arrington. He is the embodiment of the Penn State linebacker -- quick, instinctive, nasty, unremorseful. Arrington says he would have jumped in and pulled Sandusky off the kid. And perhaps he would have done just that. I'm sure the current version of Lavar Arrington would do all of that and do it with extreme vengeance. The current version of Lavar Arrington has small children of his own. And that last bit of information has the most powerful bearing on this horror show.
Parental instinct trumps all else.
My daughter defines my world. Every thought and decision I make is preceded by how it affects her and her well being.
Is that why Mike McQueary didn't act that night? Because he didn't have any children of his own? Was it because his world wasn't consumed by a love that can't be captured by language? Is that why he did nothing?
It's axiomatic for us to say what we would do if we saw someone doing what Sandusky is accused of doing. But it wasn't someone. It wasn't some faceless pervert in a dark alley behind a dumpster. He had a face. He had a persona. He was the man who had seamlessly balanced the ferocity of a defensive coordinator with the grace of a champion for disadvantaged youth. He was a man who raped children? In that second, I'm supposing none of it registered.
I'm pretty cynical. But I'm not so cynical as to assume the first thing McQueary (pictured at right from his days as Nittany Lions quarterback in the mid-90's) considered was his career. Perhaps later in the process, as he solidified his role in the star-chambered practices of the Penn State athletic department, I'm quite certain McQueary considered how reporting this act would shape his future. And for that he should be judged.
But in that very instant, the instant he stepped into Sandusky's freak show, I doubt he had clear thoughts of anything. Maybe that's why he called his father. Yeah, I see how that decision has become a punch line. I can see how the "running to daddy" line is a reliable go-to for those of us who weren't in that locker room.
My father doesn't always get it right. But on the big things, the most important things, the life altering things, he's never been wrong. I'm not saying that McQueary did the right thing. He didn't. But there's a part of me that understands why, when the world spun off its axis, McQueary sought the counsel of the one person who made sense.
We'll have to wait to hear from McQueary. But now that Sandusky has spoken, a new reality will begin to take shape. Sandusky will undoubtedly use McQueary's inaction as his defense. If he really did this horrible thing, how could McQueary do nothing?
It's a very good question.
-- Alan Grant played cornerback for the Colts, 49ers, Bengals and Redskins. He is the author of
"Return to Glory: Inside Tyrone Willingham's Amazing First Season at Notre Dame."
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