This past April, I wrote a column in the Beaver County Times about the grand jury investigation of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Much of what I wrote turned out to be true. The ongoing scandal has claimed the job and legacy of legendary Penn State head coach Joe Paterno and put a black cloud over the university.
The whole situation reminds me of the WWF sex scandal back in the early ‘90s. Ring announcer Mel Phillips and executives Terry Garvin and Pat Patterson were accused of sexual harassment. Phillips and Garvin were allegedly involved with underage boys, while Patterson supposedly hit on low-level wrestlers – “jobbers,” in the vernacular.
All three were fired. Patterson was eventually rehired.
Phillips and Garvin followed the Sandusky pattern: Victims were often at-risk kids without strong parenting or families.
But the WWF and Penn State situations are most comparable because they occurred in BROAD DAYLIGHT under the not-so-watchful eyes of those in charge. The WWF scandal was no secret internally. The Sandusky scandal was known – and hushed up – by Penn State’s hierarchy.
It’s amazing how innocents get ground up in the gears when big-money machinery gets rolling. Not that these heinous acts were indigenous cogs. But they were doubtless seen as perks by those partaking. Sandusky set up a multi-million dollar foundation for the purpose of procurement.
Child sex abuse has long been swept under the rug. Paterno is of a generation with no social media, no Internet, no tabloid journalism. You cared what the neighbors thought. You kept secrets.
Wrestling, meanwhile, has always been a business of secrets – some worse than others. It’s always been an island of misfit toys. Phillips and Garvin were – at one time – considered valued employees. As long as they do their jobs, who cares what they do in their spare time?
That’s the kind of thinking that leads to scandal. That starts a domino effect that brings down a legendary coach.
WWF got lucky. Nobody cares about wrestling. The salacious tale made the tabloid TV rounds back in the early ‘90s – we got to see Meltzer all decked out in a zoot suit – but no real damage was done. I often wondered if we ever heard the whole story about that chapter in WWE history.
Somehow, I doubt it.
At Penn State, things will never be the same. They’re going to have to take down that Paterno statue. And the worst is yet to come, believe me.
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