The disgust generated by Penn State's swirling child-abuse scandal rose another level Tuesday night when Joe Paterno — smiling and laughing — emerged from his house to address a raucous crowd that was chanting his name.
"We want Joe! We want Joe! We want Joe!"
How about wanting justice for the alleged victims of Paterno's longtime assistant, Jerry Sandusky? How about wanting Paterno to explain why he never followed up on a 2002 report that Sandusky raped a 10-year-old boy in the football team's showers? How about wanting the Board of Trustees to hold Paterno and school President Graham Spanier accountable for their failure to act and protect future victims?
If that crowd chooses to believe that Paterno did no wrong, swell. If it believes that Spanier and other school officials acted appropriately, fine. If it believes that Sandusky is innocent until proven guilty, OK.
But a grand jury indictment lists eight victims who testified about being abused. A potential ninth victim came forward over the weekend, and there's a report that the number of victims has swelled to almost 20.
Considering the heinous acts described in the 23-page indictment against Sandusky — and two former school officials who have been charged with perjury and failure to report suspected sexual abuse — there's absolutely nothing to cheer about on Penn State's campus.
When the 84-year-old Paterno came to his senses after soaking in the crowd's misplaced support, he realized that the rally missed the point. "As you know, the kids that were the victims," he said, "I think we ought to say a prayer for them."
Imagine the pain they must've felt to see such raucous support for the legendary coach, the very man who arguably looked the other way and thereby contributed to their pain at Sandusky's hands. Every shout of encouragement for Paterno must've felt like a slap in the face to those young men, undoubtedly still feeling the sting of guilt and shame, unwarranted, but common among children exploited by adults.
Instead of an impromptu pep rally outside Paterno's house, the crowd should've remembered and honored the victims, whose ordeal continues to this day with no end in sight.
A candlelight vigil at the site of the crimes, the football team's facility, would've been a better response.