The Freeh Report on institutional, heinous negligence at Penn State University with regard to the crimes of Jerry Sandusky was released today. As expected, the report was damning for decesead head football coach Joe Paterno and higher ups at the university including former president Graham Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley, and former vice president Gary Schultz. In a press conference this morning, Louis Freeh said those individuals "never demonstrated any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky's victims until after Sandusky's arrest."
The report has led to a wellspring of angry, incensed reactions from not just the sports world, but greater society as well. What happened at Penn State goes beyond a single coach's legacy, a football program, or the institutional hierarchy of a university. It was a total failure of human decency. That part is clear.
To digest the Freeh Report, ESPN predictably focused on Joe Paterno and the football program, which admittedly is an extremely narrow focus given the much larger issues at hand. To do so, ESPN brought in Penn State alum, Second Mile board member, and former player of Paterno, Matt Millen to discuss the report. Predictably, the results were disastrous.
Millen was destroyed with a venom and ferocity rarely seen for an on-air sports analyst. Understandably, emotions were running high with the Freeh Report being released and the full extent of what happened behind the scenes at Penn State unveiled in turning a blind eye to continued child abuse. It was easy to be angry with Matt Millen and use him as a lightning rod for being a symbol of the blindness to justice at Penn State as he tried to deflect blame from Joe Paterno.
The decision, whoever made it, to put Matt Millen on ESPN airwaves in any form to talk about Penn State or the Freeh Report was ludicrous. Say what you want about Matt Milen, but for this report to emerge today regarding a man he held in such high regard as Joe Paterno has to shake his reality to the core. How would anyone react to going on national television and talking about a close mentor or father figure concealing child abuse over many years? It's an impossible task. Many of us would do exactly the same thing Millen did. We would sugarcoat. We would fumble words and not speak eloquently. We would vaguely talk about "flaws" and "not taking away the good he did." Given the charismatic authority of Joe Paterno at Penn State, who knows when or if Millen will fully realize the depths of moral and ethical failure that transpired. It's a no-win situation. To expect Matt Millen to go on ESPN today and speak rationally and coherently about what happened at Penn State with proper perspective is fantasy.
Matt Millen was not the right person to react, analyze, or report on what transpired today, or probably any day. It wasn't beneficial for ESPN. It certainly wasn't beneficial for Millen. It wasn't beneficial for viewers. There were countless other options at ESPN's disposal, many of which they employed throughout the day. But the story today as far as the media goes will be Matt Millen. All ESPN did today was give him enough rope.
Excellent article. You're right. I'm as annoyed, and even disgusted, by Millen's dogged defense of his former mentor, but that's just the way he is. I think extreme loyalty, for better or worse, is in his nature. ESPN knows that and took advantage in order to have a contentious show. Shame on them.