This is the hardest time of the year for a football fan to be patient.
The results of Louis Freeh's investigation could determine how Spanier, Curley and Paterno will be remembered.
The season is roughly two months away, but it feels like two years. You want to see your Nittany Lions (or your Buckeyes or your Steelers or even, gulp, your Cowboys) on the field. There is only so much smack talk you can dole out to opposing fans without results of actual competition to back it up, only so much analysis of a roster you can chew on without seeing that roster in action.
But you've waited for the start of the season before, Penn State fans, and you can wait again. You understand patience.
Now you just need to extend that patience to what is transpiring away from the field.
The Jerry Sandusky trial is over, but the investigation of the university that employed the disgraced former assistant coach is not. Bits and pieces of that investigation have leaked out into the media and, in turn, the general public. It doesn't look good for Joe Paterno. It doesn't look good for the athletic department. It doesn't look good for Penn State at all.
What we need to do, though, is wait until we know exactly what we're looking at -- the full report -- before we pass judgment.
And the waiting, for many, has been impossible. There are certain media personalities out there, some staring intensely into cameras, others banging away furiously on keyboards, who have, since the beginning, told us in no uncertain terms how we should feel (outraged, mostly) about everything. If they have facts to back up their assertions, great, if not, well, no matter. They tell tales of an athletic department and a university and a community blinded by success and its esteem of a legendary coach, how misplaced priorities allowed a monster to prey on victims for years after he could have been put away. They need the story to make sense. They want justice, and that Sandusky will spend whatever is left of his life behind bars isn't quite enough.
The truth is that it's hard if not impossible for anyone who has followed this tragedy to not feel some sort of outrage. It's where you direct it that's at issue here. No one would assert that Sandusky doesn't deserve it. But how much should be reserved for Paterno? For Graham Spanier? For Tim Curley? For Gary Schultz? For the university as a whole? These are tougher questions to answer.
Before we can answer them with any sort of conviction, we need the entire story, or at least as much of it as the Freeh report will be able to offer. We need to let anyone else involved to have his or her day in court, just as Sandusky did. If there is sufficient evidence of a cover-up, those involved should be prosecuted and put away. If it implicates Paterno, the university needs to take a serious look at how he will be remembered.
Ultimately, whatever other punishments are levied by either the courts or the NCAA -- which might not involve itself at all -- it will be up to each and every one of us to decide how we feel about the way Penn State's former administrators conducted themselves during Sandusky's reign of horror. Don't let the talking heads form your opinion. Don't let what's written here or elsewhere on the internet form your opinion. Form your own opinion based on the facts.
Right now, we need to wait -- patiently -- for more of them.