For the last two weeks, I’ve been unable to look away from the real-life horror story that is the child rape scandal involving former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, and the cover-up allegedly perpetrated by legendary head coach Joe Paterno and various members of the administration (most of whom have been fired or put on leave). As a parent – hell, as a human – it’s absolutely disgusting, and yet I keep reading every story, keep watching every clip, in the desperate but futile hope that it will eventually be revealed that someone, anyone, actually tried to do the right thing in this mess.
(If you’ve managed to stay away from this story, more power to you, and feel free to skip the rest. I just can’t stop.)
Whatever Paterno and the administrators did or didn’t do, Sandusky is the alleged monster at the middle of this, and I got queasy at the thought of NBC giving him a primetime venue in the form of a telephone interview with Bob Costas on last night’s “Rock Center with Brian Williams.” Yet, as with everything about this story, I couldn’t look away. I had seen Costas go into interviews before where he so clearly felt he was on the side of the angels that he didn’t do the proper prep work – like a 2001 HBO interview with Vince McMahon where McMahon ran circles around an under-researched Costas – and I worried that Sandusky and his lawyer might actually get over on Costas.
In this case, though, Costas was damn near perfect. He had all the facts at his command, was ready with the right follow-up questions, and just kept giving Sandusky rope that the alleged pedophile seemed happy to hang himself with. Sandusky’s stammering, agonizingly clumsy response to Costas’ question about whether he’s sexually attracted to young boys should pretty much kill any attempt to paint himself as the wronged party. The whole thing was just remarkably bungled by Sandusky’s lawyer, and brilliantly handled by Costas in full prosecutorial mode.
A good interview (you can watch the whole thing below) doesn’t ease the pain of the victims. It doesn’t make the story any less nauseating. It doesn’t get anyone their job back. But it was a welcome 10-minute bit of catharsis. Here’s the ultimate villain of this story, and he’s talking, and he’s being absolutely destroyed by his interviewer. Far from a happy ending, but a welcome step on the road to hopefully getting justice.