My Photo
Ellwood City, Pennsylvania
Eric Poole is a reporter and columnist for the Ellwood City (Pa.) Ledger, a small newspaper nestled near the Ohio state line in the heart of Steelers Country. He has a wife, a son and a daughter (so there will be some daddy stuff on this blog). A former steelworker and retired rugby player, Poole has a wide range of interests, which was reflected in the 2008 Pennsylvania Newspaper Association awards, when Poole won first-prize honors for best columns and best special project. His upcoming book, "Company of Heroes," due out March 17, 2015, from Osprey Publishing, tells the story of Vietnam War hero Leslie Sabo and his comrades. Sabo was awarded the Medal of Honor May 16, 2012, in a White House ceremony.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Election post-mortem: Move along to 2016, nothing to see here

You Americans surprise me sometimes.

And then we go out and elect a Congress that will do exactly none of those things.

One thing we can’t do is question the pollsters’ data that indicates this country is a center-left – not a center-right – nation. The polling organizations have this thing nailed down. Tuesday’s election results were evidence of that – those polls predicted them long before they happened.

We have to admit that Nate Silver is right, even if we wish he wasn't.

So why the apparently contradictory results? In fairness, much of Tuesday night’s election was decided in jurisdictions that represent the minority on all of those issues.

But money and passion also played a role. And the two are connected. There was a huge pile of money spent on Tuesday’s election, much of it from the corporate world through donations facilitated by two counterintuitive assertions by the U.S. Supreme Court – that money is speech and corporations are people.

Those corporations give Republicans money to do what they would do anyway – oppose environmental regulations and workers’ rights – and they give Democrats money to co-opt them out of doing what their base wants them to do – support environmental regulations and defend workers’ rights.

Not coincidentally, Democrats depend upon voters most likely to sit out mid-term elections, while Republican voters are most likely to vote EVERY time. Which means Democrats have gotten their heads handed to them in each of the last two midterms.

And it hasn’t helped Democrats that voter ID laws – intended, by the admission of Pennsylvania’s state House Republican Majority leader, not to protect the sanctity of the ballot, but keep Democrats from voting – have been consistently upheld by the courts, most recently, in Texas only a few weeks before this election, too late for more than 500,000 registered voters to obtain identifications.

Ironically, Pennsylvania was one of the few Republican-controlled states in which Voter ID efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.

But Democrats and liberals – the two are not the same – have cause for hope. All of the factors that worked against us, and a few that had little or no impact at all, in 2014 will be in our favor two years hence.

This was shaping up to be a Republican year, even under the best of circumstances. Democratic U.S. senators elected in traditionally Republican states in 2008 on President Barack Obama’s coattails faced re-election bids in states that went from light red to blood-crimson over the past six years.

In 2016, it’s the Republicans’ turn to put their Senate majority on the line when senators elected in 2010’s Tea Party wave run for re-election. Typical of that lot is Pat Toomey. He’s set to face a stout challenge in once-purple Pennsylvania, where no Republican has won a state-wide race since 2010.

Democrats also will benefit in 2016 from the presidential election, which results in higher-than-expected turnout – and, with voters removed from the rolls on Voter ID laws having two years to get suitable identification, the effect of disenfranchisement laws will be blunted as well.

Demographics will continue to shift leftward. Or, to put it more indelicately, millions of Republican voters will die in the next two years and be replaced by millions of Democrats reaching legal voting age.

And the Republicans aren’t likely to help their own standing with independent voters between now and 2016. Their agenda – their ENTIRE agenda – is repeal the Affordable Care Act, shut down the government and impeach Obama.

The president will be able to prevent the first through the veto and filibusters in the Senate, and the last two would be exactly the kind of blunders that will contribute to a Democratic surge two years from now.

This is the Republicans’ last chance – possibly for a generation – to show they can govern responsibly. And they won’t be able to do it.

Historically, Republicans have gotten blamed by all but the most ideologically conservative Republicans for the shutdowns they’ve caused when in control of Congress under a Democratic president. It’s difficult to imagine another shutdown would go down any differently.

The impeachment of Bill Clinton was so enormously unpopular that it played a role in the loss of Republican House and Senate seats in 1998 – the only time in more than 50 years that Democrats picked up seats in a midterm when a Democrat was in the White House – and the ouster of Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House.

Compared to any attempt to try Obama for high crimes and misdemeanors, the 1996-97 Republican impeachment looks like a reasonable use of power. And it’s not like this Senate is going to remove this president from office.

Conviction in a presidential impeachment would require a two-thirds majority – 67 votes. That means every Republican, plus about 15 Democrats and Independents, would have to vote to convict Obama in the absence of evidence that he committed anything worse than trying to govern the executive branch.

To a Tea Partier, though, a Democrat running the executive branch is an impeachable offense, which is precisely the problem for congressional Republicans.

Shutting down the government and impeaching Obama is a lousy plan for the long-term survival of Republicans, but they will have to do it. Any GOP member of the House who doesn’t vote by mid-2015 to impeach Obama will find himself primaried in 2016 who would have.

So the impeachment is going to happen. But it won’t go well for Republicans, and Americans will likely punish them for it the next chance we get.

So cheer up, Democratic buckaroos. Tuesday probably wasn't a permanent setback, just a bump in the road.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hero of the week: Shoshanna Roberts

Actress Shoshanna Roberts displayed unusual courage this week by volunteering to spend 10 hours walking around New York City so a cameraman could record the catcalls, come-ons and other intrusions on her walk through the city. That much is old news. But what she went through - comments on her looks an average of nearly 11 times an hour, not counting winks, whistles and men going full-on Tex Avery wolf whistle - wasn't the only brave thing Roberts did.

Because sexists don't want to acknowledge the existence of male privilege, much less see it threatened, Roberts put a target on her back. Sure enough, my gender lived down to my lowest expectations. 

Not only that, but Roberts is from Pittsburgh. So, of course she's a badass.

In a just world, Joss Whedon is, at this very moment, writing the summary of a new TV show with her in mind.

This week's rant: Oct. 29

Took a vacation from politics this week in my Ellwood City Ledger column to talk about my daughter's greatest hits.

All-time, All-Star, All-Russell-Crowe-character rugby side

For certain, the celebrity most associated with rugby in this country is Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe. Although Crowe is identified with Australia, he was born in New Zealand and is reportedly a fan of the All Blacks in rugby union. He also is majority owner of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, which won the 2014 Australian Rugby League championship.

In honor of his longtime association with the sport and the All Blacks’ first trip to the United States since 1980, here is the All-Time All-Star All-Russell Crowe Character side (Disclaimer - even though the Rabbitohs play rugby league, which has 13 players to a side, this is a 15-man rugby union team, with the numbers corresponding to the jersey numbers for each position).

(Second disclaimer - Since Crowe is still making movies, including two releases set for 2015, I reserve the right as sole selector to bump any old Crowe character in favor of a new Crowe character, should performance demand it):

Warning: Spoilers abound.

1.       Wendell “Bud” White (LA Confidential) at loosehead prop – At first glance, the loosehead prop, like White, is a cementhead, good for little but brutality. But the position, so named because it has an outside position in the scrum’s front row, requires unexpected finesse, and looseheads occasionally dream of being flankers, just as Detective White pines to solve cases with his head instead of his fists.

2.       Noah (Noah) at hooker – Fodder for bumper-sticker jokes like “Support Your Local Hooker: Play Rugby,” the position is named because he hooks the ball back through the scrum from front and center of the front row. In the scrum, the hooker’s arms are pinned over the shoulders of the props on either side of him, so he goes in face first. The hooker is not easily dissuaded from his purpose, and is a leader among the forwards – he usually throws in on lineouts and the ball goes into the scrum on his signal.

3.       John Biebe (Mystery, Alaska) at tighthead prop – Even though rugby is the link of sports evolution between soccer and American football, in many ways, it resembles hockey. Biebe, past his prime – described as a little slow of foot – knows all the tricks necessary to prevail in the scrum’s front row.

4.       Jim Braddock (Cinderella Man) at lock – This position, also called second row, provides the push in the scrum and jumps for the ball during lineouts. On the pitch, a lock moves forward relentlessly, style be damned, just like Braddock.

5.       Pearly Soames (Winter’s Tale) at lock – Anyone capable of head-butting Colin Farrell off the Brooklyn Bridge can be in anybody’s forward pack. Anytime. And one of Lucifer’s minions will certainly make sure no one on the other team will be lying on the ground at the wrong side of a ruck.

6.       Capt. Jack Aubrey (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) – In a scrum, the blindside flanker lines up on the field’s short side – rugby’s Far Side of the World – and makes deceptive attacks on offense and stops them on defense. Given Aubrey’s use of trickery when outgunned, this would be the place for him.

7.       SID 6.7 (Virtuosity) at openside flanker – Lawrence County (Pa.) Commissioner Steve Craig, who played openside flanker at George Washington, once likened the position to being a “paid assassin,” because he gets a free run at the opposing team’s scrum half and fly half on defense. If either of them makes the slightest bobble, the openside has a chance to kill, figuratively speaking, an opposing player. SID is a rampage killer, so the other team’s fly half should watch out.

8.       Maximus Decimus (Gladiator) at number eight – Sitting at the back of the scrum, holding the ball on his foot until the scrum half lets it out at the precise moment to start the attack, sometimes deciding to pick up the ball and have a run himself, the number eight is an imposing figure. Big, strong, fast and tough. A real gladiator (sorry, couldn't resist). Team captain, by virtue of Crowe's Academy award for the part.

9.       John Nash (A Beautiful Mind) at scrum half – As the link between the backs and forwards, the scrum half must have a mathematician’s command of the game on offense and defense. On defense, he has to command all the angles. On offense, he sometimes needs to see openings even when no one else can.

10.   Cort (The Quick and the Dead) at fly half – Fly halves are the gunslingers of rugby. They decide when to kick for field position, take the ball themselves when they see an opening or let the ball out to the centres and wings. The fly halves do most of the kicking for points, either by drop kicks or place kicks. Cort is an outlaw-turned-preacher who shoots under his own arm to kill a bad guy sneaking up from behind, so there you are.

11.   Robin Longstride (Robin Hood) at wing – The wings are often a team’s fastest players – and come on, Longstride?

12.   Terry Thorne (Proof of Life) at inside centre – Centres need to have a combination of physical prowess and tactical acumen, and Thorne’s backstory as a British commando-turned corporate hostage consultant qualifies. Plus, "Proof of Life" includes an emotional attachment both on and off screen that evokes former England centre and team captain Will Carling's reported involvement with Princess Diana.

13.   Ben Wade (3:10 to Yuma) at outside centre – Wade, the leader of an outlaw band, is smart, elusive and aggressive. So are the best outside centres.

14.   John Brennan (The Next Three Days) at wing – In “The Next Three Days,” Brennan evades his opposition, takes his imprisoned wife and goes All. The. Way. – to Venezuela, just like wings are supposed to go to the goal for tries, the rugby equivalent of a touchdown.

15.   Jeffrey Wigand (The Insider) at fullback – Wigand is the last line of defense between the public and corporate corruption. Fullbacks are the last line of defense between the opposition and a try. Wigand is put under tremendous pressure by forces who would rather he kept his mouth shut. Fullbacks are under tremendous pressure from the other team when taking high kicks deep in their own end.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mr. (and Mrs. and Gareth) Poole Goes to Washington

You know, there is a shoe repair shop in the Pentagon. Go ahead. Ask me how I know that. So I’m walking through the Pentagon last week when my shoe falls apart. The sole just rips off from the heel and it’s flapping against the floors as I go through the halls. The shoe, by the way, was rented along with my suit. I don’t own a suit of my own because I clean up well, but not very often. As I’m flapping through the hall, we’re walking past soldiers, ranked sergeant or higher, at each hallway junction holding a little sign, leading us in the proper direction, because the Pentagon is a big place. And each time I passed one of these soldiers, he said, “You know, we’ve got a shoe repair shop here?” Actually, that’s not surprising as you might think. Unlike the White House or the capitol building, the Pentagon isn’t in Washington D.C. It’s in Arlington, Virginia, and most amenities aren’t within walking distance. Actually, from some places in the building, an exit isn’t within walking distance.
So to meet the needs of those working in the world’s largest office building, there is a veritable mall inside the Pentagon. They have a CVS pharmacy, a Redbox video rental location and several other shops, including a shoe-repair place. Considering that most of the people working in the Pentagon are uniformed military, whose career prospects depend at least in part, on the condition of their footwear, there should be a shoe repair shop on the premises. So after the fourth or fifth time one of the soldiers said, “You know, we have a shoe repair shop here?” I decided to get the thing fixed. As outsiders, we weren’t allowed to go anywhere alone, so they broke off a Special Forces major to escort me to the shoe repair shop. A freaking Green Beret. This guy probably led commando raids in Iraq and Afghanistan. I can imagine the conversation when he got home from work that night: “How was your day, honey?” “I had to escort some schmuck to the shoe repair shop.”
I was in the Pentagon – a secure building that restricts entry only to people who have business there. Or by invitation, and I was invited. My wife, son and I were among more than 100 people who turned up last week in Washington D.C. to attend the Medal of Honor award to Vietnam War hero Leslie Halasz Sabo Jr. Sabo, who was killed on May 10, 1970, might have prevented what would have been the largest mass killing of U.S. troops since the Malmedy massacre during the Battle of the Bulge. He was recommended immediately for the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military’s highest award for combat valor, but the paperwork went missing until 1999, when 101st Airborne Division veteran Tony Mabb found Sabo’s file in the National Archives and began pressuring to have the investigation reopened. He served in Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment – the same regiment that included Easy Company of “Band of Brothers” fame during World War II. I’m the author of Sabo’s biography, “Forgotten Honor,” which earned my invitation to the once-in-a-lifetime experience of attending ceremonies in the White House and Pentagon. As a prelude to the May 16 ceremony at the White House, I rented a business suit – and the aforementioned matching shoes – because I clean up well. Just not very often. I, my wife, Dawna, and son, Gareth – we left our 4-year-old daughter, Calista, with a babysitter because we deemed her too young to sit patiently through the ceremonies -- set off through multiple levels of security that gave us the right to be in the same room as the President of the United States.
After going through the first two, of four, levels of security, we waited in line to get into the White House with Ben Currin, a soldier who served alongside Sabo in Vietnam, and U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (pictured above), a Democrat who represents the Denver suburbs in Congress. Perlmutter used some of his office’s discretionary funds to help some of Sabo’s comrades and family members with air fare and the $224-a-night cost of staying in the Sheraton National Hotel near the Pentagon, which served as staging area and a reunion venue for the veterans of Bravo Company. After the perfunctory introductions, Perlmutter said, “You look familiar,” and rifles through a handful of papers he was holding before producing a photocopy of this article. Currin, who stayed in the Army after Vietnam and was a team leader in the Army’s elite Golden Knights parachuting team, chatted with Perlmutter about the 1988 AFC Championship Game Currin and his team jumped into Mile High Stadium, then home of the Denver Broncos, as we enter the White House. We go into the East Room – where the president traditionally makes public indoor White House speeches and announcements. The address is typically eloquent for Obama, who mentions the shabby treatment Vietnam veterans received when they returned home. Fittingly, the ceremony’s longest and loudest applause is reserved for the more than two dozen veterans of Bravo Company seated immediately to the president’s left.
Then the president invited us to dine at a reception in the White House’s East Wing by saying, “I hear the food’s pretty good here.” And the food was good, if you like fancy dining. I stayed toward the Oriental chicken skewers and beef medallions-on-a-stick. Like most of the other 100-plus guests, I initially go for the champagne until I see the bottle of Yuengling Light at the open bar. As a Yuengling – but not usually Yuengling Light – drinker, I realized that the opportunity to have my brand of beer at the White House comes along, by my count, twice in a lifetime. Once when I had my first glass and then five minutes later when I had my second glass. Because I don’t always drink light beer, but when I do, I pay for it with my tax dollars.
The White House ceremony marked the third time I’ve been at the same event with a president, fourth if you count fictional presidents. I was closer to Obama than I was to Clinton, further away than I was from Bush. And further away than I was from Josiah Bartlett – there’s a close up of the back of my head in the opening shot of “20 Hours In America,” the Season Four opener for “The West Wing.” Barack and Michelle met with Rose Sabo-Brown, Leslie’s widow, and George and Olga Sabo, Leslie’s brother and sister-in-law, and I heard second-hand that Michelle cried when she heard Leslie’s story. For me, though, the highlight was getting the chance to reacquaint myself with the Bravo Company veterans, some of whom came home only because of Leslie’s sacrifice. One of the best parts of Leslie Sabo’s story is that he helped bring his comrades together – the unit started having reunions about 10 years ago, after Mabb found Sabo’s file and began contacting the Bravo Company veterans. Mabb’s inquiries coincided with an expanded growth of the internet. Bravo Company veteran Rick Clanton set up a web site that reconnected the soldiers who gathered last week in Washington, D.C. I was at Bravo Company’s 2009 reunion and the interviews I did there formed a large part of my book. Most of them are retired now, having spent the last four decades working, living and raising children in a country that had little or no respect for their sacrifice. On Wednesday night, between the White House and Pentagon ceremonies Bravo Company held a ceremony of its own to recognize Sabo along with the other 17 men the unit lost between Jan. 1 and May 10, 1970. The other two ceremonies, featured – for the most part – politicians who never knew the men of whom they spoke. Wednesday night’s flag ceremony featured the words of men speaking of the friends and comrades, whom they knew and lost. Impressive men, all.
During both ceremonies, the military provided us with several escorts, none of whom were ranked lower than sergeant. My wife and I were talking to a couple of lieutenant colonels who said being named to the honor contingent was a coveted duty – even the uniformed military don’t meet the commander-in-chief every day. On Sept. 11, 2001, one of the lieutenant colonels was working in the Pentagon when it was clobbered by a terrorist-piloted passenger jet. The other one was stationed just outside the Pentagon. For the most part, they served a ceremonial purpose, a reminder of the reason all those people in suits were there. At the Pentagon ceremony, they also were human GPS, keeping we outsiders on the correct path. The Pentagon ceremony was, personally, a little more gratifying than the White House ceremony had been. In sequence, Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno, Secretary of the Army John McHugh and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta referred to my book during their speeches. Panetta had the line of the day, though. He said that Leslie and George Sabo had good taste because, “both of them married Italian girls.” Rose Sabo-Brown is the former Rose Buccelli – her father, Carmen, earned a Silver Star during World War II. George married the former Olga Nocera. The thing Panetta didn’t realize when he said that is, if you live in Ellwood City and you refuse to consider going out with Italian girls, you’re cutting your dating pool at least in half. For some people, following Odierno, McHugh and Panetta might have been a rough trick. But George Sabo delivered a heartfelt speech about his family and his brother, and upstaged three of the U.S. Army’s highest-ranking officials. Sabo thanked a long list of people he credited for the Medal of Honor award – modesty prevents me from providing a complete list. But if you get to the end of the 45-minute ceremony linked above, you can hear what he said about me.
While my shoe is being repaired after the ceremony, I’m strolling around the Pentagon dining room with only one shoe on during a post-ceremony reception. After a few minutes, I went back to get the shoe, accompanied this time by a sergeant from the Army’s public affairs office. On the way back, she said, “So what’s your connection to the Sabo family?” “I wrote Leslie Sabo’s biography.” “Oh,” she said. “You’re Eric Poole.” A few minutes later, a defense department employee entered the dining hall with an armload of my books, which were distributed to members of the Sabo families. Two of those copies were autographed by the President, Gen. Odierno and Army Secretary McHugh and distributed to Rose Sabo-Brown and George Sabo. Seeing that was really cool, but one thing occurred to me – those might be the only two books in existence whose value would decrease if they were signed by the author.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Trayvon Martin's biggest mistake wasn't wearing a hoodie; it was bringing Skittles to a gunfight

This column was published March 29 in the Ellwood City Ledger, but hasn't been posted on the paper's website, so I'm putting it here.

At this point in his career, Geraldo Rivera could get an integrity transplant from Bernie Madoff and he’d come out on the plus side if he swapped brains with Bristol Palin or any of the Kardashians.

So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Rivera went off half-cocked – or, as they call it on Fox News, after thoughtful consideration – and blame the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin not on, y’know, the guy who shot him, but on the hooded sweatshirt, known in street parlance as “hoodie,” that Martin was wearing.

Martin was killed on his way home from a shopping trip to get candy and iced tea by a man who believed that a black face in a white neighborhood was automatically suspicious. But Rivera apparently believed that Martin’s hooded sweatshirt was the key factor.

‘Cause drug addicts don’t rob convenience stores. Hoodies rob convenience stores.

Oh, wait, drug addicts DO rob convenience stores. But sometimes they wear hoodies. Here in Ellwood City, it’s easy to see the cow-feces-polluted source waters for Rivera’s stream of unconsciousness. As Rivera hinted, if street crime had a uniform, it would include the hooded sweatshirt.

Over the last two months there have been three armed robberies Ellwood City’s downtown. Of the five suspects in those robberies – including the two arrested last week, all of them were described as wearing hooded sweatshirts.

On Feb. 2, when Ellwood City police was sweeping the town in search of the man who robbed the High Voltage hair salon at gunpoint, officers detained a man because his red hoodie matched the clothing reportedly worn by the gunman.

It turned out that the man who was detained didn’t rob the hair salon. But police found drugs and drug paraphernalia in his possession.

And Lincoln High School has banned hoodies from most of the school during most of the day, on the grounds that the sweatshirts provide space to steal stuff while going through the school lunch line.

But, y’know, when people manage to wear hoodies all day without committing a crime, that doesn’t end up in the newspaper. And Rivera probably wasn’t seriously looking to charge Martin’s hooded sweatshirt for his fatal shooting on Feb. 26.

He was trying to shift blame for Martin’s death away from George Zimmerman, the guy who pulled the trigger.

Rivera’s “blame the hoodie” doctrine was only the first, unsteady effort to get Zimmerman off the hook in the court of public opinion – he’s probably already OK with the Florida judicial system, thanks to that state’s “stand your ground” law, which allows people to claim self-defense if they’re scared.

This week’s efforts are proving more successful, as Zimmerman’s defenders are now seizing on reports that Martin knocked him down with “one punch,” and that Zimmerman’s nose was broken in the encounter.

Yeah, here’s the thing. I don’t care.

Any injuries Zimmerman allegedly sustained don’t make him a victim. In the half of America where “stand your ground” is not law of the land, Martin would have had the only claim of self-defense in that Feb. 26 encounter. His tragic mistake was bringing Skittles to a gunfight.

The irony here is that Zimmerman, through his friends and an attorney, claims that he was defending himself when, in reality, he tracked Martin through a housing development in Sanford, Fla., like a hunter stalking human prey.

And if it seems a little unhinged to blame Martin’s death on hoodies or anything else, that’s because it is.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Neutrality too often serves to protect the criminals

This might be a good reason for pulling sports writers out of the game when sports news crosses paths with real news.

On Sunday, David Jones, a columnist who covers Penn State football and basketball for the Harrisburg Patriot-News, weighed in on the Penn State football sex scandal with a call against rushing to judgment on the accusation that retired Nittany Lions' defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky sexually abused several children under the guise of his charitable foundation geared toward at-risk boys.

"Those who believe in the man must defend him; those who believe the charges are compelled to crucify him," Jones wrote in the column. "I believe doing neither would be the better option right now, for both practical and philosophical reasons."

As a liberal, I love a good nuance as much as anyone, but Jones' column begs a question:

How would he feel if the attorney general were charging some guy accused of using the Internet to lure boys to the mall so he could kidnap and rape them instead of a renowned former defensive coordinator for one of college football's most storied programs?

And that's an important distinction, because it speaks to whether Jerry Sandusky is entitled to a greater presumption of innocence than some suspected pervert accused of using his computer to prey on kids after his wife goes to sleep.

Not to get all journo-snotty, but columns like this is why the sports desk sometimes gets called the "toys and games" department. I came into this business through the sports department, and I'd ultimately like to return to it someday.

But I'm a news reporter these days, with an emphasis on police and court reporting. Unless Jones has some news experience - and his Patriot-News bio indicates that he doesn't - it probably wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that I read more criminal complaints last month than he's seen his entire career.

That’s important, because Jones’ discomfort over this story being thrust upon him is evident in every word of his column last Sunday.

And while I can't claim a first-place national Associated Press Sports Editors' column-writing award, as Jones can, I did win a first-place Keystone Award from the Pennsylvania Newspapers Association for column writing (circ. 20,000 and under) a few years ago.

From this perspective, Jones' column sounds less like the words of a journalist and more like those of a fan who hopes to limit the damage this scandal does to the Penn State football program and Joe Paterno's legacy.

I'll take Jones at his word when he says it's never as simple as good and evil. So maybe he would say the same thing if we were talking about some random sex crime suspect.

But all too often, the cries of “let’s allow the justice system to run its course,” morphs into “it’s ancient history, let’s let it go” without first stopping at “let’s hold the guilty accountable.”

If the criminal complaint is accurate, we're here right now because Penn State officials declined to take sides nearly a decade ago. Maybe "good" and "evil" overstates the situation slightly, but the words "criminal" and "victim," by their very definition, fit here.

We have reached this point because too many people at Penn State – Mike McQueary, Joe Paterno, athletic director Tim Curley, now-former vice president Gary Schultz – refused to choose sides.

Often, neutrality isn’t neutral. As the great Canadian sage Geddy Lee once sang, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

And that kind of choice protects the criminals at the expense of victims.