Originally posted June 23, 2012 on IndySportsLegends.com.

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To humans, chameleons have a unique and, honestly, somewhat reviled place in the animal kingdom. And it’s basically because of something they have been genetically engineered to do over millions of years.

The ability to change colors almost on demand serves the little salamander well when looking for the next fly to swallow or avoid some eagle looking for a meal of its own. Turn that trait into human behavior and things change. You don’t hear anybody praising somebody for changing their positions on a given topic — especially when it happens more than once. You just don’t.

There’s something else about chameleons that’s striking, although you may not think of it right away. Chameleons usually have to be in the presence of something much bigger before they can hide themselves, whether it’s for predation or survival.

On Friday, a jury in Pennsylvania made sure a 68-year-old man would spend the rest of his life in prison for sex crimes against young boys. It made no assurances for the futures of those youngsters who were in Jerry Sandusky’s “care” for part of their lives.

In many cases of child sex abuse, a predator has to work around law enforcement (obviously), as well as a significant other (probably) and the prying eyes of others (not usually until it’s far too late). In other words, the chameleon doesn’t have a lot of “big sticks” to hide behind, for the sake of argument.

Sandusky’s case is different in about every way imaginable. His prowess as a football coach was the first big stick — more like the tree itself — because, well, lets face it: he would not have had the access to the youngsters, Second Mile or otherwise, if he wasn’t good at something people follow closely.

Fellow coaches became a branch for the predatory chameleon. So did the Penn State administration. As did the aforementioned Second Mile. It’s not a stretch to say his marriage was another branch, either.

Sandusky hid, but apparently not very well, as Mike McQueary, a Penn State janitor, a trail of Penn State documents and a 2008 investigation can attest. Unfortunately, the big sticks provided some leafy cover for Sandusky to blend back into his surroundings, at least as far as the general public was concerned.

The big sticks, the opportunities to burnish his public persona at the same time teenagers were screaming for help in his basement…

Those big sticks can be something else — a double-edged sword — and for Sandusky, he finally sliced open his dark secret by trying to camouflage his true identity while under investigation for that exact behavior.

In the words of one mother following the verdict, “We all lost.” So, so true. So many failures, so many people who either turned a blind eye, didn’t realize the warning signs or hesitated until it was far too late that it’s hard to wrap your brain around it.

We all lost. It’s a pretty sick feeling, especially after realizing a chameleon was simply doing his thing — right in front of us — for all these years.

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