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Friday, November 11, 2011

On Joe Paterno, Responsibility, and Hero Worship

I'm gonna switch Squawker gears here today and talk about the whole Joe Paterno/Penn State issue, because I think the whole thing says a lot about what it means to be a fan.

Some people think Wednesday, the day when Penn State fired Joe Paterno after he announced that he would resign after the end of the season, was a sad day. I don't. I think it was a good day. I was glad to see that JoePa did not get to go out on his own terms, and that he was fired for what he allowed to happen on his watch. As somebody who went to Catholic schools from K to 12, I am glad to see somebody who enabled pedophilia finally get a little punishment, even if it pales in comparison to what the victims went through.

My brothers went to a Catholic high school where the priest molested a slew of young boys over many years. He used the power of his office to get his way, and also used an RV and a beach house paid for by his parishoners as lures. When one of the families, who was from Colombia, complained and threatened to go to the police over the priest molesting their young son, the school's principal, who was also a nun, threatened to have the family deported if they told the cops. The bishop in charge eventually moved the priest to another parish, where he got to have another 20 years of being a sexual predator before he finally got forced out of the priesthood. So yeah, I feel pretty strongly about this issue, and about what I think of those who enable pedophiles.

Anyhow, I really have been fired up on the whole Paterno story, as those who follow me on Facebook know! Here's the thing -- growing up in New Jersey, where Penn State was even more of a huge deal than the rest of the country, I've been hearing literally my whole life about how Joe Paterno wasn't just a great college coach, but a great human being. How, as New York Times writer Jonathan Mahler notes, Paterno's "Grand Experiment" put a premium on character and education, and believed in "Success With Honor. How Paterno was a leader of men. How he was Penn State. How he was so powerful that he could tell the school president and the athletic director and the board of trustees that he would stay as coach as long as he wanted to. How he controlled the school and the area with an iron fist.

And now we are supposed to believe, according to his sycophants, that the great Joe Paterno is really just like some mid-level bureaucrat who was only following the chain of command when it came to reporting sexual abuse? Whose hands were tied when it came to protecting children from being anally raped in his own locker room? Are you flipping kidding me? Paterno was the most powerful man not just in college sports, but one of the most powerful men in the country. He counted presidents as personal friends. All he literally had to do was make one phone call to the cops about Jerry Sandusky, and his old coach would have been in handcuffs a decade ago, instead of going on to be in a position to molest many more children.

Paterno's story that he only knew of one incident involving Sandusky also defies credulity. You don't get to the top of the food chain -- and stay there -- without knowing everything going on around you. Besides, I cannot believe that it is just a coincidence that in 1999, the year after police investigated Sandusky for the first time he was reported for groping a young boy in the shower, that Paterno told his protege and would-be successor that he would never be head coach. Why did Sandusky then retire at the age of 55, and never work for another college football program again? And no, I don't believe Scott Paterno's story that his father told Sandusky he could never be head coach because he was too devoted to his foundation. Oh, please!

Anyhow, even if want to stick your fingers in your ears and pretend that Paterno only knew about one case, the 2002 anal rape of a 10-year-old in Paterno's athletic center's shower, and that his graduate assistant supposedly downplayed the graphic details of what actually happened, the fact is, as Paterno admitted to the grand jury, that he knew that "something of a sexual nature" happened with his old coach and a young boy. And that Paterno, other than some perfunctory mention up the chain of command, never called the police, never asked his graduate assistant for more details, never asked Sandusky what happened, and never even attempted to find out who the boy was.

For the next decade, Paterno went to bed every night knowing that his old coach was around young boys all the time, at Sandusky's foundation for at-risk boys, at his home, with the children he adopted, at schools, at his coaching camps, run on Penn State satellite campus. He also let Sandusky himself have an office on the Penn State campus, and his old coach was seen in his locker room working out just last week. If you knew for a fact, as Paterno did, that somebody you knew was a child molestor, and you had the power to stop them, would you be okay with letting them be around children?

Not to mention that Jerry Sandusky was able to get so much access to children precisely because he was connected to Paterno's Penn State program. He took his victims to Penn State games and events, for goodness sake! And JoePa was okay with that?

I just don't understand the Penn State students rioting over Paterno being fired, or the sycophants defending him. Because when it comes down to it, it ultimately doesn't matter how good a coach Paterno was, or how many young men he did help in his career. He didn't help the vulnerable boys who needed his help the most. How many children were molested because Joe Paterno chose not to act on what he knew? One is too many.

As much as I root for A-Rod, and as much as I admire and appreciate Vince Young and Mack Brown for bringing my Texas Longhorns their first national championship in 35 years, you'd better believe I would be marching in the street against them if they did anything to enable a pedophile.

Real life should come before sports. And the lives of young boys should come before Joe Paterno's career. He didn't deserve to get a flipping victory lap after what he did -- make that didn't -- do. 
 
Put aside the hero worship, or the appreciation for Joe Paterno as a coach. When it comes down to it, he is a man who enabled a pedophile to wreak havoc on countless boys' lives. He is no better than those bishops and nuns who looked the other way when priests took away the innocence of young children. Paterno has had a great 84 years of life. How great have the lives been of all the young boys who were sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky, his old coach? And how many of those acts of abuse could have been prevented, if only the great Joe Paterno had made one phone call? Think about it.


Tell us what you think.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Oh, Great. Brian Cashman Is Back for More

Now that Brian Cashman has been re-signed as Yankees GM, shortly after making a deal with CC Sabatahia, I have one request for him: To shut up about how oh-so-tough it is to be general manager of the New York Yankees. Boo bleeding hoo. Enough already. If the job is sooooo much for poor Brian to handle, then he should have taken his talents to St. Louis, or to Anaheim, or to Boston, or to Chicago. Oh, wait, he was never actually in the running for the Cubs job, now held by Theo Epstein. The talk that he was in the running there, like the talk that the Red Sox were considering him, was just media-driven fluff to make him see like he was in demand. Sheesh.

At any rate, I don't think I can bear to hear another three years of Cashman talk about how stressful and difficult his job is. So I really hope he quits his whining.

You know what's really stressful? Being unemployed. Trying to figure out how to pay your bills when you have too much month left at the end of your money. Being outsourced. There are millions of Americans suffering right now in this country's poor economic state. I have empathy for them. For Brian Cashman, who is the 1% when it comes to MLB management, not so much.

And by the way, can we please, please get rid of the myth that working for the Yankees is infinitely tougher than any other team, because every season is supposedly considered a failure if the Yankees don't win it all? Our enemies in Boston actually stick to that more than the Yankees do -- Terry Francona was essentially shown the door, and Theo Epstein was given a strong hint to take his own talents to Chi-Town, only after they brought two World Series titles to a team waiting since 1918 for another World Series championship. The team's September collapse this year made heads roll, the way heads should have rolled in the Bronx after the 2004 collapse.

Meanwhile, back in the Bronx, the franchise that claims that any season without a title is a failure just re-signed a GM who has brought the team exactly one ring since 2000.

The email I got from Yankees.com regardng bringing Cashman back emphasizes how the Yankees "have earned a postseason berth in 13 of his 14 seasons as GM," and notes that Cashman's "feat of reaching the playoffs in each of his first 10 seasons (1998-2007) remains unmatched in Baseball history." But, but, aren't those seasons all failures if there's not a ring involved?

Look, as I noted after the Yankees lost in the postseason this year, I thought it was ridiculous for fans to flip out over it, given that the Yanks won the World Series just two years ago, and I also thought Randy Levine's "failure" rhetoric was obnoxious. But at the same time, I really want to see this franchise stop with that myth that anything short of a title is a failure. Because it's inconsistent, given that Levine still has a job, and Lonn Trost, and, yes, Brian Cashman. And you can't have it both ways -- bragging about making it to the postseason each year, at the same time you're calling those years failures. Which one is it?

What do you think? Tell us about it!