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.


Anonymous said...

Great Story Lisa !!!

Bill Ivie, Jr. said...

I find it funny. Shortly after 9/11 our president stated that the United States would see no difference in terrorists and countries that harbor them. If you hide a terrorist, it is as bad as being one yourself. I (and most Americans) agree with this statement.

But a child molester is hidden in a college football program and people want to be upset that JoePa is going down for not doing something about it? He protected him. That makes him just as bad as the person performing the act.

The Omnipotent Q said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Uncle Mike said...

Paterno should be arrested as an accessory. Then he WILL make one phone call.

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