The Most Important Thing Was Sandusky

Submitted by Brian on January 23rd, 2012 at 5:18 PM


You can't throw a rock today without hitting a piece on Joe Paterno, and I'll add my bit. I've read a half-dozen of them and feel myself drawn to the portions that focus on his ignoble demise at the hands of a long-overdue grand jury investigation into Jerry Sandusky. The ones that skip it entirely, as many PSU-based POVs do, or attempt to put it "in perspective" seem to be succumbing to the same disease that felled everyone when Nixon died and people scrambled for good things to say about him other than "he's dead."

Paterno is not Nixon, obviously. Nixon is the most obvious public funeral held in which ill things were not spoken of the dead due to social taboo, rather than reason. I dislike that natural impulse to whitewash. When Christopher Hitchens died I spent a lot of time reading his withering obituaries just to watch him stick the knife in and twist. If that makes me ruthless, okay.

I just can't get over how it all came crashing down. Not only did Paterno and the culture he created shelter Sandusky, Paterno did not seem to feel remorse for half a second. Maybe this is just an addled old man speaking but it is appalling that this came out of his mouth at the impromptu pep rally at his home in the immediate aftermath of the grand jury's testimony:

The kids that were victims or whatever they want to say, I think we all ought to say a prayer for them. Tough life, when people do certain things to you. Anyway, you’ve been great. Everything’s great, all right.

Virtually the entire media edited Paterno's statement into a less awful version because their sense of propriety could not grasp the words that had actually come out of his mouth. This was Joe Paterno. He couldn't have said that. He shouldn't have said anything. He should have been in his house crying to his wife, finally realizing the monstrous consequences of his inaction.

Instead he seemed to think of himself as a victim. A lot of people find ways to blame themselves for massive tragedies they are not responsible for. Paterno was oblivious to his role to the end. Maybe that's forgivable to some people who look at the donations and the football coaching and the Great Experiment. Not me. I have great respect for Chris Grovich of Black Shoe Diaries but I can't read this

Behind Joe Paterno's Beaver Stadium statue are the words, "Educator, Coach, Humanitarian." They really could have been arranged in any order.

…without inserting "child rape enabler" in any order. That phrase overwhelms the rest. If he did lead a program that strove to prove it was capable of operating at a higher plane that just makes it worse. He was held up—he held himself up—as a man who could achieve success on and off the field in a way that others could not.

Maybe any one of us would have done the same thing if confronted by the terrible truth about a long-time friend. Maybe 90% of people would not have had the courage to blow up a reputation so carefully crafted over such a long period. Maybe Joe Paterno was just being human.

That's not enough when you have a statue. Paterno wasn't supposed to be human, he was supposed to be Joe Paterno. He wasn't and now he never was. He had over a decade to do something about Sandusky and did not. That is no mistake, or misjudgment, or error. It is immensely sad, but in the end Paterno failed his charge more spectacularly than a man who dared less would have. You can call him Icarus if you want; I'm not inclined to give him that benefit of the doubt. The costs were not worth the attempt.

The statue is Joe Paterno now. The man is dead. Hopefully the idea behind the statue can help people be better than the man turned out to be.


[Editor's note: Orson and I both go for the statue conceit. We've seen people crying or overturning news vans in its vicinity it every 30 seconds over the past few months, so maybe not a huge surprise.]



January 24th, 2012 at 12:16 PM ^

The public seems to have this yearning to "see and feel" the regret of others for not acting when they could have righted a wrong or for cheating them, etc.   

Is there an apology at all?

And is it genuine enough to satisfy me in this imaginary studio audience of public opinion where Joe Paterno sits opposite all of the many abuse victims, and Oprah Winfrey sitting inbetween?

We want to know all that happened, when, why and whether any demonstrated regret is true. Then Paterno should publicly apologize to the victims for his inaction, and then he should hold each one of them in his arms while he cries uncontrollably.

Except Paterno was a famous college football coach, sports celebrity and a child rapist enabler. An now he's dead.  The entire weight inner guilt ravaged his health and expedited his trip to morgue.  No apology will be forthcoming.

Right now I don't really care about Joe Paterno or PSU fans and their sensibilities about these events. I don't care about the public's sense of entitlement to an apology either. The only thing the public is entitled to at this late stage is prosecution and justice. Apologies are worthless now.

Somewhere out there is a significant group of young men are making their way through life as best they can.  They grew up in an instable family life most of us cannot  even imagine, with an MIA father or a drug-dependent mother or worse.  Then the only father they did know either tried  to or succeeded to forcible violate them sexually on a repeated basis.   I can't even begin to comprehend what that must have been like. I don't even want to imagine it, except we really should, because Paterno  forced it all out of his head too so that doing and saying nothing was somehow "ok".

To hell with the accolades and obituary bullshit. And fuck you audience of Oprah Winfrey! Joe Paterno had a very good life.  As for the young men, research tells us there is no reconciliation and no happy ending.




January 24th, 2012 at 12:54 PM ^

This is an excellent post, and is catharctic to read, because I've been feeling guilty at my visceral reaction to most all of these Paterno obits:  they all taste like cotton candy and fried dough at the carnival --   phony, sugary, and bad for you.

I work off the premise that very few people are all bad; most are "layered."  Joe certainly had faults, we know now. But I have several major problems: 1) his actions didn't show just one fault. He didn't "fail to act" just once. He failed for at least ten years. And every day, every year, was one failure to act. Ten years of daily failures to act is alot of failure.; 2) the overwhleming evidence shows it was a deliberate decision by him to hide and coverup; 3) He is just plain Full of S___ when he told Sally Jenkins that "he didn't know about rape of a boy by a man."  It's just a lie, and a very amateurish one; so rinky dink that it stains every other part of his stack of excuses, which are all, in that light, just lame.

Why do I say he's FOS?:  Look at when the Boston Globe pedophile priest scandal blew up: Jan 2, Jan 7, Jan 31, all of February, and March of 2002. And those stories were ALL over the national press. Newsweek had Cardinal Law on its' cover on Marc 7, 2002, with a headline about 80 victims of pedophile priests.  AND, McQueary went to Joe with his bombshell eyewitness account of Sandusky in the shower with a ten year old on MARCH 2, 2002!!!  And the Globe published 900 articles on priest pedophiles over hte following 13 months. That news was EVERYWHERE. There is NO WAY that Joe couldn't have understood pedophilia. (C'mon, anyways, a kid from the streets of tough Brooklyn in the '40's?)

Many, many deliberate failures and then a big cheesy lie. But one other point needs to be made, and it's one which leads to Bo Schembechler. Both Tressel and Jo Pa lied through their teeth to cover up. And both used similar pathetic excuses: I didn't know what to do; II' didn't want to screw up procedures; I was scared.  All excuses, I will contend, of cowards, not leaders.

Sorry, I think if McQueary had been reporting to Bo on March 2, 2002, Bo would've blown a gasket, been out of his mind, and on the phone to the Univ President and the cops in SECONDS, with no b.s. from anyone. That's a leader who ought to have a 7-foot statue. Not Jo Pa..





January 29th, 2012 at 10:05 AM ^

sorted out my feelings, put them on Baco's blog, cut and pasted below

should add, anything less, anything less, endorses evil.

The Paterno image must be shattered, it is for God to judge the man.

Reconciling the good with the bad.



No, how many of us can reconcile the Jekyll and Hyde sides of our own character?


"Judge not, lest ye not be judged."

However, I think he must be judged, strongly, and negatively, and permanently.

I don't care if he raised 100 billion dollars and cured cancer, the buck at Penn State stopped at his desk and he passed it, when the authority and gravitas and larger than life personality and power, that he created, made him THE guy with the responsibility to PROTECT THE INNOCENT.

What would Bo do?

Does anyone have to think about it?

What generation does not understand that there is NO acceptable reason for a naked 50 plus year old man to be in a shower naked with a 12 year old boy?

End of story.

Out, now, banned, referred to law enforcement, all his actions from birth on investigated, the parents of every minor you could find in the files on Sandusky contacted and informed.

Well, privacy and blah, blah, blah.

Informed that the SOB was naked in the shower with a naked kid, he did not even deny that, did he?

Even the above scenario is too slow; this should have been done at the first report.

This is the Catholic church scandal all over again.  Cover up by the higher ups.

That is why Paterno should be made an example of, to deter the next legend, and everyone in a position of authority, that your reputation is RUINED forever for this kind of negligence.

That you, the boss, are responsible, and, accountable.

I am dead serious.

The name of the library should be changed, and the statue toppled.