*I’ll be back to normal next week, but I really couldn't bring myself to write anything else and this is just some shit that needs to be said. I’m not trying to pile on Joe Paterno, just wanted to give the perspective from a guy with obviously low moral values about what I consider to be the worst scandal in sports history.
Penn State Football has been a part of my entire life. Growing up I had family in Pennsylvania who lived for Kerry Collins, Curtis Enis, and Lavar Arrington and when I graduated College I met a lot of great people in DC who would get together every Saturday morning in their White jerseys to cheer on Anthony Morelli, Derrick Williams, and Evan Royster. While the numbers changed on those Blue and White uniforms, there was always that same fixture in his trademark horned rimmed glasses and tie pacing the sideline and barking out orders: Joe Paterno. As the years went by and his interviews grew less and less about the X’s and O’s of football and more about how proud he was of his kids, it became apparent that Joe Paterno had transformed from the mastermind that led the Nittany Lions to those National Championships in the ’80 to a symbol for the University of tradition and doing things the right way. Unfortunately, over the past week, we’ve found out that that tradition and success came at a price.
I’ll be honest, when I first heard about all this scandal, I didn’t think that much of it. I thought there would be an investigation, trial, and Jerry Sandusky would be headed to jail for the rest of his life. Then I actually read the grand jury report, which is by far the most repulsive thing I’ve seen in my lifetime. The mere fact that a human being could do these despicable things to a child is revolting, but the fact that he was caught, given a slap on the wrist and allowed to continue his life as a sexual predator is unforgivable.
The fact of the matter is that Joe Paterno was given details about a middle age man having sex with a 10-year-old boy in a shower in his locker room and he did the minimal amount necessary to stop it. Honestly, I consider this even worse than not reporting a murder because unlike a murder performed in a fit of rage, it’s common knowledge pedophilia is a sickness and the perpetrators will strike again. Right now there are reports of 20 boys who’ve come forward claiming sexual abuse at the hands of Sandusky, and you KNOW there are more out there. Yes, all signs point to the fact that Paterno reported his findings to the proper campus authorities, which then buried the story and will be rightfully punished for their actions, but his hands are not clean. Joe Paterno was the most powerful man perhaps in the entire state of Pennsylvania, whose entire mantra has been about helping young men and doing things the right way, but now he turns his back on arguably the most gruesome crime against man that someone could commit? It’s not illegal, but it’s not right.
Much like the rest of the country, I was shocked by the allegations, and truly felt for the Penn State community. I thought if Paterno hadn’t resigned he would be booed mercilessly in this weekend’s game against Nebraska, but then I heard about the rally on his lawn. Supporters, and I realize they don’t speak for all Penn State students and alumni, gathered on Paterno’s lawn. They chanted his name, made signs, and were even led in multiple “WE ARE PENN STATE” cheers by a giddy Joe Paterno. This was the breaking point.
Listen, I love football and sports altogether as much as anyone, but this week has shown me just how much our vision is clouded by our deification of athletes and coaches altogether. Like it or not, Joe Paterno was indirectly responsibly for the rape of countless boys, and he had to go. The fact that members of the Penn State community continue to violently defend his right to coach this weekend makes me embarrassed to be a sports fan. “But, what’s the harm in letting him stick around for 72 more hours??” No, he’s not going to cause any more children to be raped, but you CAN’T have 100K people giving Joe Paterno a standing ovation on national television. I realize the love everyone in Happy Valley has for Coach Paterno, but you know what this all looks like to an outsider? People valuing and giving more respect to a game and a legacy than the shattered lives of AT LEAST 20 young boys.
Every question screamed at the Board of Trustees last night about letting Paterno stay, why he was told over the phone, or my favorite, “Who’s coaching on Saturday,” represented the same blind eye that Paterno took in dealing with this situation. It scared me to death because even though I realize I could never live with covering up something as truly awful as child rape in favor of a football program, I’m not so sure about some of the people up in State College. And not just at Penn State, College Football powerhouses across the country.
The Penn State riot images and video hitting the Internet today are hard to swallow. I’m the last guy who would talk shit about people getting wasted on the streets, but this wasn’t an upset of the #1 team in the country. Protesting the firing of someone who gave tacit consent to the brutal and repeated rape of children shows ignorance, while sadly and unfairly extending the scandal’s black eye from the administration to the entire student body. Now is not a time for asking “What about me?” or even worse “What about the football team?” It’s “How can we make sure this never happens again?”
WE ARE PENN STATE. For the past 60 years the first image that comes to mind has been Joe Paterno. Recently, Paterno’s become more of a figure head serving as a de-facto King to the Penn State community’s Seven Nation Army. He’s not an evil man, but he’s responsible for whatever goes down on his watch. The groundswell of support for a fallen leader is admirable, but misdirected. Penn State students and alumni have done nothing wrong, however by focusing on a game and not the atrocities within the Grand Jury testimony, you’re spitting in the face of Child Abuse victims across the Nation. Last night video of van toppling, dumpster burning, and general riots broke out across campus, but I know that didn’t represent Penn State as whole. This is a tragedy, but remember the victim here isn’t an 84 year old man who didn’t get to sit in the press box against Nebraska – it’s the disadvantaged kids whose likely only male role model took their vulnerability and used it to crush their innocence. Today, nobody is Penn State – We Are All the Victims.
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