Arrogance and Blindness lead to Horror and Outrage, a Penn State saga

I begin writing this at 2:35 EST Wednesday afternoon, knowing that by the time I finish, this sordid story will take another horrifying twist or embarrassing turn.

The furor surrounding Jerry Sandusky’s alleged evil has turned its focus to the iconic head coach Joe Paterno.  JoePa deserves all the attention right now, and then some. We’ll get to that.

First though, I can’t stop thinking about the boys, the victims.  And please, Penn State fans chanting “Joe Must Stay!” remember, Paterno is not a victim.

Joe Paterno: courtesy Patriot-News

Boys aged 8 to 11, numbering at least 9 right now, have allegedly been assaulted.  And given that these children have no ulterior motive, and an eyewitness account comes from PSU assistant coach Mike McQueary, and Sandusky was overheard by police in 1998 apologizing to a mother of a victim, I think we can safely assume some manner of actual malfeasance occurred.

I don’t believe you have to be a parent to properly sympathize with the victims, but as a father of three small children, this story eats at my soul.  I am so sad for kids that may never come close to reaching their full potential because they have lost the ability to wholly trust..  We all lose our innocence at some point, but to have it ripped away in the most personal and violent manner breaks my heart.

The legal process will dole out punishment in due time. The moral process however endures no such time constraints.

Jerry Sandusky, if guilty of a tenth of his alleged crimes, will rot in prison.  He is vermin that deserves far worse, and is worthy of discussion no more.

Joe Paterno  though, earns much more discussion.  Today he fights to leave Penn State in the manner he feels entitled.  Damn the fact that his willful blindness allowed Sandusky’s alleged crimes to continue.

Paterno, after not meeting with the media this week (I don’t care who said a press conference was canceled, if the lord of Happy Valley wants to talk to the media he can) issued a statement today:

“This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more. My goals now are to keep my commitments to my players and staff and finish the season with dignity and determination. And then I will spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to help this university.”

I wanted to hear from Paterno in the hopes I had misjudged his potential role in this debacle.  I couldn’t find a reason to think a man of his stature, the most powerful person in State College, would hide behind “protocol” when it came to the rape of a child.  I hoped he could offer some explanation that made sense.

Instead we read of hindsight.  What more did he need to see? If you believe the grand jury testimony from Mike McQueary, his former quarterback while badly shaken told Paterno how his former defensive coordinator raped a 10 year old boy.  If you just believe Paterno, McQueary was a shaken mess telling him a story of “something” between Sandusky and a 10 year old boy in a shower?

Paterno then reports to Athletics Directory Tim Curry his tale from McQueary, washes his hands, and puts the blinders back on.  I guess it makes sense that he needed hindsight as Paterno had his eyes closed for 9 years.

The end of Paterno’s statement crystalizes the myopic world in which he lives. When done as coach, he will focus his efforts on making Penn State better.  How about focusing efforts on the children Paterno allegedly allowed to be sexually abused because he kept his mouth shut?

I still can’t fathom how someone seemingly so obsessed with doing things the right way would turn his back on child abuse.  My wife, who often sees things on a grander scale than me, offered not an excuse, but a possible explanation.

She brought up the fact that Paterno was raised in a time when things like sexual abuse simply weren’t discussed. The rape of a boy was terrible, but more importantly, shameful.

I immediately thought sure, but this is 2011.  These kinds of horrors are no longer to be ignored.  But think harder Pete.  The campus of Penn State and the region have changed relatively little since 1966 when Joe Paterno became head coach. It is a small, insular community run by a beloved and seemingly benevolent football dictator.  The only change to his fiefdom came in the number of seats at Beaver Stadium and the budget for his football program.

The reason though matters little to the boys who suffered at the hands of a vile predator, and the institution that ignored his crimes.

That’s why Joe Paterno should not retire at the end of the season, but be fired right now.  His willful blindness and chosen ignorance betrayed all the things he claims to hold dear.   Paterno wants to go out on his terms.  With a career that reaches into six decades I can understand that desire.  That however is a right he forfeited by choosing the protection of Penn State’s “Happy Valley” image over the safety of children.


2 Responses

  1. Completely agree with you! Paterno needs to go and needs to go now!

  2. I don’t think that anyone has been more eloquent about this whole situation. Your article truly touches my heart. Your outrage and emotions are obvious and all that you say could not have been said better. Thank you!

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