The legendary coach Paterno was undone by his failure to live up to the expectations he established for his university, his football program, and most importantly, himself. Penn State needed a legendary leader in 2002. They got a passive legend instead.
When John P Surma, Vice Chairman of the Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees, announced Joe Paterno was relieved of his duties as head coach of the Penn State football team, he and the Board of Trustees instantly became public enemy #1 in the delusional world of Penn State students and lunatic football fans.
Paterno was not innocent in this mess. As the man in charge, he’s as responsible for what goes on within his football program as the ones committing the acts. Obviously not on a criminal level, but from the school’s perspective, everything traces back to Paterno. Jim Tressel was fired for knowing about NCAA infractions and taking minimum to no action in alerting school officials about the situation. There was little fuss when Tressel got canned. Paterno declined to alert authorities that kids were being molested and raped inside his own locker room, and when he got fired for essentially ignoring the well being and innocence of children, people were outraged. Huh?
When did we start valuing 409 college football victories more than the lives of children? Does donating enough money for an entire library give a man a lifetime pass for any and all future sins? Who the **** cares that Paterno was fired via a phone call and not a ticker-tape parade down College Ave. He didn’t deserve better. Those children did.
Paterno made his bed nine years ago when he chose to do as little as possible to protect his town, his university, and his football program from the marauding of an old, perverted man. Joe Paterno made that call, not the Board of Trustees.
Paterno supporters can scream all they want about how he went to his Athletic Director with the information he was presented. They can cry about how Paterno met his legal obligations. Correct. He did.
But what did Paterno do after Tim Curley (the AD) didn’t go to the proper authorities? Did Paterno just assume Curley was a world-class investigator? What would you do if you went to your boss to report a case of child abuse and days later you learned he/she did nothing? Wouldn’t you go to him/her again, and then to the authorities if he/she continually ignored the situation? Or, at the very least, why did Paterno still allow Jerry Sandusky within 100 miles of his football program after an eyewitness (whom Paterno obviously trusted enough to keep on his staff) saw Sandusky raping a child? People can twist the situation to try and protect Paterno, but it won’t work. It took 409 wins to build the legend of Joe Paterno and one bad decision to send it crumbling to the ground.
Has Paterno unfairly become the focus of this tragedy? Absolutely. But that’s the way it works when you’re a larger-than-life figure at one of the country’s most notorious universities. As my dad often reminds me, “To whom much is given, much is required.” Paterno, for some inexplicable reason, acted to protect his colleagues instead of the victims, and because of his failure to act, the lives of several more children were ruined. Did the idiots causing mayhem on College Ave in State College think about those victims before rioting on Paterno’s behalf? Did those spewing venom at the press conference even consider Paterno dug his own grave before they viciously attacked Surma and the Board? No, of course not. Those rabid Paterno apologists were more concerned with a football program and the legacy of a man, a man who obviously was more talk than walk.
There’s no honor in ignoring children in desperate need of a voice. There’s no honor in ignoring evil; whether child abuse, an A.D. ignoring civic duty, or permitting a repeatedly accused child molester to visit your facilities with UNDERAGE CHILDREN. There are no excuses, either.
In the closing scene of A Few Good Men, two Marines were found not guilty of murdering a fellow Marine because the death was ruled accidental and the Marines were following orders. However, both Marines were dishonorably discharged. The younger, more ignorant marine looked at his legal counsel and cried, “What did we do wrong? What did we do wrong? We did nothing wrong!” At that moment, the older, more enlightened Marine somberly admitted, “Yeah we did. We were supposed to fight for people who couldn’t fight for themselves. We were supposed to fight for Willie.”
Joe Paterno was supposed to fight for those innocent children. Instead, he followed orders and fell in line. He deserved to lose his job. He deserved that lousy phone call. Those children didn’t deserve his passivity.
Nicely said. The use of the “A Few Good Men” line was especially insightful. I liken it even to Spiderman’s “with great power comes great responsibility” quote. JoePa had all the power on that campus but wanted nothing to do with the responsibility. He shouldn’t be the focus, but he deserves a share of the moral blame because he failed to do what he is on campus to do, honor and uphold the safety of all those under his watch.