Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rewriting a Legacy

There is a special place in hell for people who abuse children. And if former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky is convicted or eventually pleads guilty to any of the crimes of which he is accused, I have faith that he will be adequately punished. As for Sandusky's friend and former boss, please spare us the concern over Joe Paterno's legacy. He's done this to himself.

He chose loyalty to a friend, and to his beloved football program over the safety of children. For that, he is a disgrace. For that, he deserves for the scandal now rocking Penn State University and its football program to be his legacy. Not his record number of wins. Not his two national championships. Not the so-called "clean program" he's run for the better part of a half century

When helpless, innocent, abused children needed "Joe Pa" he turned tail and ran behind university officials. Procedure. For that, he doesn't deserve to be called "Joe Pa" anymore. "Pa" is what some people call their dads. And dads are supposed to love and protect children at all costs, at the expense of themselves.

What parent in their right mind wouldn't have gone to the authorities themselves when they heard of this news? But Joe wasn't in his right mind. He was blinded. He was looking out for The Program at the expense of children. This is what happens when we canonize football coaches and other sports and political figures. When we put them on pedestals and hold them in such high regard. We think they are above reproach. We think something like this is unimaginable. And it is. That's what makes it so horrific. So tragic.

Shame on him. After learning of an alleged sexual attack in the Penn State football facility, Paterno didn't call police. He called university officials. He washed his hands of the matter. That was almost a decade ago. Wouldn't someone who gave a damn ask a follow up, "Hey, whatever happened to that thing I told you about with that guy?"

And shame on the fans who seem to care more about a football team who has a big game on Saturday and were chanting "Let Joe Stay" during what amounted to a bizarre, disturbing and very misguided pep rally outside of his house last night. This is about so much more than the emblem on your cap.

There is not a parent who is even remotely aware of this story who is not sick about it. It cuts you to your core, steals your sense of security, erodes your confidence in the system. The next time someone - anyone - comes into a home to recruit your child to play a sport at a school, how could it not make you think? That if something so awful could happen at this place with this icon in charge, it could happen anywhere.

Especially when it turns out that icon betrayed the trust of parents and showed such blatant disregard for the safety of children.

Eventually, the hysteria will die down. All of the facts will come out. One way or another, justice will be served. But for now, doubt, disgust, and fear exist in something that was once a source of pride, tradition, and joy.

And THAT will be Joe Paterno's legacy.

17 comments:

  1. I have been literally sick / shaking / sad / homicidal and incredibly outraged by this. I had a long conversation with my wife last night about I don't know why this one got to me so much, but it did. I think its partly because as someone nearing 40, this should be shocking, but it really isn't. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. And the way its unfolding is just so predictable.
    Penn State is now launching an official inquiry. Thats bullshit, there is a grand jury already deciding everyone's fate. All the official inquiry from PSU does is try to throw a smoke screen of 'doing the right thing' while buying time for football season to end so they can issue a press release that Paterno retires at 11:59 on a Friday night when no one is looking. Too late for inquiry, the feds are all over it.
    And now you have random coaches who refuse to break the fraternal bond of coaches saying crap like, "well I don't know the exact story, but I do know Joe Pa is a good guy". Its the catholic church all over again. Instead of turning a child molestor over to the police, they gave him a new parrish. The accused was told, you can use our facilities, just don't bring any kids with you (wink and nod). WTF? They know he shouldn't have kids with them, but don't say anything? And he was still allowed to take kids to auxillary campuses.
    And then there is the media. This too is playing out exactly as you may think. ESPN - who has a contractual agreement with the Big 10 was very slow on coverage and very guarded in their stories. But as the story gains steam to whatever conclusion comes up, they will jump on the bandwagon. SI.com however, does not have any contractual obligations to the Big 10 and their writers have been all over the story since it first broke. And not just 'covering it', but passing judgement and showing the courage to call someone out.
    Sorry for taking up so much space, but this has really just touched a nerve. I coach 2 under 8 soccer teams and am terrified to hug someone's child after a great play for fear of being thought a creep.
    And now I just don't even know if I can support the football machine. The schools make tens of millions off the backs of poor kids who don't get to play, the put institutions above children, its just so seedy. And Monday night after staring numbly at my computer reading story after story, I turn it off, turn on the TV and there's the dog killer Michael Vick winking at the camera. I looked for something to throw at my tv.
    If you haven't read it, here's a great piece from SI
    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/andy_staples/11/08/penn-state-joe-paterno-scandal/index.html?eref=sihp&sct=hp_t11_a2

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  2. You're right on all points, Bob. And as a journalist myself, I know that ESPN can not be taken seriously as a news organization at any time, especially in times like this. They are purely in the business of promoting themselves.

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  3. I don't believe in hell, so I hope that our justice system punishes those found guilty appropriately - and anyone who abuses those less powerful than they are - children especially - should be glad that I'm not king of the world at those times.

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  4. @daddy - ESPN has gone from giving sportslovers what they want, sports all the time, to totally ruining sports - influencing conference realignment, protecting those in power, etc...
    Sorry for hijacking your blog earlier. cheers

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  5. So tragic. So much talk about the coaches and Penn State. What about the kids that were abused and their families? If 9 have come forward, how many more are out there? Many will probably just not come forward. All these lives, forever changed. As a parent, it makes me hug my children tighter and dread letting them out of my sight. My prayers go out to all the victims and their families.

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  6. I live here in State College, I'm an alum of PSU, and I couldn't have said that any better.

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  7. Im so sick about this and it pisses me off to no end. Growing up watching this guy, I would have loved to have played for him and would have loved to have my kids played for him. NOW, I dont even want to look at this guy. Any of them. I bet if that were Piece O' SHit Pa's kids he would have acted more. If it were the Deans kids or the University Pres' kids they would have acted different. This whole cover up and lets try to make Joe look somewhat decent is so disgusting.

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  8. I have just one question.....

    Why isn't the same amount of hate and venom being spewed in the direction of the graduate assistant who WITNESSED the abuse and (from what I have read) did not call the police?

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  9. You're absolutely right, Amy (Non-Stop Mom). McQueary deserves just as much if not more criticism. He was even more of a coward than Paterno. I did include him in the original verision of this post, but chose to edit that part out for length and keep it to Paterno. Trust me... I have just as much venom for him than I do Paterno.

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  10. Well said. You don't have to be a parent to be disgusted and saddened by this. But as a parent of two little boys, it makes me afraid to ever leave them alone. Seriously, this made me physically ill when I heard about it.

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  11. After reading so many comments i've decided to come foward about this issue. Perhaps i can give it a perspective that no one else can

    I am nearly 53 years old. I was 10 years old back in 1969 when i was raped by a neighbor who lured me into his basement to fix my bicycle. It was 2 years before i even spoke about this to an adult. I confided in several adults before i told my parents. Now granted it was 1971 and it was a different time. My parents didn't want to call the police but at the urging of a few (but not all) people they did. The police weren't really interested but they did "speak" to the man who did this to me. Afterward this led to 2 years of being tortured by students (once they found out). My parents solution was to sell the house and move. We never spoke of this again. Some adults just did not want to believe. I had no witnesses however within days several other kids came foward. While he never was arrested his family pretty much disowned him. These were the days before lawsuits.

    My perspective is different than most. Frankly and honestly i have mixed feelings about Paterno. No doubt he made the wrong decision. He chose to save himself and Penn State ahead of those poor boys. He has to live with that now. Sometimes people hope this sort of stuff just goes away...maybe at some level he didn't really believe it..i don't know. And make no mistake every one in University Park and for that matter every college official in the state of Pennsylvania knew Jerry Sandusky was a pedofile. The police knew it. The campus staff knew it..they all knew what kind of a piece of shit he was..and they all kept silent.

    You might think that as someone who was victimized by a pedofile that i would have a ton of anger here. At Sandusky there is a special place in hell for him..he is not worth even discussing. To the others i have some sympathy as they found themselves in positions that they might never have imagined. For Paterno a lifetime of love of football and sharing it with others and a great legacy...destroyed. To every witness is the knowledge that they knew there was evil around them and remained silent allowing the evil to continue.

    As for the victims there is hope that they will be able to put this behind them and get on with their lives. I did it alone, they will hopefully have help to move on.

    And for those of you who say how you would have done this or that..remember..an entire nation and for that matter an entire world stood silent as nazi's put Jews into the ovens. You can't predict how people will react when faced with evil so hideous that its beyond their comprehension.

    btw i have chosen to be anonymous because i don't want this to define who i am. It was a long time ago and while it marked me, it did not destroy me.

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  12. Since you relinked, I'm going to post here. I don't want to post under my facebook page; Facebook likes to share our comments all over the place, and everyone I know doesn't need to see this.

    This whole thing makes me want to vomit. For months now, I've had to be on guard, ready to change the TV or radio station at a moment's notice. Why? Because my son was raped about a year and a half ago. Every time I hear this story, he's triggered, and suddenly I have to help a raging, spitting, hysterical little boy. I've gotten into fights over this with people who don't think that 10-year-olds qualify as little boys. Shit, I'm triggered by this, I'm crying even as I type this. That rat bastard makes me so sick, that he could stand by and let this happen, just like my son's grandmother did. I didn't find out until months after it happened and she knew. To the anonymous person above me -- I just can't have sympathy for anyone who would let this happen. Who ever expects to be placed in this situation? It's how you act in the unexpected difficult situations that define you. Kind of like the saying about, if you want to know the real measure of a man, see how he treats those below him, not those above him.

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    1. Thank you for sharing what is obviously a very personal, difficult story to tell. Your wish to be anonymous is understandable. I could only hope that one day you and your son can somehow find peace and have your faith in humanity restored. Sending thoughts, prayers and strength.

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  13. My comment/inquiry is trivial compared to the two previous comments...I can't even begin to imagine the pain of a victim or as the parent of a victim. My thoughts are with them.

    Regarding the above blog post, it was spot on in November and remains so today.

    Just wondering if you also posted a blog with your thoughts regarding Bernie Fine from your alma mater and those who knew but did not report to police (namely, his spouse and ESPN) about his alleged molestations of 2 former Syracuse University ball boys.

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    1. No I did not. I wrote one, but never published it. But I have said in private that if it is ever revealed that Jim Boeheim or anyone at the University knew something was going on like Paterno at Penn State, I would no longer support the team. We bleed Orange in our house and love the basketball team. I continue to support it and Boeheim. Based on what has come out, and his initial reaction and his reaction since, I have no reason to believe he knew anything. I do find that a little hard to believe , and continue to hope that it's true.

      I think the wole Fine case is as strange as it is disturbing to say the least, and I think ESPN especially acted in appropriately. I hold Boeheim and SU to the same standards I believe PSU alums and fans should do Paterno and that school. If Boeheim is outed as a fraud, and enabler, he and that program are dead to me and I would be embarrassed to wear the SU Orange for a long time.

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