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A Graceless Age - Thoughts regarding Joe Paterno in the Sandusky Scandal
I just caught wind of the scandal involving Joe Paterno today and it made me very sad. Friend and opponent alike have only had good things to say about Joe Paterno, until recently. He has been noted as a great coach and a model of uprightness in college football. The 84-year-old man has been a sort of moral pillar in the football scene for decades, but in a matter of days his, and his family’s, entire lives have been turned upside down. Earlier I saw footage of Joe Paterno having to push his way through a sea of reporters to get from his front door to his car on Tuesday morning. All because of something he did 9 years ago, or rather; something he didn’t do.
I by no means am making light of what actually happened, it is a horribly sad situation. When I first saw all of the hype on the T.V. at the gym this morning I thought that Paterno was the man convicted of sexually abusing children. That to me was very sad and very serious and I could understand why so many people are outraged by his actions. But when I heard, that on the contrary, he was being blamed for his inaction or his imperfect action I was shocked. The aforementioned inaction being that Joe Paterno did not report Sandusky to the police when a college assistant notified him that he had witnessed Sandusky sexually abusing a child the day before.
The truth of the matter is that Joe Paterno did take the issue to not one, but two of his superiors in the college. Beyond this, Paterno did not know the extent of the abuse, and the man, who was so devoted to football, likely trusted that the officials above him would appropriately handle the situation and returned to his work.
Many will say that they would have reported Sandusky directly to the police and because Joe Paterno is not exactly like them he is a vile, base creature. The truth is that many who have judged in hindsight, would not have, in the fog of the moment, reported Sandusky to the police. Others would, in fact, have reported Sandusky directly to the police and for that I commend them, but for their treatment of Joe Paterno I have no commendation.
As this story pans out I am reminded of a documentary about the African Sahara I saw a few years ago. I watched as a mile in the air a group of vultures circled sensing that blood would be shed below. On the ground below, a pride of lions had felled two water buffalos. The lions began to ravenously benefit from their hard work, but the vultures spiraled down shortly after and claimed one of the carcasses for themselves.
The media, and the general populace in tow, seem to hover far above the ground waiting; waiting for someone to slip up. As soon as this happens, they fall upon the person and tear the helpless being to shreds. In the scandal we are presently addressing, have you stopped at all to wonder why Jerry Sandusky instead of Joe Paterno is not the focus of the media? Have you thought for yourself and asked why the college assistant who was an eyewitness of the abuse is justified by reporting the incident to Joe Paterno instead of the police, but Joe Paterno is incriminated for reporting the incident to not one, but two officials above him instead of the police. I would suggest that it is because the law, the lions of our imperfect analogy, already got to Sandusky and because the college assistant is not the poster-boy of morality and virtue in college football.
Please, don’t absent-mindedly accept what you hear. Don’t follow the current that is all too happy to tear Paterno down because he comes from a position higher than many others. When in fact the very people that have elevated Paterno (who himself simply lived his life as a successful coach and a good man without asking for publicity) to such a high position are the first to turn on him and devour him at the slightest of moral slips.
If you feel that Joe Paterno is at serious fault for not reporting Sandusky to the police, I understand, but I would bring one more thought to your attention: To those who feel he is guilty of a heinous crime and are Christian, I would ask this: What about mercy and forgiveness? And to those of you in this category who are glad to be labeled as anything but Christian I would ask this: What about mercy and forgiveness?
How much longer will we forget to think of how we would feel if we were Joe Paterno at this moment? When will we imagine the outrage we would feel if Joe Paterno was our grandfather and we knew personally just how amazing a man he really is? Think for a moment: Would it hurt to give the man a break?