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Joe Paterno's Only Legacy Is Failure

Updated on November 10, 2011

November 9, 2011

I don't keep up with sports, but I do keep up with the news, and recently I've been keeping up with the developing story of Penn State's Joe Paterno whose former assistant coach allegedly had been sexually abusing boys for several years. This may make me sound like an idiot, but if you were to have spoken Joe Paterno's name to me just mere days ago, I wouldn't have had the foggiest idea who you were talking about.

"Joe who?"

His words, which he made in a written statement announcing that he will retire at the end of the season struck me. In it he said, "My goal is to keep my commitments to the college players and staff and to finish the season with dignity and determination."

Excuse me while I take a pause to scratch my head. Let me just roll those two words around for a second. Dignity and determination.

To his credit, he did also acknowledge that he didn't do enough. Let's be clear that could well be an understatement. He stated that he wished he had done more in light of what we now know he apparently knew was going on behind closed doors. All fine and dandy. He went on to say that he went to work each day with a clear goal to serve the best interests of the University and the young men who had been entrusted to his care. Okay. I 'spose so. It certainly looks good on paper.

My question is, how does covering up sexual abuse accomplish those goals? How do you go to work each day with knowlege of ten-year-old boys being molested in showers by your assistant coach, and accomplish that, let alone sleep at night? Okay, maybe you could make the stretch and say that technically these boys weren't associated with the University, and those boys weren't his boys—either on the team or even his own kids or grandkids. Yet still. The assistant coach was associated with the University...and just a second. Who gives a flying flip? What about those boys who were being molested? Did no one care about their best interests? What about their dignity? How much determination did you have, Mr. Paterno, to stop something horrible from keeping on? If it had been me, I'd have wanted to drag the S.O.B. straight down to the nearest police precinct by his own...well...

I'll let you fill in the blanks.

I don't give a hot damn about the reputations, or the dignity of coaches, or sports teams, or universities, corporations, or even the Catholic Church when things like happen to go on. Lives are far more important. It becomes a question of morality and responsibility. Moreover, it becomes a question of humanity. I cannot imagine, under any circumstance, being in a position to have this kind of information and not be immediately appalled. I cannot imagine not being immediately outraged. And I cannot imagine not also taking immediate action.

Of course, this isn't really a new story. We just have different players. Maybe for that reason I shouldn't find myself the least bit surprised, or angered, that once again, people will put career, and personal agendas ahead of lives.

Joe Paterno did it. So did Penn State University officials. So did direct witnesses to the actual acts. People are scrambling to save face. The moment of truth for these people is not that boys were molested. It's that now everybody knows it.

Joe Paterno said in his statement that he's been devastated by this. He says that his heart goes out to those boys who have been molested. One wonders. I certainly do. He knew what was going on! Wasn't he devastated by the very story itself as it unfolded before his eyes? As people came forward and said to him, "Coach, something's not right," didn't he feel devastation then?

Those words "dignity" and "determination" are still rolling around my head. Mr. Paterno, just for the record and so that we can be clear; there is absolutely nothing at all dignified about knowing about young boys being sexually molested and covering it up—for years. Your career is finished. Your legacy is moot. Your determination is for naught. Little boys have forever been damaged and you're worried about your team? Your university?

I've got two words to tell you what you can do with your dignity and determination and your precious university, buddy, who all had a hand in covering this whole thing up. But if I say them here I'll likely be banned from these pages. The only thing you can do right now is to walk one last time out of those university doors in shame and disgust. Despite your words, I don't think you give a damn what went on with those boys and your former assistant coach one iota. Your legacy is clear, and that is your own failure as a human being. Guys like me, who never knew who you were, now know exactly who you are.

Update: November 10, 2011

So it goes that Joe Paterno, among some others, were fired. At least one act of common sense has occurred in this story. As well, they did it over the phone, and while some may suggest that perhaps that was a bit impersonal on the part of Penn State considering his 60 some-odd years with the university, I happen to think that his actions trump anything he may have accomplished to command respectability in the end. This is a serious charge, and his actions (or I should say inactions) to my mind, are and were unconscionable.


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    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Suzette, that was the striking thing for me. I heard so much outpouring over Paterno, but little outpouring for the boys who were molested. Kind of sad when you think about what that says about our culture and our society, and quite frankly our priorities.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

      Ralph, it's big money for these colleges, that's for sure. If you really get down to it, it's a huge scam college sports. Especially college football. The money these players create and these games take in creates a layer of politics within the organization that usurps all other things, and in this case, usurped common sense and human decency.

    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Drbj, that's my big problem with the guy. It's not like he witnessed or was told the coach was sneaking a smoke in the boy's room. The allegations were very serious. The impact of the activities to affect lives grave. Children are supposed to expect that adults protect them from bad things. To say the university looked into it and that was that is ludicrous to me. I'd have told the university where to go, and I would have told them that we'll let a police investigation decide that—the university has no jurisdiction in such matters.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 

      7 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      I agree with your hub. Some people never learn. Big time college football is out of control. Coaches and athletic directors are paid more than college presidents and in some ways they have more clout. A college president has to think twice about getting crosswise with a popular coach or athletic director. College football and basketball serve as the farm system for the pro teams. In many schools athletes' scholarship is a joke.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      7 years ago from Taos, NM

      I am very glad to read this. I thought I was the only one with the unpopular opinion. Joe Paterno is responsible for this. He hires his coaches and he should have fired Sandusky or at least suspended him pending an investigation and done it immediately on this being reported to him. To pass the buck to university administrators is a coward's act. I have a lot of ties to Penn State. My family knows Joe Paterno personally and we have supported his football program for at least 30 years. WE are all devastated and sad, not for Joe, but for the boys whose lives have been ruined in the name of Penn State football. You say it so well - what about those boy's dignity? Who cared about that or them? I find this whole situation reprehensible!!!

    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Delores, very true. It's amazing to me sometimes where people place their priorities. That's why I thought it was a bit shocking to hear how concerned Paterno seemed to be over the university. Like I said, to hell with the university. What about those kids that were being sodomized? The idea that anyone could support this guy (Paterno), or any other of the bunch, is beyond reason. His actions trump all other accomplishments. In my view, Paterno is just as guilty as the guy who took those boys into the shower with him, and he holds some responsibility for perpetuating the damage. How many boys might NOT have had their innocense ripped away had Paterno, or any of the others, intervened?

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Always astute and appreciated. :)

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      Hi, Jim. According to what I have read and heard, Joe Paterno may be a great football coach, but as a human being, he leaves a lot to be desired. Dignity be damned. What about integrity and humanity? Thanks for the updates.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      7 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Last I heard, the whole crowd was fired except the guy who actually witnessed the assault. Now I ask you, if you ran into an assault against a kid, wouldn't you intervene? Wouldn't you call the police? This just goes to show that the gang mentality of people in power positions, ignoring crimes, ignoring abuse, is way out of hand. We talk about criminal gangs of inner city youth, what about the gang mentality of the high placed - they are the same.


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