Joe Paterno's Only Legacy Is Failure
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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.
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.