I’m pissed. I admit, my initial reaction to the Penn State scandal was severe. I openly called for everyone involved to be charged, including the daunted football coach Joe Paterno. Faced with the reality that numerous children had possibly been molested (a term itself that seems terribly inadequate to describe the horrors these children were subjected to) how was I supposed to react? Jerry Sandusky was a man who started an organization to help troubled young people and instead used it to help himself fulfill his basest, most despicable desires. And the people in power at the university knew and did nothing.
Over the past two days, I’ve tried to see it from their point of view, I’ve tried to understand how Paterno could justify his lack of actions, I really have. There are many out there who want to excuse the “great” man, pointing out that he did what he was supposed to by passing the allegations on to his superiors. Even the police admit he fulfilled his legal obligations. I really tried to be fair.
But after last night, I’m not trying anymore. The scene at Paterno’s house was a disgrace. The man, who spent the entire day avoiding the tough but necessary questions, gave a half-hearted line about, “you know, we should maybe pray for the victims and whatever” and then led the crowd of students in a Go Penn State pep rally chant. That pretty much killed any lingering sympathy or doubts within me toward Paterno.
He’s a hypocrit, a coward and a disgrace. The only way he can redeem himself is to admit that he was wrong in his inactions, and I’m not even sure that’ll do it because I don’t think he understands that he was wrong. He has to face the music and answer all the tough questions thrown at him. And unlike the written statement from Sunday, and his comments yesterday, showing a little compassion toward the children who’d been victimized in such a terrible fashion would be nice. But now, today, I have yet to see any inkling in Paterno that he did anything wrong. He’s acting like a victim himself, wrongfully persecuted because he did what he was supposed to, even when it’s obvious to almost everyone with a conscience that those actions were far too little from a man who’s made honor and integrity his personal motto.
This is a man who has spent 50 years preaching about morality and honor, doing things the right way and taking responsibility for your actions. And now, we see that when he was faced with a genuine moral and ethical quandry, he ran from it. Paterno did the bare minimum he was legally required to do and he’s hiding behind that.
I don’t believe that he didn’t know more. Sandusky was told in a private meeting with Paterno in 1999 that he wouldn’t be the next head coach at Penn State, and soon thereafter retired from a program he’d been at for 30 years. Not long before that, Sandusky had been investigated by campus police for taking naked showers with young boys. Am I supposed to believe that’s a coincidence? That Paterno didn’t know about that or that it didn’t play a role in Sandusky’s early, likely forced, retirement?
Then, less than three years later, here’s another report of Sandusky in the showers with a young child, and Paterno somehow thought it acceptable to simply pass the buck on to his superiors and wash his hands of the matter because “it was what he was supposed to do?”
I’m supposed to believe his statement of shock and disbelief when there’s multiple instances where Paterno’s aware of Sandusky’s disgusting proclivities of showering with naked young boys? If they were truly surprised, and I don’t believe for a minute they were, then it was only because they willfully turned a blind eye to what was right in front of them. Expedience is not morality.
The man, Sandusky, ran an organization for troubled young people, for god’s sake, didn’t somebody think it might be a good idea to check up on these allegations? And what did Paterno think when he inevitably saw Sandusky around with young boys? You expect me to believe he wasn’t the least bit suspicious?
No, I have no sympathy for Paterno. The number of boys who have come forward is now around 20. If he had practiced more of that morality he’d preached about all these years, done something, virtually anything more than the bare minimum he was required to, how many fewer victims would there be today? I have to wonder if Paterno even realizes that fact? It was in his power to act more assertively and he didn’t.
To be certain, he wasn’t the only one. Assistant coach Mike McQueary, who found Sandusky raping a boy in the shower and simply walked away, needs to be fired. I would not be opposed to his spending a little time behind bars, as well. His was the most direct position to put a stop to this mess, and he bailed. McQueary played and now works for Paterno. Is this the kind of lessons in morality and responsibility and honor Paterno teaches? Walk away from a heinous act and tell your superiors because that’s what you’re supposed to do?
Former university vice president Gary Schultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley have been charged but are basing their defense on the statute of limitations expiring. Is that the kind of ethics and honor they trumpet at Penn State? It’s okay to cover for a child molester and not report it to police so long as no one finds out until the statute of limitations are up?
University President Graham Spanier, who ostensibly oversaw this pattern of bare minimum effort and obfuscation, actually released a statement defending Schultz and Curley, claiming that the pair “operate at the highest levels of honesty, integrity and compassion.” He needs to be fired for that statement alone.
So, no, Paterno wasn’t the only one who failed to do the right thing here, he wasn’t even the most egregious example of apathy and inaction. But that doesn’t excuse his personal lack of action.
If he is, in fact, the man of honor, integrity and morality he has claimed to be all these years, he has to know that. He has to know, regardless of what others above him did or didn’t do, he had the personal responsibility to speak up. He has to know that his failure to see this through very likely contributed to numerous boys being subjected to the most vile of crimes. He has to know he could of stopped it by doing just a little more than the bare minimum he had to.
And he needs to say that. Maybe the university did cut off his press conference yesterday, but he had ample opportunities to speak up. He needs to answer these questions, no matter how difficult. He needs to show that the morality, the honor, the integrity he’s preached all these years really exists and aren’t just convenient hollow phrases that get left on the football field.
Joe Paterno needs to speak up now or resign already, and forever hold his peace.