The Paterno Legacy

The passing of Joe Paterno apparently has done little to alter the debate regarding his ultimate legacy at Penn State.  At least in the eyes of a few journalists, and we’ll use that term loosely here.

Amidst the anguish of Penn State fans–people who can see all the good that Joe Paterno did for the University and his players and the community at large for 62 years–are the ferocious outcries of those who are willing to throw an entire career out the window for one perceived misdeed.

As my regular readers are quite aware of my stance on this subject–I don’t believe Paterno should have done anything different, and even if he had, I don’t think he could have stopped Sandusky.

But Dan Bernstein from Chicago wants people to cry for the victims, not Paterno.

For years, he looked the other way while children were being assaulted, and his program was being used to enable the crimes.

No number of victories stacks up against what these boys and their families lost. Not even 409.

It’s repugnant to believe that this was one small oversight by a kind, old man, blemishing an otherwise honorable legacy. Paterno’s inaction was concurrent with everything else. This was not a singular moment of poor judgment – it was boundless, constant, and ongoing.

We know from his own sworn testimony, though, that Paterno knew in 2002.
Read about the victims after that date.

Read the sick details of what these men say Sandusky did to them in those years. Read about the on-campus swimming pool, the hotel sauna, the trips to bowl games, the basement dungeon where they screamed for help while being raped.

And he should rest in no more peace than that of those boys, whose lives were ruined by a monster.

I am sad, and still indescribably angry over what Penn State football helped happen.

I’m not even sure where to begin with this diatribe of contrived misinformation and assumptive extrapolation.  How in the wide, wide world of sports did Penn State football help Sandusky?  Did Paterno arrange play dates for Sandusky?  I have seen no evidence whatsoever that Paterno tried to cover anything up.  Indeed, the Grand Jury found no fault with Paterno.  There is absolutely no evidence that Paterno knew such activities were continuing and that his silence was in any way leading to more pain.

And I will maintain now and until I see evidence otherwise, that Paterno would not have stopped Sandusky by doing something else.  That is because I truly believe that, not because I support pedophilia or childhood rape.  I still cannot fathom why you can’t support all the good that Paterno has done and still be against pedophilia and rape.

Yes, Paterno wielded power at Penn State.  He determined what teams they played.  He threw Spanier and Curley out of his house and refused retirement.  He kept the uniforms simple and prevented Nike from using them as walking advertisements of poor fashion like some other teams.  He kept the media at bay, which really ticked them off, and perhaps in part explains the backlash now.

But he couldn’t stop the baseball field from being built in the shadow of his stadium.  He couldn’t keep his players off of the police blotter.  He did pass on the information to his superiors, which is what he was supposed to do.

And it is quite a stretch of the imagination that he could single handedly stop Sandusky based on the ONE incident of second-hand information that he had.  Did he trust McQueary?  Probably.  Did he trust his former defensive coordinator?  See, there’s the rub.  Paterno worked with both of these men.  He has admitted that he couldn’t comprehend the nature of this problem and he didn’t know what to do.  He passed it on to the people that should have handled it.  If anyone at Penn State enabled Sandusky, it was not McQueary or Paterno–it was Schultz and Curley and possibly even Spanier, if he knew.  Note that these writers are not so assured that Spanier knew, but they KNOW that Paterno KNEW.

There is no evidence that Paterno knew of any other incidents.  He knew nothing about the children crying out in Sandusky’s basement and it is simply piss poor journalism to throw that in there as evidence that Paterno was an enabler.  Had he driven the kids over there himself and drank tea with Sandusky’s wife while ignoring the muffled screams, then you have a story.  But that is not what you have. 

Instead, you have a pathetic attempt to make some journalists feel better about themselves while tearing down an individual who was likely twice the man they will ever be.

How many lives have been touched by these hacks compared to Joe Paterno?  Listen to the testimony of his former players–how their lives were changed and made better by Paterno.

How many millions of dollars have these so-called journalists donated to provide books and education to children and young adults?  Over four times Paterno’s yearly salary?  I’d like to see their receipts if they have.

The Paterno’s have been active in THON and Special Olympics.  They CARE about children.  This alleged oversight wasn’t because Paterno didn’t care.  He did–but didn’t know how to handle it.  He was a goddamned football coach for crying out loud.  And he did act.  Which is more than can be said for the police and DA in 1998.  And the officials at Central Mountain in 2008 who counselled the mother to shut up and look the other way.  And ESPN with a tape about the Syracuse scandal.  Yet none of these people are being harassed in the media, because their names won’t sell papers.

Fortunately, they are not all like that.  Rick Reilly writes about the Paterno Legacy:

Maybe you will never be convinced Joe Paterno was a good man who made one catastrophic mistake, but do you have time for just one story?

In 2000, Penn State freshman defensive back Adam Taliaferro had his spine crushed when tackling an Ohio State player. He lay on that September field paralyzed and panicked.

The first person he saw when he opened his eyes was Paterno . . .wound up in a hospital bed in Philadelphia, everything frozen solid below the neck. Doctors said he had about a 3 percent chance of walking again. And every other week, Paterno would fly to Philly to see him. . . “I can’t tell you what that meant to me,” says Taliaferro, now 30. “I’m stuck in that hospital, and here’s Coach Paterno bringing a piece of the team to me, in the middle of the season. How many coaches would do that?”

A man is more than his failings.

He was the only coach I’ve ever known who went to the board of trustees to demand they increase entrance requirements, who went to faculty club meetings to hear the lectures, who listened to opera while drawing up game plans.

If a player was struggling with a subject, Paterno would make him come to his house for wife Sue’s homemade pasta and her tutoring.

“The last three months, I’ve just wanted to go up on a rooftop and shout, ‘I wish you knew him like I do!'” Taliaferro says. “I know, in my heart, if he’d understood how serious this situation was, he’d have done more.”

I believe that, too. But if you don’t, I respect that. I only ask this:

If we’re so able to vividly remember the worst a man did, can’t we also remember the best?

Even former head coach John Cooper has nice things to say about Paterno . . .

“Why in the world everybody keeps bringing up all this other stuff, I don’t understand,” former OSU coach John Cooper said yesterday. “Joe Paterno was very saddened by what happened over there, but Joe Paterno didn’t do that. … We say here (in Columbus) that coach Tressel should have passed the information along that he got (concerning his players receiving improper benefits), that’s all he had to do. Well, that’s what coach Paterno did do, from the way I understand it. He passed along the information after he got it.

“But instead, we’re reading about the scandal and what he didn’t do. Lord have mercy, the man won more games than anybody who ever coached in major-college football, and he did it the right way.”

The Joe Paterno I admire, the one I cried for when I heard he had been fired, and then again when he passed on, was a man who did more for college sports than any other man in the history of the sport.  He did more for his University than most alumni, professors and students.  He has touched countless lives and his donations will continue to help future generations.

But this is not about balancing good deeds over bad.  Let’s face it.  What is worse than the crimes Sandusky allegedly committed?  NOTHING.  Even St. Peter couldn’t balance that out.  And no one is asking that you ignore what happened.  Instead, let’s let the court find justice if that is possible, and meanwhile, let those of us that love Joe Paterno mourn in peace.

Sure, he frustrated me at times with his prevent offense and conservative play calling.  Sure, I busted his son for his QB development and his dad’s insistence to keep him on staff.  But the way Jay Paterno has handled himself these past few months since this happened has taught me that some things are more important than football.  And maybe making Daryll Clark and Michael Robinson better people and better men is more important than whether they can win games, or throw passes.

And whether Penn State football ever wins another game or not is not as important as the loss of Joe Paterno for everything he did off the field.

And I’m sorry, but mourning the loss of Joe Paterno does not in any way ever condone what Jerry Sandusky allegedly did. 

And if the court testimony should ever prove that Paterno was complicit with any of those acts, I’ll be the first to apologize to you right here.

Until then, I love you Joe Paterno.  And I will miss you always.

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Filed under football, Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno, Penn State

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