Condemn me if you will, but I am not hopping aboard the Joe Paterno is a vile scumbag who deserves to be burned at the stake bandwagon.
My God, doesn’t the Bible say he who is without sin cast the first stone? How about he who never had a serious lapse of judgement or always did more than what was expected cast the first stone?
One mistake, albeit a grave one, and a man’s decades-long record of good deeds and philanthropy is undone. A board can turn the winningest coach into the 12th winningest one? Apparently, you can unring a bell. If you remember, Joe Paterno was not charged with a single crime by law enforcement. And his name is Joe Paterno, not Joe Sandusky.
Even President Richard Nixon was allowed to resign in disgrace for his role in the biggest cover-up in American history. The last time I checked, no one stripped Nixon of his presidency or wiped away his prior accomplishments, including opening up a dialogue with Communist China.
But most, including the NCAA, are showing no mercy whatsoever for the late Nittany Lions football coach. The last time I can recall a man’s statue being toppled was when liberated Iraqis cheered when the one of their deposed leader, Saddam Hussein, a mass murderer and state sponsor of terrorism, tumbled to the ground.
Harsh, but justified. Deserved. It’s a start. Those were some of the reactions to the stiff punishment the NCAA imposed on Penn State in the wake of former FBI director Louie Freeh’s report, which concluded that Paterno was one of the higher-ups who covered up the allegations against Sandusky.
Overkill. That’s my reaction, and for the record, I’m neither a Penn State graduate nor a football fan. But I believe I know when a man is being unduly crucified.
The NCAA accepted Freeh’s report hook, line and sinker. Freeh couldn’t interview Joe Paterno because he died of lung cancer this year, a heartbroken man, who admitted he should have done more than report to his superiors what he was told, that his former assistant football coach was seen raping a young boy in a Penn State shower. Jerry Sandusky is the vile criminal here, who deserves to spend the rest of his pathetic life in prison. And, yes, Paterno should have done more.
But do we even know what went down when that first incident was disclosed? A district attorney didn’t believe there was enough evidence to prosecute. Unfortunately he went missing and is now declared legally dead.
Can we say for sure what Paterno knew and when he knew it? Does anyone really believe that this revered coach was aware that the sick Sandusky sexually abused at least 10 young boys and ignored it? The critics are so certain that Sandusky could have been stopped in his tracks. No one can know that for sure. Not even Louie Freeh.
But in this country where you are innocent until proven guilty, Paterno didn’t stand a chance because he made Penn State, and it was necessary to destroy him to atone for Sandusky’s horrific crimes. At Coach Paterno’s funeral, speaker upon speaker praised him as a coach, an educator and a benefactor. Is it right that all of that was summarily washed away for one grievous mistake? I say, no.
Everyone is so quick to believe that Joe Paterno allowed a perverted pedophile to run rampant in order to protect Penn State. Given his character and his love for his students and his players, I don’t believe that for a minute. And, let’s face it, there are still too many unanswered questions here.
I, like everyone else on the planet, can’t even look at Jerry Sandusky without getting nauseous. And I, like everyone, grieve for the torture his vulnerable victims suffered and the scars they still bear.
But unlike many, I do not believe the Freeh report proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Sandusky could have been stopped had Joe Paterno done more.
And while we’re at it, how did Penn State’s Board of Trustees escape any serious blame in the Jerry Sandusky cover-up? Did those members have their heads in the sand? How do we know for sure that they, or at least some of the trustees, weren’t also involved in the cover-up to protect Penn State? The stakes were high, weren’t they? If they were this clueless, maybe they should not be serving on this university’s board to begin with.
The NCAA saw fit to undo the wins of former Nittany Lions football players to punish their coach. And now present football players will not be allowed to aspire to the Rose Bowl for four years. Football scholarships were cut. How do these actions help to repair the damage Sandusky inflicted on his victims?
I know I’m in the minority here. But I can’t see how one mistake, one serious lapse of judgement, can obliterate an otherwise good man’s legacy.
And if the Nittany Lions won their games and their championships fairly and squarely, how can the NCAA simply say they didn’t? Frankly, I just don’t get that.
Help me out, readers, why are these players being punished?
- Betty Roccograndi