The "Why" of Penn State Nearly as Troubling as the "What"
By Brandon Castel
COMMENTARY — What Joe Paterno did was wrong, no one save maybe Joe himself and a few Penn State administrators is debating that.
It should likely bring an end to his lifetime of coaching in State College—16 years as an assistant and 46 as the head coach at Penn State. Few are debating that either.
That any person on this planet would put their job, security, reputation, loyalty, program, football team or personal well-being before the safety and innocence of a child is deplorable. Whatever Pennsylvania law stipulates is insignificant compared to the moral obligation Paterno and his superiors passively disregarded for the past nine years.
If there are any tears being shed this day, they should be for the victims of Gerald Arthur Sandusky, a gruesome monster who hid in plain sight under Paterno’s nose—and the rest of ours—for the past 15 years.
The fact Sandusky was not reported to the proper authorities back in 2002 is shameful. That he has been allowed open access to the Penn State football program every day since the time Mike McQueary walked in on him with a 10-year old boy is an embarrassment from which the University will spend years, if not decades, trying to recover.
Paterno is every bit as deserving of his own fate as Jim Tressel was for the violations he committed in Columbus. These two situations have nothing to do with each other besides the fact that two coaches who committed their lives to bettering young men have now been tarnished; their legacies forever tainted.
If this is indeed the end for Paterno, and it certainly looks like it is, it is a somber end to a great career. As a journalist and a human being, I take no joy in watching a man meet his bitter end.
It is a sad day; a dark day. My heart is heavy for Paterno, a man who was idolized by thousands, including my grandfather, a native of Johnstown, Pa., but I find it hard not to look at the 84-year old without wondering what happened.
Was he so blindly loyal to Sandusky that he did not want to drag his name through the mud, even at the expense of young children?
Could he really have felt that telling his superiors was enough to satisfy his moral obligation?
How could this go on for so long without someone saying something?
After reading the bone-chilling 23-page indictment by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury, it is almost impossible to believe Paterno did not know what McQueary was trying to tell him. Why else would he have gone directly to his superior, Athletic Director Tim Curley?
McQueary told the grand jury he later informed Curley and Senior Vice President Gary Schultz that he witnessed Sandusky having anal sex with a boy, approximately 10 years old, in the Lasch Building showers.
Even if he wasn’t as explicit as he thought, the men were fully aware that something “disturbing” and “inappropriate” had occurred between Sandusky and a young boy in the shower. What else could they possibly have needed to know?
Yet, they never acted. Not one of them reached out to anyone in law enforcement or the Department of Public Welfare and Children and Youth Services. No one said a thing, and Sandusky continued to prey on young boys using his “Second Mile” nonprofit organization as a front for pedophilia.
It is a true tragedy in every sense of the word, and I now wonder why it had to happen.
In many ways, Paterno was one of the last American heroes. He was one of the good guys. Like Tressel, his legacy was as much about excellence in the classroom as it was on the field. He and his wife Sue contributed more than $4 million towards various departments and colleges.
He loved Penn State, hell, he was Penn State. He was everything to the fans in Happy Valley, yet is was under his watch that all this happened. Why?
It’s hard not to feel deeply saddened for the alumni of Penn State, the community of State College and the entire state of Pennsylvania. They don’t deserve this, no one does. Ohio State fans should be all too familiar with that feeling.
It was not their fault that players traded priceless memorabilia for tattoos and quick cash. It was not their fault that Tressel did not do his part to stop it, or at least report it to someone who could.
Yet they had to pay the price. Certainly Tressel paid a heavy one of his own with the loss of his job and the disgrace of his reputation, but it was the fans who were unjustly tortured for the last 11 months. They were the ones who had to walk around with their heads hung and their hearts heavy while other fan bases rejoiced in their demise.
What kind of culture have we created where it is popular to rejoice in the suffering of others?
Where is our humanity? Our kindness?
Can we not sympathize with the plight of our neighbors?
Must we take joy in their sorrow?
To Penn State fans, Joe Paterno’s legacy was everything. He was Jim Tressel and Woody Hayes all wrapped up in one. He was a hero, but the fictional character Harvey Dent said it best: “you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
There was always an expectation that Paterno would die a hero, most likely still holding his whistle on the sideline at Beaver Stadium. Now he will join Tressel as one of the villains in sports. They are becoming far too common in today’s world, and I have to wonder why.
Donate by Check :
1380 King Avenue
Columbus, Ohio 43212
Help us bring you more Buckeye coverage. Donate to the-Ozone.
Click here to email this the-Ozone feature to a friend...or even a foe.
(c) 2010 The O-Zone, O-Zone Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, rebroadcast,rewritten, or redistributed.