Penn State Football: Forever Stained by Joe Paterno
What I’d like to know is how Joe Paterno could even look at Jerry Sandusky for 14 years, let alone be a friend and confidante.
Oh the questions I’d like Paterno to take a crack at, if he were here to do so, instead of buried six feet under, along with his conscience.
Where was the little voice in your head, Joe? Where were all this character and leadership and purity that your former Penn State players insisted you had?
How could you work along side a predatory monster? Where did all the righteousness go?
Did you drive home on certain nights and ponder Sandusky and the atrocities he was doing to children within your hallowed halls? Did you wonder how you could wake up and face Sandusky’s phoniness for another day?
Did you think of your own grandchildren, Joe? Did you wonder what you’d feel if your grandkids were the victims?
Were you at peace with yourself and your carefully plotted campaign of misdirection and concealment, going way back to 1998 when you were first informed of Sandusky’s acts of horror in your hall’s showers?
Forget how you could look at Sandusky, Joe—how could you look at yourself?
Paterno, the long time Penn State football coach who comes out smelling like the opposite of a rose in former FBI director Louie Freeh’s recently released report on the sexual monster and assistant coach Sandusky, is dead. The man who was endearingly called JoePa has taken to his grave the answers to my questions and many others.
Paterno, in death, will forever haunt us. Never again can we speak of him, look at a photo of him, or even watch another PSU football game without our minds shooting back to the sexual predator Sandusky and how Paterno—according to Freeh’s report—was at or near the top of ringleaders who chose to protect one man in the name of also protecting a bleeping football program, instead of all those kids who were being raped and otherwise abused.
Prior to Freeh’s report, especially since Paterno had passed away, there was that old benefit of the doubt that was being offered to the coach’s legacy. You know, that thing of not speaking ill of the dead.
That sheath of impunity is gone now. Paterno and his legacy are fair game. Take your shots. It’s your turn to have impunity.
There’s little that one can say about Paterno in the wake of Freeh’s report that could be considered gauche or inappropriate.
If Paterno was Bob Knight, or Woody Hayes—or hell, even Nick Saban—there’d be a bunch of us who would gleefully participate in his ruination. It would be “ding dong, the witch is dead.”
But there was not really anything to dislike or to hate on when it came to Penn State football.
Paterno did not inspire anyone to say an ill word about him. He was that old man with glasses and a big nose who coached the team with the plain blue and white uniforms in a place called Happy Valley, of all things.
Penn State did not win enough to be the Yankees of college football, so rooting for them was not like rooting for U.S. Steel, as comedian Joe E. Brown once said of being a Bronx Bombers supporter.
Penn State was just…there. Theirs was a traditionally solid program, yes, but they were hard to hate—impossible, really. They won eight or nine games a year and went to some sort of bowl but rarely played for anything of value.
Penn State, under Paterno, was known for two things, mainly: the ridiculously simple uniforms and spitting out NFL-caliber linebackers.
The Nittany Lions would occasionally send a star running back (Franco Harris, Curt Warner) or a quarterback (Todd Blackledge) to the pros, but linebacker was their position of pride. Guys like Jack Ham, Greg Buttle, Shane Conlan, LaVar Arrington and yes, even our old friend Matt Millen are just a few of those who came from “Linebacker U.”
Who can hate a school that produces linebackers?
Paterno and his football program were not ones to despise or be jealous of. This was especially true as the coach got older and the voice got raspier and harder to hear without straining your ears.
Paterno moved through his 60s and 70s and as he did, there was not a whiff of scandal or cheating or anything that suggested anything untoward was happening on campus, as it related to the football program.
He got older and he became every college football fan’s grandfather. Paterno hit his 80s and by that time he, at worst, was pitied for his advanced age; at best he was lionized—no pun intended—for being a living legend.
None of us could have suspected the disgusting, filthy acts taking place in the place called Happy Valley.
Paterno’s big nose came in handy for Sandusky, because under it was happening, for 14 years, the abuse of children and the ensuing cover up.
A cover up that Freeh says included Paterno as more than a wingman—more than a pathetic, Mr. Magoo-like character.
This was Paterno being shockingly rotten to the core, devoid of character and without scruples. Freeh’s report portrays Paterno as a sort of football Godfather who was not to be trifled with and who wielded more power in his pinky than the entire Penn State administration appeared to possess in their whole, cowardly bodies.
And Sandusky—let’s not forget he was the convicted perp, not Paterno—kept drawing a check as a member of Paterno’s wise guys, even while the head man knew that Sandusky had a thing for young boys.
This is tragic to the nth degree. At once, a football coaching legend, his legacy and the school he represented have all come crashing down under the weight of the worst kind of sexual scandal.
This now follows Penn State, just as Watergate followed Nixon and as steroids follow Bonds. Right or wrong, the football players who don the blue and white at PSU will forever be linked to a coach who put “the program” in front of child welfare and who protected a predator over the helpless.
Happy Valley, eh?
You can read more Greg Eno at www.GregEno.com !!
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