Penn State Football: Joe Paterno Can Teach Society One Last Lesson
Joe Paterno's legacy was shattered in one fell swoop on Thursday. The Freeh Report erased his sterling reputation with one earth-shattering blow.
Paterno embodies the idea that "absolute power corrupts absolutely," but who gave him that power? Did he seize it, or was it given to him by the very people who curse his name now?
I'm not advocating for Paterno. He put himself, and his football program, ahead of the lives of children. There's not an excuse for his actions anywhere. It doesn't matter where you look, but society can learn a lesson from this.
It's not society's fault that Paterno overlooked an abominable situation, but he didn't have to be in that position.
Today's culture yearns for stars, and Paterno rode that train to the top. He used his philanthropic ideals and strong football strategy to build an empire. One year at a time, he entrenched himself deeper in the roots of Central Pennsylvania.
I've lived in Central Pennsylvania my entire life. Paterno's name is revered. It's considered blasphemy to speak ill of "Joe Pa" in many local circles. He was untouchable in every sense of the word and he obviously knew it.
Paterno used his flawless reputation to dupe his massive fanbase. Rather than blow the whistle on a horrific situation, he allowed the situation to continue in his facility.
Until Thursday, people refused to believe that was possible.
Of all the reports I've read this week, one has stuck with me. Rick Reilly's reaction to the Freeh Report's findings and his viewpoint on Paterno's legacy stuck with me, but his documented interaction with a Penn State professor stuck with me the most.
In 1986, I spent a week in State College, Pa., researching a 10-page Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year piece on Joe Paterno.
It was supposed to be a secret, but one night the phone in my hotel room rang. It was a Penn State professor, calling out of the blue.
"Are you here to take part in hagiography?" he said.
"What's hagiography?" I asked.
"The study of saints," he said. "You're going to be just like the rest, aren't you? You're going to make Paterno out to be a saint. You don't know him. He'll do anything to win. What you media are doing is dangerous."
Read that and think about it for a few seconds. Paterno did do anything, and everything, to win football games. That was his No. 1 priority.
The professor's talk of hagiography looks like prophecy today. The media did make Paterno out to be a saint. The people perceived him as incapable of wrongdoing and worshipped him as such.
People are people. When a person is given power, he or she will do whatever it takes to hold onto it. We've seen the same situations in different arenas of life for years.
Paterno ruled his football program with an iron fist except for the one area that really counted. Society's affinity to worship ordinary people didn't help the situation.
We were all fooled. He was supposed to be one of the "good ones," but Paterno proved that he's capable of mistakes like everyone else.
Why were people so convinced that he wasn't in the first place?
Turning college football coaches, or any celebrity, into powerful icons is a dangerous game. Power is dangerous in the hands of anyone in any situation.
Paterno proves that no one is incorruptible.
What is the duplicate article?
Why is this article offensive?
Where is this article plagiarized from?
Why is this article poorly edited?