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Who killed Joe Paterno? January 22, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Today, former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno died, ostensibly of complications associated with treatment for lung cancer, at age 85.

Prior to this past fall, Paterno—affectionately known as “JoePa”—was known as the winningest coach in major college football, with 409 wins, 37 bowl games, and 2 national championships to his credit. “He will go down as the greatest coach in the history of the game,” according to Urban Meyer, head coach of Ohio State’s football team and a strong contender for the title himself.

Paterno had coached for Penn State for 61 years, 46 of them as head football coach. A starring quarterback and cornerback at his own alma mater, Brown University, he had plans to go on to law school before his Brown football coach convinced him to come with him to Penn State as an assistant coach. Paterno never looked back, devoting his life—and millions of dollars of his own money—to Penn State.

But he never lost his own drive for academic excellence, and passed it along to his players, insisting that they pursue their academic studies along with their football-glory aspirations. As a result, more of his players graduated including 49 academic All-Americans. “Besides the football, he’s preparing us to be good men in life,” former Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny summed up. And what did his millions go to build at Penn State? A stadium? How about a wing of the university library?  

So why does his AP obituary notice read “Fired Penn State coach Joe Paterno dead at 85”? Why did the Big Ten ignominiously strip his name from its championship trophy, and Penn State drop plans to honor him by naming its football field after him? Why did columnists like TheAtlantic.com’s Andrew Cohen feel free to make statements, days before Paterno died, like “College football legend Joe Paterno gave his first interview about the sexual-abuse scandal at Penn State last week, portraying himself as a confused, sick old man… Sorry, Joe, no one outside Penn State is buying it.” 

Well, our friend Ben is buying it. And I think Penn State’s treatment of Paterno is disgraceful. This man gave up his personal dream and devoted his life to his teams and his adopted university. He has never been found guilty of a single shred of wrongdoing. Yet, after 61 years of whole-hearted service, he was summarily fired by Penn State’s Board of Trustees because of monstrous acts committed by another man, a man who, as far as I can discover, was not personally close to Paterno in any way. It’s as though President Obama was summarily impeached, dismissed from office in disgrace, and stripped of all his achievements because one of his staff members had been discovered molesting interns.

This really burns me up. There is absolutely no excuse for molesting anyone, ever, be they political interns or very young boys, the chosen prey of the sexual predator Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno’s defensive coordinator. Sandusky’s perversions not only extend over decades, but extend to helping himself to a ready-made supply of helpless boys via adoption and foster-homing boys himself and establishing a nonprofit, The Second Mile, specifically to, uh, assist homeless boys to “better” their lives. Assuming Sandusky’s definition of “bettering” meant being raped by him on numerous occasions, even while screaming for help in Sandusky’s own home while his suddenly-deaf wife lurked on the floor above. 

Is Sandusky a monster? No, not in our friend Ben’s opinion. From everything I’ve read, he’s a Peter Pan, an eternal little boy who loves the company of other little boys, but unfortunately developed the hormones and hormonal reactions of a grown man and turned them onto his little buddies. He’s one of those people society should have identified as a danger and controlled.

And in this case, society’s failure is everyone’s failure, not just Joe Paterno’s failure. JoePa was focused on football, on giving back to the university that had given him a job and a name. How likely was the devoted husband, father, and grandfather to have perceived that one of his subordinates was totally, hypocritally, tragically perverted? I suspect he had a few other things on his mind.

Critics of Joe Paterno will blame his death on lung cancer, ignoring how quickly it came on, how quickly it killed. Others may blame it on modern medicine’s shortcomings, since his official cause of death was from complications from treatment. But our friend Ben has two other suspects to propose: Jerry Sandusky, whose completely selfish, childish, childlike behavior failed to take into consideration the consequences to his wife, his family, his boss, and his college. And the Penn State trustees, whose cowardice in pinning this tragedy on Joe Paterno rather than taking responsibility themselves is not just inexcusable and unacceptable but makes them the true moral monsters, and cowards, of the story.

Shame! Shame on them! I pray that every one of them may be dismissed from their posts, and forced to spend their lives wondering if their own children have come to grief because of their personal cowardice. What have they done for Penn State compared to what JoePa has done? Hateful, craven, miserable bastards. Shame!!!

May we all try to see our way clear in this crisis. May we all learn from it. And may we all say a prayer for Joe Paterno, who in my opinion died from a broken heart and deserved better from us.