Sunday, January 22, 2012

A point of personal privilege, re: Joe Paterno

First, let me say this: I did not watch this tribute video. My gag reflex is way too strong for that. I just thought that it was a good example of how twisted our values have become that hours after this wretched waste of a life died, there were SEVERAL of these video tributes available on YouTube.

Now, to the point of this post. Considering that for the better part of the last decade, Joe Paterno's contributions to Penn State Games consisted of sitting in a booth (the University President' box) behind darkened privacy glass while someone else did the job he was being paid to do and took credit for, it's not at all surprising to me that this guy died on the morning before the AFC and NFC title games, and before each network ran out its litany of current events (read: politics, politics and more politics) Sunday morning talk shows. His ability to insert himself into the spotlight was not, in the end, hampered by his illness, clearly.

Because he died when he did, I get to hear the hosts of CNN, Fox News Sunday, ABC's This Week, etc. etc. give their little speeches about what an iconic figure Paterno was- "he was known as 'JoePa' (only in the last few years, when dumbing down the names of people connected to sports became a fad) and was like a father to his players....he leaves a void which cannot be filled...." and similar treacle. And when the NFL championship games start, I can be sure that the broadcasters will fall all over themselves telling their audiences what a Giant of a Man this guy was, how he was One of the Kind (jesus, let's hope so) and how it's such a Tragedy that his name will always be connected to the term Child Molestation. Yes, that's the real tragedy- not the damage done to the kids, but the damage done to "JoePa's" reputation. Groan.

I'll be very clear about my opinion on this. Does the fact that Paterno did not take swift action to stop the molestation of children by his assistance erase a brilliant, title-winning, sixty years of scandal-free coaching?

You God Damned right it does.

Paterno saw a vicious crime of violence being committed against a child by a member of his staff. With his own eyes. His response was to mention it to a superior. And then drop it. And keep the man he SAW committing these acts of violence on his staff. And, apparently, never mention it again.

I don't care how many games this guy won. I don't care how many titles he won. I don't care how many young men he inspired to give their best on the field for six decades. And I don't care that Penn State will certainly, once it seems "safe," erect a freaking statue dedicated to this evil old man. An Evil Old Man is what he was, and as he ought to be remembered.

And I don't want to hear any more crap about what an icon this nasty, self-absorbed creep was. I only wish he had been twenty years younger and thirty years healthier, so he could have suffered the legal consequences that ought to come crashing down on ANYONE (yes, even Living Saints like "JoePa") who sees a child being assaulted- and looks the other way. So I guess I'll be watching at least part of today's games with the mute button on.

Ok, I'm done. Thanks for your indulgence. Back to commercials in the future, I promise.


  1. Joe Paterno died?

    In addition to enabling child molesting, in addition to draining the college of millions that could have been used for education, the actual reason for colleges to exist, there's the matter of Paterno being a figurehead for most of the last 20 years. His best years were clearly behind him, and for the last several he's done precious little actual coaching himself, yet he continued to collect that monster salary and benefits.

    Some people will do anything to avoid being held accountable for their misdeeds, I guess.

    The family has issued a statement that "Joe Paterno's death leaves a void in our lives that cannot be filled."

    The guy was 85. My guess is they've been more or less resigned to that void in their lives for 10 years at least.

    My further assumption is that the void in their lives that cannot be filled can be at least partly filled with the tens of millions of dollars they'll each inherit.

  2. A more honest headline would read "Hell Hath Reclaimed Its Own." It's sort of sickening that a man that turned a blind eye to horror because the idiot committing it was part of his team is being slobbered over while his victims are being marginalized and exhorted to slobber over their oppressor's carcass. Given that the world is loaded with coaches and given that university sports are a pointless waste of time that only exist because there's no minor league system in place, that guy's death is a triviality blown up billboard size by sports writers.

  3. The only gesture I feel moved to make on Joey P's passing is the one-fingered salute because I think the fuss made over sports and coaches is, to say the least, too much. I'm also moved by the same outrage and disgust you are. Yeah, he was good when he was actually doing something. And? That doesn't lessen the fact he didn't do anything more than what he was required to do (not sure if it was campus policy, the law, or both). I was discussing this yesterday in a FB post and a few people who felt the need to tell others not to buy what the media--which is notoriously biased--had spewed and that Joey P. hadn't sat by and done nothing. They were quickly told where to shove their excuses and head-in-the-sand attitudes by more than a few (politely, of course). I've read a transcript of the grand jury testimony. Sickening. That said, one thing Joey P. is not guilty of is actually seeing what went on (which your phrasing in a few places suggests) and turning a blind eye. He never actually saw anything himself, he got first- and secondhand reports, which he told his superiors--and then did absolutely nothing else.

  4. Shortly after the scandal broke I heard Stephen A. Smith condemning Paterno on a sports talk radio show. A caller tried to defend Paterno, "pointing out" that he had done "everything that was required by law" by reporting the "incident" to his superiors. Smith interrupted and asked "Ok, if it was YOUR kid who had been molested, and months later you find out that the reason why your kid has seemed frightened of school, frightened of adults, uninterested in life, and damaged in other ways is because he was sexually assaulted, and that the witness to the assault had 'reported it' and then didn't follow up at all- would you shrug and say 'ok, he did his best?' No? Then SPARE ME THESE DEFENSES, PLEASE!!"

  5. You're a little fuzzy on your facts. Paterno did not see "a vicious crime of violence being committed against a child by a member of his staff. With his own eyes.". He didn't see anything personally. The main witness was Mike McQueary, an assistant coach who saw the crime being committed. He reported what he saw to Paterno, who in turn passed it along to his superiors.

    I'm not defending Paterno, he clearly did the bare minimum and was complicit in the attempt to cover up the scandal. But saying he witnessed wrongdoing with his own eyes is incorrect.