I am a Penn State football fan. I latched on in the early ’90’s when I was looking for a new team to love. Tom Osborne was leaving Nebraska and I jumped to the new Big Ten team because I never really liked Ohio State and Michigan was one of my dad’s favorite teams. A Kerry Collins-Ki-Jana Carter team won my heart, Curtis Enis stole my soul, and the Lavar Leap won my entire being. It hasn’t all been great, there haven’t been any “National Championships” since I jumped on the wagon, but I am here to stay…even through this.
Penn State University is in the most despicable situation that any “sports franchise” has ever been a part of. This isn’t tattoos, strippers or cars, this is much more than that. This is a middle-aged man raping young boys. This is 40 counts of sexual assault. This is a legacy that is being tarnished due to the selfish actions of a disgusting man, who used his power, money and fame in Happy Valley to create a Sorrowful Gorge.
Penn State University will never be the same. Joe Paterno will never be viewed in the same way. The man is like the Grandpa that I could see every Saturday in the fall. His Godfather-esque voice, amazing sweaters and vulnerability with age led him to become a beloved figure in my life. Fall was and has been a time to enjoy the “when-will-he-crap-his-pants-on-the-sideline-this-year” jokes as Paterno became the Queen Elizabeth figurehead to a college football program. He was there, but it is debatable as to how much he was actually involved in planning from the outside looking in. However, what should he be from the outside looking in now?
Is he a man who dedicated 61 years of his life to an institution? A man whose philanthropy to the institution is well documented, as he and his wife have a library named for them and their lofty donations on campus. He has stressed doing things the right way, never getting involved in crazy shenanigans like other programs. His demise isn’t an illegal phone call, giving cash, or hiding the truth from the NCAA.
Paterno’s demise is what he didn’t do for a child. At the age of 76, Paterno told his boss what he had been told. At the age of 76, we are holding a man to a high standard. I believe the media is forgetting that in 2002, things weren’t meticulously elaborated and picked apart. I believe the media is holding Paterno to a higher standard, in that hindsight is valued over the action that was made. If the Athletic Director had gone straight to the police, this wouldn’t have happened. Just like if a teacher knows that a child is being abused at home and they tell the Principal, who says they will handle it. Who is to say that the AD didn’t take responsibility for things from there? He has, after all, already been accused of perjury.
You can’t blame someone for hindsight, otherwise people who work in Child Services that give kids back to abusive parents, only to have a repeat offense or a child’s death would be viewed in the same manner. Why aren’t we breathing down the necks of those mistakes? They happen daily and we always look back in hindsight to how it could have been different and should have been different. Well, life doesn’t work that way, so you move on.
Joe Paterno was 76 in 2002. My grandmother hasn’t been able to take care of herself since she was 63-years-old. Everyone is different, but do you blame someone that old for not necessarily knowing or understanding the incredible atrocity that was on-going? Did he really understand what steps to take? Have you ever had to explain to someone over the age of 60 how to use a cell phone? The internet? How to upload a file to an email?
I think we’re giving Paterno too much credit. At 85, he should have ridden off into the sunset years ago. He didn’t. He continued being the Queen Elizabeth figure to the Penn State University legacy that he BUILT. 61 years, 409 wins, love earned, respect earned, and a legacy earned. You can’t take away what the man accomplished. A hindsight reaction for an elderly man is ruthless and unforgivable. He was a 76-year-old man going the wrong way on a road that he shouldn’t have been on in the first place. He was a man who was respected for what he stood for and he still stands for those things. Hindsight doesn’t change 61 years of value, dedication, success and a legacy.