Thursday, November 10, 2011

Paterno has only himself to blame

It didn’t have to end this way.

And it shouldn’t have ended this way.

And Joe Paterno has no one to blame but himself.

The story has been everywhere this week. It literally consumed Pennsylvania, if not the nation.

Paterno was the face of the state’s largest educational institution. He had given Penn State millions, and in the process provided a shining light of what a football program should look like, and so often does not in the often seedy world of big-time college athletics.

All that is gone now. As is Paterno.

I feel horrible for the way this ended. But I feel worse for the kids police say were victimized by Paterno’s former right-hand man, defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

It amazes me that in the past few days, the emphasis has veered away from Sandusky and the horrendous things he is charged with doing, onto Paterno and what he did not do.

And I think I know why.

As a society we have unfortunately become accustomed to the ugly truth that there are monsters such as the way Sandusky is being portrayed in the criminal charges against him that wander among us.

We hope the cops catch them and put them away, where they can no longer hurt anyone, let alone our most precious –and vulnerable – resource, our children.

We abhor Sandusky and what he is charged with doing. But we know that this kind of horror exists.

Paterno is a different story.

I think a big part of the problem is that we simply expected so more of him. We can’t get our arms around the fact that, given what he was told, Paterno didn’t do more to see that Sandusky was brought to justice, and children were protected.

How could he not do more?

We expected so much more.

There remains so many unanswered questions about this entire story, many of which may never be answered.

Who knew what and when did they know it? And will anyone else join me in raising an eyebrow on the fact that these charges somehow were not brought until after Paterno broke the record for most wins for a Division I coach, and why they were announced on a Saturday, ironically when Penn State had a bye.

Paterno apparently could not resist one final flourish. With his program in flames, the coach announced he would step down – but only after the season. This was the Paterno we all know – the irascible, arrogant patriarch of all things Penn State.

On Wednesday I was convinced of only one thing. There was no way Penn State could allow Paterno to run out on that field Saturday.

The board of trustees apparently agreed, firing both Paterno and school President Graham Spanier late last night.

The announcement set off a violent protest by some foolish students mistaken in thinking they were remaining loyal to Paterno and their university. All they did was add to the horrific damage already inflicted on the school in the eyes of the nation.

After half a century of being the face of Penn State, Paterno’s face now stands next to headlines declaring ‘Shame.’

Joe Paterno is 84 years old.

Time for him to go. Time to wonder why, in his own words, he did not do more when these allegations first came to light.

It’s real simple. We expected so much more of Joe Paterno.

And it will be a long time before we can understand why and how it came to this.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You summed up what many of us have struggled to understand as these events played out. We expect more from those in authority and are disillusioned when we realize they have feet of clay. We wonder why decisions that seem clear to us are so difficult for them. We look on in dismay as their actions tragically impact others. With great power comes great responsibility. How you choose to use that power defines the type of person you are. Shame on them. We expected more.

November 10, 2011 at 10:06 AM 

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