Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Loss of a Legend

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"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
-Edmund Burke

As a lover of college football and a long time admirer of Joe Paterno, last week's scandal was shocking on multiple levels. News crews from across the country flocked to Penn State to cover the "breaking news" of the firing of Paterno and the student riots that resulted. My question through all of this remains the same - isn't this focused on the wrong person? Aren't they all missing the point? Last time I checked, Paterno was not the victim.

I understand the magnitude of this firing. I work for an athletic department where football is king and where we are lucky enough to be home to a highly respected coach that wins a LOT of ball games... and while I'm not comparing Bob Stoops' thirteen years at OU to the forty-five year tenure of Paterno, I feel that I get the importance of Joe Paterno to Penn State football and to the university as a whole. Paterno has been the head coach for the Nittany Lions since 1966. He has won more football games than any other coach in Division I. He holds the record for the most bowl victories, twenty-four. He has led his team to two National Championships. He has been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He was named the Walter Camp Coach of the Year not once, not twice, but three times and he is the recipient of the Bear Bryant Award. Good grief, he even has an award named after him! The Joseph V. Paterno Award is given to the football coach who has made a positive impact on his university, players and community... A little ironic, huh? There was another trophy named after him - the Big Ten's championship trophy was the Stagg-Paterno Championship Trophy, but as of this afternoon it has been renamed the Stagg Championship Trophy. Nevertheless, to say Joe Paterno was "a big deal" would be a vast understatement... much like saying reporting the sexual abuse of a child to a supervisor  was fulfilling his obligation.

Paterno's Statue at Penn State
"They ask me what I'd like written about me when I'm gone.
I hope they write that I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach."

One of the things that disgust me the most is that in order to prevent a blemish on Penn State's squeaky clean record (The program has had zero NCAA football violations in 46 years) Joe Paterno, the athletic director, the President of the university and sadly many others, protected a football empire over children who were being abused.  The outraged students rioting in the streets missed the point - Yeah, Joe Paterno didn't personally abuse that ten year old boy in 2002, but he didn't stop the abuse either. He had an obligation, not as the Penn State football coach, but as a person of supposed integrity to do the right thing. By failing to stop what he knew was happening, he allowed a sick, disgusting man to continue to prey on young vulnerable boys, kids without a voice.

If you want to feel completely disgusted, horrified and disappointed with Penn State in general, you can read the Grand Jury transcript here. Please be prepared that the report tells you way more than you would ever wanted to know.

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So, sorry Joe, I really wanted to like you. I wanted to respect you and I wanted you to go out as someone that was more than just a "good football coach" but I can't. I can't blame anyone else because at the end of the day, you were the one that chose to keep your mouth shut. You allowed the blemish to go on your perfect record and you KNOWINGLY allowed terrible things to happen to children that couldn't stand up for themselves. Sorry Joe, but I suggest you cross your fingers that a "good football coach" is what they remember you by... right now it's not the memory that comes to mind.

Please pray for the real victims in this dreadful story... I'll bring a happier topic tomorrow!

Be Blessed!

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