Game day! Today will be the final game at Beaver Stadium for many of the seniors on Penn State’s storied football program. There are a lot of people who are incensed at the thought of the “indignity” of Coach Paterno’s sudden departure without the “well deserved”, Happy Valley send off that should go to the man who, for a career that spanned five decades, espoused victory with honor. Students showed their displeasure at the Board of Trustees firing of Joe Paterno by rioting, overturning vehicles and confronting police. It is to those students that I would like to send this post.
Joe Paterno had a responsibility to take action when he was informed of the actions of his assistant coach. The rape of a 10 year old boy in the football facility was a brutal crime. Coach Paterno reported the incident but he did not follow up to insure that action was taken. In spite of knowing that Jerry Sandusky had raped a child, Coach Paterno continued to served as an honorary trustee for the nonprofit that Mr. Sandusky used to groom victims. JoPa never followed up to insure that other children were not put into harm’s way with this predator.
Had one of the victims been one of Coach Paterno’s grandchildren, I am sure his actions would have been dramatically different. From the moment that the coach had a credible allegation that Sandusky was committing crimes against children, especially rape, Coach Paterno should have done everything in his considerable position of power to protect children from this predator. Coach Paterno’s word reverberated through Happy Valley like thunder. And yet he was silent. Paterno may not be legally responsible for the rapes or assaults on children that came after he had knowledge of allegations. But he is morally complicit, as is every Penn State official that turned a blind eye in the name of Penn State Football. Victory with Honor! Just words, hollow and meaningless, because the man who embodied them was hollow and meaningless in protecting children at risk.
So when you lament the way in which this man was treated and recount his successes on the grid iron and his love for his players and the debt that you believe the University owes him, think for a moment about the ten year old boy in the shower who did not understand why he was being violated in ways that he did not understand. Think about the victims that came after and how their lives were destroyed.
Really, rioting was your way of supporting a football coach? I bet that took a lot of liquid courage! The video I have seen of people with masks and scarves covering their faces as they went on a rampage, confronted police and destroyed property shows just how much cowardice was present in that crowd. Your protests were as hollow and meaningless as the honor of Coach Paterno.
Coach Paterno failed as a coach, and a community leader. He failed as a man. Maybe when the beer and stupidity has left the bloodstreams for those students threatening their own community and those that did take a stand, the enormity of the crimes against these children will come into sharp relief. The pain and the damage that will haunt their lives will far outweigh the meaning of today’s game against Nebraska.
At the risk of alienating two of my siblings who graduated from Penn State, I can only surmise that the faculty, staff, alumni and students who place a higher premium on college football than the protection of children show an incredible lack of moral courage. If this is what Penn State is all about, the rioters on Wednesday night were smart to cover their faces. I would be embarrassed to be associated with that University as well.
“We are Penn State!” Big freakin deal!
A little focus people! Go back to your studies, apparently you have much to learn.