There is no denying Joe Paterno's successful record on the field at Penn State. They win consistently, they're able to recruit the strongest talent in the country, and many of his players have gone on to very successful careers in and out of football. I know a few of them. I don't doubt there's a lot of men out there who are better men than they would have been but for the influence of Paterno and his assistants. There's a lot to admire there. Most of us would be fortunate to achieve just a fraction of that record in our lives.
However, life is not a zero-sum game. I think it's possible for a person to redeem themselves after a long streak of mistakes. But it's also possible to relegate a proud record into negligence through a great failure. This fall, we learned that's what Joe Paterno did.
Jerry Sandusky bears the bulk of blame and responsibility for his actions. Whatever is or is not wrong in that man's mind, he chose not to seek help, he chose not to separate himself from the boys he found somehow irresistably attractive. But the football staff and the university administration at Penn State, as well as elements of Pennsylvania law enforcement bear responsibility as his enabler. When they learned of Sandusky's actions, and declined to see him stopped, they became responsibility for Sandusky's continued abuse of teenage and younger boys.
There is no mistake, and no exaggeration to say that Joe Paterno knew Jerry Sandusky was abusing boys. For this man who preached excellence on the field, to insist to his players that doing what is minimally required is not enough, demanding them to push themselves to the limit of their capabilities, and to extend those capabilities... it is simply unacceptable for him to minimally pass the word on to his administration and leave it at that.
To Paterno's critics, many apologists have insisted, "You weren't there, you can't know what he knew, you didn't see what he saw, you can't judge Joe Paterno." They have cried that his firing was a denial of due process. They have wailed that he still deserves honor and respect because of his accomplishments in football.
To all of them, I quite simply say: Fuck you, you're wrong.
Paterno's own grand jury testimony is enough to hang him by. He admits that Mike McQueary told him he saw something of "a sexual nature" between Sandusky and "the youngster". The bare minimum required is to notify the administration. Excellence calls for following up. Excellence says that if the police haven't come to you in a couple of days, you go to them. Excellence says that if the police blow you off, you go to the district attorney, then the attorney general, then the governor, and if all that has failed, you call a press conference. Because what is more serious than the safety of children?
But Joe Paterno did none of that. He did the minimum, and then he walked away. He didn't even ensure that Sandusky was permanently removed from the football facilities, let alone the campus. Thus, Jerry Sandusky continued to victimize more boys. Joe Paterno could've thrown the brakes on that, but he chose not to.
And that's why Joe Paterno is no longer a great man.
That's why I no longer, and will never again respect him, nor have any patience for honoring or glorifying him. His football accomplishments mean nothing. No one else in Pennsylvania was his measure for authority and respect, and he chose not to use that authority to get justice for an abused boy, nor to protect future victims from harm. So fuck Joe Paterno. He put the feelings of a 22-year old adult witness ahead of a 10-year old victim ("I didn’t push Mike to describe exactly what it was because he was very upset.") And he put other people's weekend comfort ahead of the need to investigate the rape of a child ("I ordinarily would have called people right away, but it was a Saturday morning and I didn’t want to interfere with their weekends.")
So again: Fuck Joe Paterno.
Almost as appalling are the people defending and apologizing for him. The students who rioted when he was fired. The filth that signed their names to that "open letter". Even Dick Vitale, offering nothing but praise on Twitter (and rejecting
entreaties to temper it.)
Every one of them is saying that it's okay not to stand up and fight to take down a rapist, as long as you're a really good football coach. Fuck. That. Shit.