Thursday, November 10, 2011

Where Was Joe?

"Joe Paterno IS Penn State football!" said one of the rioters on that campus in the wake of the news that Paterno had been fired by Penn State's Board of Trustees.

To which one can only respond: you'd better hope not. 

The charges against Jerry Sandusky and the revelations of cover-up, inaction, lying and half-truths that followed force one to conclude that no school would want Paterno to lead one of its teams, let alone represent that team and that entire institution, given the vacuum of morality and leadership at the top of that program over the last 13 years.

Where was Joe when his Sandusky, his loyal assistant coach, was raping a 10 year-old boy in his team's facility?

Where was Joe and what did he do after that act was reported to him by a graduate assistant? Following the chain of command? When Sandusky was banned from the Penn State campus in 2002 what possible reason could there have been for it other than that the school knew, and Joe knew, that Sandusky had committed the precise act that was reported to Paterno. And yet those sordid details were apparently kept within the Penn State campus, enabling Sandusky to pursue his twisted habits everywhere else (including, potentially, one of the school's satellite campuses).

Where was Joe, when that loyal assistant retired, at the age of 55 and heir apparent to Joe's throne? What exactly did Joe know at that time about Sandusky? Why did Sandusky retire then, at the peak of his career, and what was his nebulous attachment to the Penn State football program after that?  Why was Sandusky still travelling with the team after his retirement, and apparently taking some of his victims (along with his wife) with him to bowl games?

Where was Joe when after Sandusky retired he founded The Second Mile, a charity ostensibly devoted to helping youths from troubled families, but in all likelihood to offer Sandusky a ready supply of young boys to prey upon? The Grand Jury states in its indictment of Sandusky that "[i]t was within The Second Mile program that Sandusky found his victims" which makes Penn State's and Paterno's lack of notice to anyone, including those within the foundation, of what they had to know, what they had to be worried about regarding Sandusky's predilections, all the more heinous. That is, if they were at all concerned about the welfare of children as opposed to, say, the reputation of the University and its lily white football program.

Where was Joe when that student quoted above and others were clashing with police and calling for his return? If he had really planned on devoting the rest of his life to the university after he magnanimously announced on his (and only his) terms when he would step down, shouldn't he have done something? Why not address the crowd and tell them that they were being completely wrong-headed and ill-motivated? Why not ask them where the protests were on behalf of those 7, 8, 9 or more (many, many more perhaps) boys who were abused and forever scarred by Joe's right-hand man when that news broke? Where was the Tweet, text, email, phone call, press release, telegraph, carrier pigeon message telling the students that they were merely heaping more shame on an already shamed institution? That his ability or inability to coach three more football games was not worth that extra layer of tarnish?

Shooting the messenger -- the extra layer of tarnish.

To hear anyone say that Paterno was denied the "right" to retire on his own terms by the Board of Trustees is so galling, so myopic, it defies belief. Paterno lost any right he had to any sort of sympathy, understanding, or deference when he turned his back on the first boy he knew had been violated by Sandusky and lost it even more with every one that followed.

We know where Joe will not be on Saturday when his team takes the field without him for the first time in 60 years. And that is exactly the way it should be.

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