Note: I wrote all that follows BEFORE this happened.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around all of this. I still stand by my statement at the end of this (spoiler alert) — Joe should go, but he should have been allowed to coach his final home game. For tonight, my sadness just got sadder.
I debated even posting about the Penn State scandal, but since it’s all I seem to be thinking about this week, I figured I might as well get it off my chest.
I come from one of those families. WE ARE Penn State (as the saying goes). My grandfather, father, brother and countless cousins are all proud PSU grads. I oftentimes kick myself for not going myself (particularly as I’m paying enormous student loans bills each month that would not exist had I chosen the mostly full-ride I had to PSU versus the very little ride I got to Syracuse. Damn private university).
My whole life, I’ve been cheering for the Nittany Lions. In fact, State College was my almost first home. My dad was a Penn State student when I was born, so a few months after I arrived, we moved to Happy Valley while he finished school. My dad was a pre-med student and was an athletic trainer for the teams (not football). But there’s an urban legend that JoePa supposedly squeezed my fat infant cheeks at a PSU wrestling match my dad was working.
And for as long as I can remember (until the past few years), I’ve made the annual trek to Beaver Stadium to watch our beloved Lions battle it out. There’s nothing like a Penn State game, particularly a Penn State tailgate. My 80something great-aunts and great-uncles STILL take an RV to every single home game and party right along with the undergrads.
My mom, stepdad and I sat through a miserable, cold, raining bowl game to watch PSU beat LSU in an exciting finish in 2010.
In high school, I attended cheerleading camp at Penn State, and one of the first times I got drunk was when my girlfriends and I visited one of our friend’s older brothers at Penn State.
This is a long-winded way of explaining how deeply woven the Penn State thread runs in my life.
So, even though I’m sure my friends and family members who are PSU grads are much more devastated than me, this horrific chain of events hurts me, too.
You know, I can still vividly remember the day in the third grade when my next-door neighbor told me that there was no Santa Claus. I tried to play it off like I knew that already (which I probably should have by that age) but I didn’t. I still WANTED to believe. I was heartbroken.
And that’s how I feel about JoePa. Suddenly, this mythical, moral figure is suddenly deeply, deeply flawed. How can we ever forgive him?
DadJovi and I have been arguing all week over Joe’s role in all of this. I’ve tried to think of every excuse in the book to justify how and why he could turn such a blind eye to these disgusting allegations, particularly when they were brought to his attention by a trusted assistant and former player (McQuery). Maybe he didn’t understand what he was being told? Maybe he believed his superiors when they told him it was being handled and he falsely assumed that there had been some mistake. Like many, I’m willing to cut him a teeny tiny bit of slack because of his age. I don’t think he’s been playing with a full deck for some time. But those are just excuses. He needed to do more. He had a moral obligation to do more.
Watching him struggle to come to grips with the full depth of the world’s outrage this week has been particularly sad. He is a man who had dedicated his entire life to not only the university but to supporting, encouraging and molding the young people of his community and throughout the country. He’s a benevolent figure who looms large over the great state of Pennsylvania. Joe Paterno is like a grandfather to all of us. Or, at least he was.
I’ve thought that it was time for Joe to step down for several years (my dad has nearly given up watching the past couple years because he’s been so frustrated with Joe). But I hate to see him go like this. I’m glad he announced his retirement and that he’ll get one more home game. Will he finish out the season? I doubt it. And that’s probably the right thing.
I fervently wish we don’t find out that Joe knew even more about Sandusky’s history of abuse and preying on innocent boys. I hope in time we can all remember the reasons we loved Joe but even more importantly, Penn State University. But I’m afraid it’s going to be a really long time until we can all wipe the stench of this off ourselves.
And I’d certainly be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to reflect upon the real victims in all of this — the young boys who were so horribly abused. These are the very children who NEEDED someone to stick up for them. Their whole lives were already so hard. To think that someone took advantage of the fact that they are the voiceless is beyond words.
So yes, football fans and PSU grads will all eventually move on with their lives and live to spend another Saturday cheering on the Lions. But for these children and their families, it won’t be that easy. And that’s not OK.
And that’s the real sad part of this whole story.
I just can’t stop thinking about this horrible story, and quite frankly, I think there is absolutely no excuse for anyone who knows about a child being abused and doesn’t go to the police. Because of people like Joe Paterno, many more boys were victimized by Sandusky, and all those who knew are, in my view, guilty. The students’ reaction tonight is shameful. We are talking about little boys whose lives have been destroyed because of these grown men’s actions or lack thereof. Joe Pa saying “this is a tragedy” today makes me even madder, obviously it wasn’t such a tragedy to him back in 2002 when he found out. Sorry for the rant, I’m just disgusted by the whole thing.
You’re 100 percent right, Marie. There is no excuse. These are the very people who have supposedly dedicated their lives to protecting, teaching and encouraging children. The tragedy isn’t that Joe lost his job or even how he went out. It’s that he COULD have done more and helped stop this vicious cycle. He didn’t. And that’s the tragedy.
It’s just so sad that JoePa is going to be linked to this scandal — and not his lifelong career in football. It’s so odd to me that he would be involved in the coverup- but I guess people do weird things for their job and to continue a legacy.
I’m not a PSU fan – but Joe Paterno did play football with my (late) great uncle at Brown. Knowing that always made me proud of his history. So I’m with you – it’s just sad – for everyone involved.
Hindsight is a beautiful thing and it’s also easy for all of us to say how much more we would have done. I’d like to think that I would have risked whatever professional and personal turmoil to report my trusted friend and colleague. But none of us can answer that if we weren’t in his shoes. But Joe WAS Penn State, so I have a hard time accepting that he thought his “superiors” were handling it. He had no superiors.
Ugh, what a mess.
Always surreal when something like this happens to an icon, especially when it’s someone that is followed from childhood. You never want someone like that to let you down and let you down with such extreme circumstances as these. I had only heard a few things yesterday about it all through Twitter and didn’t get into the details until tonight. The wifey started reading the 23 page grand jury document and was reading segments to me about Sandusky’s acts. She couldn’t finish and I’m kind of glad because the anger and disgust with Sandusky in my mind was getting heated. Those poor kids who were a part of a program to help give them support and a roll model because someone like that was missing in their lives….then they get that f’ing asshole!!! I can only imagine the number of those affected out there that haven’t reported anything. As you mentioned, it is definitely very very sad!
I haven’t brought myself to reading the report yet either, although I’ve read enough to know what it contains. It’s disgusting. And I fear this is just the beginning. There are already rumblings on Twitter about more, even more horrific allegations against Sandusky. This is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
And apparently you were more right than I was about those punks last night. What can I say? No one ever accused drunk 18-year-0lds of making sound decisions.
We were discussing the same thing this morning about how even more horrible this is probably going to get once the case gets opened up even more. 🙁
Oh, I was on your side about the overreaction from the news stations. I changed over from them and stayed up until 1am watching ESPN’s no commercial coverage of it all. Despite the turned over news truck and a few broken windows, it was a very calm gathering considering how fired up they all were. So you were definitely on the right path with your thoughts. I even changed my tweets to “gatherers” towards the end of the night. 🙂 I’m willing to bet that those handful of morons that caused trouble, either didn’t go to school there or really don’t belong there in the first place.
I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Penn State. Joe Pa was a walking legend and the program exudes class. I remember when Penn State came to Tuscaloosa last year that the Alabama fans wanted to be extra hospitable to the fans because of the traditiona and legacy Penn State represents. We kind of felt like Penn State was the Northern version of Alabama. 🙂
The whole thing is almost too much for me to wrap my head around. It astounds me that ANYONE wouldn’t go straight to the police to report such a heinous act. So many checks and balances failed here – all the way from the assstant who witnessed the event and reported it to Joe Pa (but stopped short of informing the police himself) to the many, many other people who could have put a stop to it but failed to do so.
It’s all so sad. It’s horrible that so many people knew about the abuse and it took this long for Sandusky face what he’s done. Those poor kids. I just wonder what went wrong in that program. They all knew about it but continued to coach with him and befriend him…it makes no sense. I’ve always had a great respect for Joe Paterno, I wonder what in the world he was thinking.
I think we ALL want to know what Joe was thinking. It’s unfathomable that he didn’t do more.
Thanks for the comment.
I’m so happy to read this perspective, because so far I’ve had nothing but blinding anger and disgust at the whole thing. I have a huge emotional weakness for children and the elderly (well, and dogs, but that doesn’t apply here) and as much as I’m heartbroken at the thought of this old man’s career coming down in this manner (his many accomplishments along with it) I just cannot shake the sadness and anger that these kids are coming *after* the institution in terms of importance. Obviously that’s not what you’re doing here, but I think it would have been far more graceful for Joe to step down immediately. It would have served the institution better too, because of course I get it that bringing down Camelot is a big deal.
With all due respect (and that’s not just a phrase here, I respect you immensely) I disagree about Saturday. I think most non-Lions would have a REALLY tough time seeing him get cheered, and I suspect there are a good number of fans who wouldn’t be able to cheer him at all. It’s surely much, much better for Joe and for the school if the healing process can begin now. It’s not going to be a normal game no matter who is down there on the field. No one will be thinking about football.
Julie — thank YOU for your thoughtful response. That’s what has been missing from this whole fiasco — thoughtfulness. Everyone just keeps having knee-jerk instant reactions (on all sides of the debate). People have made it into an either you’re with Joe, or you’re against him situation. And as we all know, life is much more complex and nuanced than that.
And I hear you that it’s better for the healing process to begin as quickly as possible. But, I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon, whether Joe is on the field or not. But I think you’re right that there was just no way for it to happen that way on Saturday. It would have been so much better for everyone involved if he had made the decision himself to step down immediately. But good or bad, that’s not Joe and that’s not how he’s ever been.
I think the end of the season can’t come soon enough for everyone involved. Maybe then the real healing process can begin. Although I’m terrified of watching this legal situation play out. I’m so afraid of what heinous things we’re going to learn next because we all know there will be more.
Thank you again for your very thoughtful comment.