Thursday, November 10, 2011

Paterno, Penn State Pariah

Is JoePa guilty of being too human?

I would like a little help understanding something. Joe Paterno did a) nothing wrong, b) not nothing, c) not too little, but d) exactly what he was supposed to do and still has been fired. What am I missing?

I'm not saying Joe shouldn't have retired years ago--he should have--but his ousting yesterday strikes me as having more to do with finding a scapegoat than anything to do with misconduct. Shouldn't it be Jerry Sandusky receiving everyone's ire? Yet I hardly hear his name. And how does Mike McQueary keep his job if he is held to anything resembling a similar standard that which Joe is being held to? I don't even care about Penn State except for next weekend's matchup with Nebraska—Go Big Red!but this sorta throws a pall over that. I just can't help but see JoePa as a fall guy. 

First, I take issue with the notion that we have rules we are expected to follow, but when those rules prove insufficient for whatever reason, somebody (prominent) must take a fall because "he should have done more." Well if more ought to be done, why isn't that the rule, then? Especially if it is determined that someone should take a fall. 

It's not that I take issue the so-called unwritten rules of this case. I don't. I only take issue with the idea of punishing someone for failing to live up to them. It seems to me that if something is egregious enough to warrant sanction, then it ought to be worth noting that ahead of time. Since we, as a society, didn't do that, our issue isn't really with Joe, is it?

You're on inherently shaky ground when you find yourself trying to differentiate between synonyms. Is the problem that Joe did what he was "supposed to do," but not what he "should have done?" Or is that he did what he "should have done" but not what he was "supposed to do?" Confusing.

Moving on, unless it is proven that Paterno was part of a cover-up—in which case, everything is out the window—take away 20/20 hindsight and all you have is a question of who knew what and when. McQueary testified to a grand jury in 2009 that he witnessed Sandusky commit the assault in 2002. Rather than confront the situation, McQueary, then 28, fled and called his father. His father advised, rather than contacting authorities, contacting Paterno. According to Paterno's grand jury testimony, McQueary provided a very different account in 2002 than in 2009. Paterno took this limited information to Athletics Director Tim Curley and VP Gary Schultz who in turn notified President Graham Spanier—none of whom contacted the authorities. (Incidentally, the question still remains as to whether this was criminal. I don't hold high hopes for an objective conclusion at this point, though.)

Before all this, there was a 1998 investigation of Sandusky by local law enforcement in relation to similar charges. For a lack of critical information, the case was dropped, but Sandusky announced his unexpected retirement shortly after. And that's not all. An article published last March by the Pennsylvania Patriot-News outlines even more of Sandusky's salacious activities along with the names of many others who also failed to come forward. In short, Sandusky was dropping dots everywhere he went, but no one proved willing to connect them.

Maybe it was because Sandusky was a well-respected football coach. Maybe it was because he was the founder of an award-winning children's charity. Maybe everyone was afraid of the repercussions of being wrong—libel and slander suits or worse. Maybe it was just because all were acting primarily in their own self-interests, as Penn State is still doing by firing Paterno. Whatever the case may be, Paterno's lapse of "moral responsibility" is proven to be far from unique.

So what we have is the thrusting onto the shoulders of Joe Paterno the failings of literally dozens of individuals. Sure, he may be guilty of the all-too-human desire for someone else to deal with hard things. But all this self-righteous piling-on and (forgive the expression) armchair quarterbacking only serves to avoid confronting the same short coming in each of us.


tryanmax said...

I also made a comment on this topic at Commentarama before deciding to author a full-fledged post.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, The biggest problem I'm having with this whole thing is the number of conflicting reports. I honestly don't know what is true and what isn't at this point.

But it does trouble me that Paterno is the focus here when he's clearly the least culpable.

My thinking starts this way. Most people are trying to Monday Morning Quarterback this and that's wrong. They have turned this into a simple scenario with a handful of easy facts which make a very black and white picture. Then, with the benefit of hindsight, they look for a scapegoat to blame for not preventing this. And they've fixated on the most famous one rather than the most culpable ones.

To evaluate this fairly, you need to look at this as it was at the time. A student comes to Paterno and makes a horrible allegation about a long-time friend/associate. People now claim, he should have hounded Sandusky at that point until he was driven from the school into a jail cell. But think about it. Paterno doesn't know what's true, nor is he the highest power here. He should have taken this matter to the Athletic Director who had the power to investigate and take personnel action and he should have taken this to the cops, who had the power to investigate and arrest. My understanding is he did that. To demand that he do more is simply unreasonable and is a higher standard than any of us would accept if placed on ourselves. In other words, what is the basis for saying that Paterno had a duty to make sure the police and the AD were doing their jobs right and how many people would say they hold such a similar duty at their own jobs?

Now if Paterno continued to associate with Sandusky, which he may have, then I agree he made a huge error in judgment based on that. But I am uncomfortable stringing the guy up until I know what he did and I can clearly see that he broke some moral or legal duty.

Unfortunately, people rarely reserve judgment until they know what they are talking about.

USS Ben said...

Hi Tryanmax:

Excellent post! I concur. It is very impoortant to get all the truth before blaming or not blaming those that may have knew or didn't know what was going on.

This kind of stuff hits close to home for me since I was raped as a young boy by my father's friend who was babysitting me.

My parents never had him as a babysitter again after I told them but they didn't call the police either.

My father and mother divorced shortly after that so for a long time I thought it was my fault, since the rapist told me that if I said anything my parents would leave me.

Kind of messed me up for awhile to put it mildly.

So it's unfair of me, I reckon to think that most folks would go out of their way to seek justice when these kind of crimes are committed.

I would like to think they would but that's not the reality.

I do take heart when I do see folks go the extra mile to put these scumbags away or directly intervene when they see a crime in progress.

Anyways, I hope the victims get the help they need and I hope no one is punished just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and didn't know.

And even if Paterno did know more, he doesn't deserve the same punishment as Sandasky (who should be summarily executed, IMO).

tryanmax said...

Andrew Price reports on Commentarama that Paterno did, in fact, continue to deal with Sandusky after the 2002 incident, including joining the child-charity Sandusky had set up. I am in agreement that this is a terrible lapse of judgement.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Yeah, that's bad.

tryanmax said...

Ben, I am terribly sorry about your experience. I just want to be absolutely clear that, should it be learned that Paterno was part of a conscious cover-up, then he deserves what is coming for him. And by that same token, so does every other individual involved (I'm not just eyeballing McQueary).

I didn't just lightly allude to the Franklin Cover-up earlier. Not only do I come from Omaha, but I have had close relationships by people deeply affected by it. So in a distant way, I can empathize with what you might be feeling. And, of course, I think the two situations bear much similarity.

USS Ben said...

Thanks Tryanmax. I do wanna be clear I wasn't upset at anything you wrote. I did overreact based on sketchy info, regardless whether more info shows Paterno to be complicite in any cover up.

Even with the new info about Paterno, it's still possible he simply didn't believe Sandasky is a pedophile.
Particularly since they were good friends and colleagues.
Most folks can't believe that their friends or relatives would do such a thing and are blind to the signs.

Of course, if it comes out Paterno had covered anything up he definitely should face justice.
I do like that he at least tried to calm the Penn st. students down and asked them to pray for the victims.
Hopefully there will be no more riots from the idiots.

tryanmax said...

There's a lot of concern from some Husker fans about what might happen this weekend. The talk from the coaches and administrators is that all will be fine...but what else would you expect? What Husker fans remember is how poorly they and the team were treated back in 2002, even after Penn routed us 40-7.

USS Ben said...

I would be concerned too. Pretty volitile group at Penn St.. Not painting everyone there with the same brush but there is a history that can't be ignored.

BTW, I couldn't hardly believe this:
Some Things You Can't Make Up

The title seems to be a Freudian slip by Sardusky, or perhaps a joke in his mind.
He is a psychopath afterall, and this is the kind of thing that one would do to "prove" they are smarter than anyone else.

tryanmax said...


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