I can’t seem to go anywhere these days (not even Borneo, Malaysia apparently) without seeing some news coming out of tiny State College, Pennsylvania. This is, of course, in regards to the child sex case of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, and more recently whether his boss, the legendary, late head coach Joe Paterno was guilty in covering up for his buddy. There are three reasons why I’m simply sick of hearing about this. Sandusky’s crimes were indeed troubling, but it is time to both give this a rest, and let Paterno rest in peace as well. Here’s why:
- Neither man was either as great, or is as evil, as we make them out to be.
What do I mean by this? First of all, I’m not in any way, shape or form condoning Sandusky’s crimes. He obviously did some sick things that severely impacted the lives of some of his victims. However, we are a bandwagon society. If Sandusky, who had a children’s foundation, worked with hundreds of kids throughout his years at Penn State, and abused a handful of them (which again, I am NOT excusing), I’m pretty sure there will be plenty of others who were not victimized that will come forth with dollar signs in their eyes. And wouldn’t you? This is how our society is, and always has, worked. Like the ambulance-chaser legal ads we see on late night television, or the flyers we receive in the mail that tell us we may be eligible for compensation because we rented a car in California in April of 2007, when we see an opportunity to profit, we pounce. And while Sandusky did victimize some children and does not deserve to be let off the hook for even one, I’m sure the extent of his crimes has been overstated as other kids who participated in his programs are being influenced by ‘advisers’ to try to cash in. (If I receive those notices about renting a car 5 years ago, imagine how many lawyers have contacted every kid who was ever in any way linked with Sandusky’s program!).
We put these men on a pedestal because they could coach football, nothing more and nothing less. And because we regarded them so highly before, it’s our nature to kick dirt on them now that they have fallen.
- Paterno is dead, and Sandusky will face the wrath of the law.
I can’t emphasize this point enough. Paterno is dead—anything that comes out now to further defame him is like kicking a man when he’s down. He cannot defend himself. Anything more negative that comes out about him is only going to make the remaining years of his widow’s life miserable, and what did she do to deserve that? Further, while idiots like former FBI chief Louis Freeh, who surely cashed in hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money for his “investigation” into the case (like Penn State administrators couldn’t have accessed the same email history without the massive fee) continue to defame anyone associated with the case further, has anyone for one minute put themselves in the actual shoes of Joe Paterno? Keep in mind, this man first met Sandusky in 1963—more than 30 years before any allegations of child sex abuse came out. Who is to say that when he first heard any speculation, he didn’t approach Sandusky and confront him about it? If you had a 40-some year relationship with someone, and they told you that something simply wasn’t true, wouldn’t you probably give them the benefit of the doubt as well? Again, I’m not defending Sandusky, or even Paterno if he did in fact go to any lengths to cover up the issue. What I’m suggesting is that he more than likely did ask Sandusky about the allegations and simply didn’t believe they were true, based on a trust that 40-plus years of knowing someone and working with someone probably brings.
As for Sandusky, he has already been defamed, will forever be known as a child rapist, and will die behind bars. What more does anyone want?
The latest talk is about imposing a full-year ban on Penn State football, but all that serves to do is punish 19-year olds who are currently living their dreams of playing Penn State football, and the thousands of fans who see PSU games as the highlight of their autumn, for the past actions of people who are now dead or in prison. And with NCAA (which is among the most hypocritical institutions going) rules that make things very difficult on players who wish to transfer to other universities, such a ban would be a very short sighted, bandwagon approach that displaces punishment onto innocent people.
- We (the media and fans) are the idiots for continually elevating entertainers into greater cultural and moral idols.
So you want to remove JoePa’s statue from the Penn State campus, do you? Well, may I ask why that statue is really there in the first place? Let’s get it straight: while Paterno was indeed a great football coach, he coached scholarship athletes who would have simply accepted scholarships to play football at Pittsburgh, or Ohio State, or Syracuse if Paterno wasn’t around. If you really want to elevate sports figures or coaches into saints, then I’d suggest starting with youth coaches for troubled kids, or high school coaches in inner cities, who are actually taking young, impressionable children off the streets and instilling within them discipline and responsibility. By the time people like Paterno (and even more so professional coaches) get to these players, they are already nearly grown men. Their most impressionable years have passed. Surely Paterno positively impacted the lives of some of his players, but in far less proportion to other people these young men dealt with prior to attending Penn State. As I said earlier, Paterno coached football—he didn’t walk on water, heal lepers and turn criminals into saints.
This reminds me of the public shock and scandal after Tiger Woods’ sex addiction came into the public eye. We, the media and public, along with his hundreds of sponsors, were furious. How could Tiger commit infidelity as a husband…for he’s the greatest golfer in the world!??! Does anyone else realize how ridiculous this sounds? We don’t make statues of, and sponsors don’t pay millions of dollars for endorsements with, Joe Average who is the community youth director at church, or the guy who runs the homeless shelter down the street. If we want to idolize people for moral and humane reasons, then these are the folks we should look at. But we idolized Tiger Woods because he was really, really good at hitting a little, white ball into a tiny cup with a metal stick. That’s it. We idolized Michael Jordan for being really, really good at making a bouncy, orange ball go through a net. So how could he possibly cheat on his wife??? We are simply fools for trying to project a larger image onto people for being incredibly talented at a particular craft. Unfortunately, there is absolutely not, and has never existed, any correlation between talent in a particular craft and moral fidelity. And when you think about it, it’s kind of silly that we make it so.