Amid the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, Penn State University will remove the statue of
legendary infamous coach Joe Paterno near Beaver Stadium this weekend.
Over the last 20 years I’ve spent every fall splitting time between high school and college football games. Many of my friends are high school or college coaches while both my brothers coach high school football. We spend hours diagramming plays and discussing coverage packages.
I believe that participation in sports is a remarkable tool to help prepare people for life and football is my favorite sport. So it was understandable that I considered Joe Paterno to be a hero.
But I started to lose respect for him in 1999. It took some digging but here is a video of why.
I saw these plays on TV during a game break. My immediate reaction was that JoPa was going tear into Arrington. He may have somehow missed it did during the game but there would be hell to pay afterwards!
But JoPa didn’t. In fact he defended Arrington and even said that he had no interest in reviewing tape of the plays in question. He just ignored it. Here was one his players blatantly taking cheap shots at a defenseless opponent and JoPa couldn’t care less.
Success with honor, indeed.
Penn State won the game when Arrington blocked a late FG attempt by Pittsburgh. Penn State escaped with the game, their #2 ranking intact but JoPa reputation, at least with me, was on the decline.
In order to win a game, he turned a blind eye to the thuggery of one of his players.
Winning was more important.
It would be a decade between Penn State wins over Michigan. My respect for JoPa continued to decline as the number of Penn State football player arrests continued to climb. It got so bad that ESPN did a special report on the subject in 2008.
Between 2002 and 2008 “…46 Penn State football players have faced 163 criminal charges, according to an ESPN analysis of Pennsylvania court records and reports. Twenty-seven players have been convicted of or have pleaded guilty to a combined 45 counts.”
But before every Michigan-Penn State game someone would make the obligatory, “isn’t JoPa great!” remark and I’d answer the same way every time.
“I like JoPa, I like to beat him.”
And after every defeat JoPa would have some lame excuse to explain his team’s futility, “the timekeeper screwed us!” and my favorite “the grass was too long!”
All during this time my opinion of JoPa was that the game had passed him by and that he was compromising his values- “Success with Honor!” to stay relevant.
So when the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke, I assumed that he was victim of circumstances, that people around him had hidden the horror of Sandusky’s actions because surely there’s no way JoPa would have stood idly by as children were molested.
But the Freeh Report issued last week made one thing perfectly clear- JoPa was an active participant in enabling Sandusky to continue preying on children.
He covered for him and enabled his actions.
Since the report, the Penn State community is in agony. There is talk of the Penn State football program getting the death penalty, and the University will soon be facing a number of lawsuits from Sandusky’s victims.
And outside Beaver Stadium, the statue of Joe Paterno continues to stand.
I understand that people have strong feelings about the JoPa they thought they knew. But given the contents of the report there’s no way that statue should remain.
We don’t build statues to people who enable serial pedophiles.
When I scandal broke, I wrote- …We can debate exactly what Joe Paterno could have done differently, but let’s agree that he should have done more than he did.
Far from not doing enough, the report found that Paterno discouraged Penn State officials from contacting outside authorities.
Penn State- this is the guy you want to honor with a statue?
At some point JoPa stopped being deserving of the honor.
Penn State fans have a choice- keep the Joe Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium, idealizing the Paterno myth or join the rest of the world in mourning the failings of Paterno the man.
You can’t have it both ways.