I’ve been chewing on this one for a very long time.
Yet, every time I sit down to write my article on Joe Paterno, the story changes and usually for the worse.
Despite what we really know – a few very vague emails where the Freeh Report comes to what it calls a “reasonable conclusion” that Paterno ordered a cover-up, I for one think a “reasonable conclusion” would be that something is wrong with this picture. Seriously: a guy who built one of the most widely-successful college football programs based on “winning with honor” just suddenly lost his mind?
What he have going on in Happy Valley is looking more like a banana-republic takeover rather than what we in the United States used to call “due process.” And, sorry, if anyone has every been entitled to “due process,” it was Joseph Vincent Paterno.
I can already hear the self-righteous howls about the “children” who didn’t get their “due process.” Well, they are now. In the courts. The way it’s supposed to work, remember?
The Statue Comes Down
I sit here literally stunned at “the statue” being yanked out of the ground today…Joe’s head covered like they do right before they hang someone. Once again – the Board of Trustees (and quite possibly the most inept group of cowards and Barney-Fifes ever assembled under one roof) caved in.
“See us, NCAA? Look how good and sensitive and politically correct we are! We can be good, see?” Yeah, right. On Monday morning, the NCAA is going to absolutely crush Penn State.
In case you’ve never been there, the “statue” isn’t really just a statue: it’s a complete shrine of sorts to a man who was one of the most beloved figures in all of sports. Sitting in its own grotto – much like something you’d see in Rome – the statue was surrounded by stone walls with gold letters reading Joseph Vincent Paterno. Educator. Coach. Humanitarian.
For just a few sickening minutes today, I watched as a forklift – carrying the statue wrapped in some kind of industrial body-bag – made its way down the street.
Harder to watch were the guys using cut-off saws and grinders removing those words off of the wall and tossing them on the ground. Wow.
The Media Conviction
How did we ever get to a place where the so-called “media” – meaning opinion writers, talking heads, and bloggers- can force the weight of public-opinion to ruin someone with no factual evidence? I think we’re going backwards here to a day when all of the “niggers” were causing all of the problems. If there was a problem in your town, and not that long ago, it was the “darkies” who caused it. They were easy targets because it was so easy to “whip up the hate” in a hurry.
How ironic is it that a man who was considered an outcast at Brown University because he really didn’t fit – as in a skinny wop from Brooklyn – ends up spending his life to prove them all wrong ends up on the junk pile of life for doing so much right?
I sat there watching Mr. Freeh during his press conference one hour after his $6.5 million dollar report was released – all 275 pages of it – and watched as he made it a personal vendetta. Not content to simply answer questions, he began to “sell” his report to the pretend reporters using damning language as he made his case. Without a doubt, NOT ONE SINGLE REPORTER had the time to actually read the entire report and formulate intelligent questions.
I used to think that being a “journalist” demanded that the real “facts’” are revealed. Not any more. Mr. Freeh was kind enough to provide a “summation” of his report which was very short and basically said “Trust me. Don’t even bother reading the full report, because all you need to know is that Joe Paterno acted to cover up this whole thing.
The lazy and complicent media gobbled it up, ran back to their Ipads, and confirmed it: Joe Paterno was a scumbag, a liar, and protected a pervert in his midst.
Finally – the guy who wasn’t so nice to them in press conferences on occasion and was surrounded by his staff much of the last 10 years – was vulnerable. The cross hairs of justice – however tainted – were now squarely fixed on JoePa’s head. The Freeh Report was the equivalent of “chum” to sharks: cheap and rotten meat to create a feeding frenzy.
The Freeh Report: Fool’s Gold
How does a report that is supposed to reveal “what really happened” fail so miserably to do so?
At first, the numbers are impressive: over six million dollars spent (now that’s a hell of a report!), over three million documents reviewed, and over 400 interviews conducted. Sounds pretty impressive until you realize that Freeh’s investigative team had no teeth…as in no subpoena power. We already knew that something dreadfully wrong happened at Penn State back in 2001, and that the main players in this tragedy were Spanier, Schultz, Curley, Paterno, and McQueary.
The Freeh Report miraculously came to its scathing conclusions based on interviews with none of them. Instead, it uses something called “reasonable conclusions” to fill in the blanks.
“Reasonable conclusions?” Seriously? I would think that after spending over $6 million dollars there might actually be some actual, you know, “hard evidence.” But I guess I’m just tough on people.
Who’s The Real Kool-Aid Drinker: Me…or YOU?
I’ve spent the past few weeks talking to friends and people I would normally put under the category as “smart.” Today, I had the opportunity to talk to a friend of the family – a woman who just turned 70 – about everything that’s been going on at Penn State. You might be surprised to know that I am anxious to really hear other opinions on this subject as I am fearing that I might be actually losing my mind over this. When I mentioned to her that they tore down Joe’s statue today, her comment was “Well, after hearing about what was in that report, it had to come down.”
She confirmed my worst fears. A normally smart and sophisticated woman based her opinion on what “she had heard” about the report. She didn’t actually “read” the report and still supported what was happening by what she was being spoon-fed by every news outlet in the country.
Last night, I sat down with my brother-in-law, who was in town for a few days to visit family. He has his Phd in psychology, and works at an institution in New York State. As really talented and sophisticated guy, I was eager to hear his opinion on the whole Penn State-Joe Paterno thing. Honestly, by this time, I’m almost wishing for him tell me to let it go and come to grips with Joe being a scumbag. Instead – again, as a doctor of psychology – he said that Joe had done the right thing by reporting it to his superiors. Not only had done the right thing, but would open himself up to lawsuits by trying to go further. That’s just the way institutions work. “But, what if he had actively played a roll in getting his ‘boss’ hired?, I asked. “Doesn’t matter. That’s not the way it works. The university has a chain of command and it’s up to them to follow up on anything that any employee reports. End of story, go back to work.”
Interesting, to say the least.
I hate it when the facts get in the way of a good story, don’t you?
In Defense of Joe Paterno:
I am always surprised by the naivete of people: for so many years, people just got the biggest kick out of watching ‘ol JoePa running around the stadium with his khakis hiked up, his white socks showing and his thick Coke-bottle glasses. You have admit, it was quite a scene…the old Italian grandfather holding court in Happy Valley, presiding over a squeaky-clean football image that did things “the right way.”
Amazing graduation rates, “success with honor,” the “Penn State Way,” and those old-school uniforms. While people came to loathe Penn State for just being way too self-righteous, millions of people absolutely loved it. Game Day was like Christmas morning, and Joe was like Santa Clause. For 62 years!
Yet, the real story is this: you don’t get to where Joe got in life by being a pushover or a patsy.
There is no doubt in my mind the Joe was one hard-ass son-of-a-bitch when he needed to be. He had something to prove, and he was never going to be satisfied. When the fans all laughed when Joe chewed out a reporter or screamed at a ref, I can assure you that Joe wasn’t kidding around.
There’s a lot to be said about growing up poor and how it affects the rest of your life. As avid Paterno historian, I can assure you that Joe never, ever forgot that day at Brown when he got invited to a fraternity party only to be laughed at for showing up in the best white sweater his mother had to offer. “Who invited the dago?”, sniffed one of the social elites. Stuff like that haunts you for life.
Joe Paterno was one driven man. His son Jay referenced that at Joe’s memorial service, when he stated that his father could devote his life to football knowing that Sue had everything under control at the house.
Yet, here is a simple yet driven man who would accomplish more than most of his phony detractors could even dream of in a lifetime.
Was Joe a control freak? Most likely.
Was Joe full of himself? You bet. His brother George took him to task for that in his book The Coach Form Byzantium.
Was Joe close to his coaching staff? All evidence says “no.” He ran Penn State Football like Jeffrey Immelt runs GE. Staff meetings and game plans were pretty much it. They were all scared to death of him! His best friend was his wife, Sue. That’s who he hung out with.
In the end, Joe really did so much good that it is pretty much inconceivable that his life and his legacy would end up on the trash-pile of world history.
Remember: 12,000 people showed up at his memorial service. That number could have easily tripled had they had the service at Beaver Stadium. These weren’t just the “Kool Aid” drinkers: these were people who showed up to honor a man for what he stood for.
Why do so many people forgive movie stars and entertainment figures for rape, DUI charges, sex tapes, and drug abuse…and yet pile on a guy who really was such a straight arrow for most of his life? Bill Clinton still walks around waving to crowds after having oral sex in the Oval Office with an intern and lying about it. People LOVE him…yet he was very much guilty of being a scumbag. But, I can separate the two and still enjoy hearing his opinions on world affairs because I know he’s a bright guy.
I guess it’s a lot more fun to pile on a Boy Scout who makes a mistake than it is a politician or a movie star. It’s always a lot more fun to crucify a saint than a sinner.
Did Joe Paterno make a mistake? Most likely.
Did Joe Paterno order a cover up? In my opinion, doubtful. Obviously, there were some real problems with the hierarchy at Penn State. But it is not Joe’s fault if his bosses were afraid of him and all of the cash his football program brought in. A world-class university should have the tools to over-ride the football coach no matter how much money he brings in.
What really happened? A calamity of errors by a group of men who probably thought they were trying to do the “right thing” knowing that they were in the middle of nowhere and they would probably never get caught. Yes, Joe had a lot of control and more importantly a lot of influence over what was going on. But again: the tools were in place to over ride him.
Did Joe REALLY kick the president and athletic director out of his house when they suggested his retirement? Often quoted by the media, this story has take on the same legend as Davy Crockett riding a lighting bolt as proof of Joe’s absolute control over Penn State. In reality, the fans and alumni were tiring of Joe after a few miserable seasons, and no doubt Spanier had to suck it up to keep the donations coming in and go talk to Joe. I am quite sure he hated the prospect, and enlisted the athletic director – Tim Curley – to go along with him for moral support. Joe informed them that he felt he had a really great team in place for the following year and they would be fine. Later, Joe would laugh about it and said he told them “to get the hell out of here.” He proceeded to go 11-1 the next season…probably should have retired then.
Regarding Jerry Sandusky:
Why does this guy seem to enjoy relative silence in regards to the media?
Note to anyone who writes about Penn State: he’s your real story. Here is a guy who brought down an entire university and pulled a storied football program into hell. Who is this guy?
While mistakes were made everywhere, perhaps it is time to talk about the person who was actually committing the crimes. He’s the real villain in this story. For some reason, we’ve got a dead district attorney who originally cleared Sandusky in 1998, a sitting governor who took a boat- load of campaign contributions from board members of Sandusky’s charity – The Second Mile – and was the PA Attorney General in 1998 when the first “problem” with Jerry showed up.
The Freeh Report was very harsh on the current Penn State Board of Trustees, condemning them for being incredibly lazy and complacent to the point of even chastising them over the way Joe Paterno was fired as being totally out-of-sync with reality as these events were unfolding. Yet today they all sit ensconced in their paneled room with their degrees and Cuban cigars. It is inconceivable to me that a university can march out such complete idiots to the public. If anyone ever wants to see how you can mix intelligence with a news conference, just watch John F. Kennedy work the press. I think the operative word here is “bright.” These folks are d-u-l-l. I am sure they have many more degrees than I will ever have, but some people are just good at taking tests. Penn State appears to have a bunch of really good “test takers” on their board. I hope they feel really good about themselves.
Joe Paterno doesn’t deserve this. Joe made mistakes. He’s the only one thus far who showed any remorse at all, calling this the “greatest sorrow of my life.With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”
How does the only guy who reported a crime he did not even see get ripped to shreds?
I hate to freak everyone out, but we can’t even identify the victim here that McQueary saw in his locker room mirror. I am NOT saying there wasn’t a victim, but – wow – somehow Paterno reports a crime he didn’t witness and we still don’t have a victim but he is guilty of covering it up?
God forbid that my life will ever be judged by the biggest mistakse I ever made, and there’s a lot of ‘em.
I can only hope that my life will be remembered for all of the good things I did, and not the stupid things I regret.