Inside Job ....the Movie
Jim Boeheim and Joe Paterno

JoePa Gets Fired

You watch. Now that they've canned Joe Paterno, they'll pull the statue down at Penn State. And once they do, moralizing media folk will up and stomp all over it, just like the Iraqis did to Saddam Hussein.

300px-Paterno_memorial

 

What is it that rankles me about Penn State firing the 84 year old Nittany Lions head coach? Why should it even register? I don't know anything about college football, and had you asked me a month ago who Joe Paterno is, I would have drawn a blank. That is, until he became national villain of the week....the top, if not the only, news story for that short time. Then everybody knew who he was, even me.

It was Gunsmoke's Matt Dillon, believe it or not, who put this all into focus for me. ME TV runs that old show locally for the benefit of those steadily closing in on geezerhood... guys like me. A recent episode features a “strict, but honest” agent from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, who has stirred up all kinds of mischief toward local Indians. At show's end, however, he has an epiphany. Why... he's been wrong all along....the Indians are in the right! Full of remorse, he tells Marshall Matt Dillon that he'll tender his resignation to the Bureau tomorrow. But Matt replies something like.....get this....."I don't think that will be necessary. It takes a big man to admit he was wrong, and it looks to me that you're just the right man for this job.”

That would never happen today. Back when that show was filmed you could blunder for the longest time, yet be redeemed in a second by heartfelt repentance. Today it's the exact opposite. You can serve nobly for the longest time, yet be trashed without redemption for a single misstep. Isn't that why nobody knows anything today? One mistake in word or deed, and it's “off with his head!” leaving only inexperienced clods running the show.

Now, Joe Paterno's decades-long performance as Penn State's head coach has been impeccable, without blemish. Nobody says otherwise. In a world routinely rocked by scandal and exploitation, he's kept his program clean. A few excerpts on the man, from the website GoPSUSports.com:

"He's putting together this winning program, but meanwhile he's teaching 17-, 18-, 19-year olds how not to screw their lives up, how important education is, how important it is to have social acumen," All-America linebacker Greg Buttle told the San Antonio Express-News in 2007.Joe_Paterno_Sideline_PSU-Illinois_2006

Obviously not a person of misplaced priorities, Paterno always has concentrated on seeing that his student-athletes attend class, devote the proper time to studies and graduate with a meaningful degree. He often has said he measures team success not by athletic prowess but by the number of productive citizens who make a contribution to society.

He is, simply put, the most successful coach in the history of college football -- a fact that was validated during the 2001 season when he moved past Paul "Bear" Bryant to become the leader in career wins by a major college coach. He also is one of the most admired figures in college athletics, an acknowledged icon whose influence extends well beyond the white chalk lines of the football field.

In an exceptional display of generosity and affection for Penn State, Paterno; his wife, Sue, and their five children announced a contribution of $3.5 million to the University in 1998, bringing Paterno's lifetime giving total to more than $4 million. The gift was believed to be, Penn State Vice President for Development Rod Kirsch said, "the most generous ever made by a collegiate coach and his family to a university.

 

Okay. Got it? He's a good guy. A role model. A name you could fling back at smart-alecks when they tell you smugly that “nice guys always finish last.” What could possibly cause a man like this to be sacked in disgrace?

Joe's sin is that he heard an allegation of child sexual abuse nine years ago and reported it to his bosses, as he was legally obligated to do. But now, nine years later, the report appears to be true. An assistant coach running a separate private charity is accused of abusing seven children....maybe more. As though Joe should have foreseen this, the charge is made: why didn't he do more? Why didn't he go straight to the police with the allegation, Surely.....hang whatever the law says.....going just to his bosses was not enough!

Today in the United States, tracking down pedophiles has become a national obsession, if not hysteria. They're not easy to track. Pedophiles don't drool or act perverted. They fit right in with respectable society. And they are seemingly everywhere. Now one has been found right among Penn State's own staff. So Joe is out. He should have known, he should have acted, he should have gone beyond the law, so the feeling goes.

What of his sterling record? USA Today calls him a “man who set the standard for ethical behavior in the tawdry world of college football,” and  “he kept the program's reputation clean — remarkably so for a program that made its home in the national ranking” for all of his 46 year tenure. Doesn't mean a thing.

What of his remorse? "This is a tragedy," he's said. "It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more." Doesn't cut it, Joe. This is not a Matt Dillon Gunsmoke world. This is a new “gotcha” world, where folks delight in taking down public figures.

What of loyalty for past service? Not a bit of it. Tolerance for human error or weakness? Nope.

 What of this verse? Doesn't it apply somehow: "Why, then, do you look at the straw in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the rafter in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Allow me to extract the straw from your eye’; when, look! a rafter is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First extract the rafter from your own eye, and then you will see clearly how to extract the straw from your brother’s eye."  (Matt 7:3-5)  No, it doesn't apply. Not anymore. People do nothing but point fingers today, totally ignoring (as everyone's mother used to say) that when you point a finger, three fingers are pointing back at you.

When news broke that Joe had been fired, those who knew him best, those who'd been most positively influenced by his lifelong integrity...namely, the Penn State student body....responded in a quite predictable way: they rioted. Mobs of kids took to the streets shouting “We want Joe!” They pulled down lampposts. They overturned a TV truck, thinking (probably correctly) that it represented those hoping to turn local events into a national circus. It took cops in riot gear to send everyone home.

 

Now, the other side of the coin is the ongoing battle to stamp out child abuse. And don't get me wrong. It's a worthy battle. No one's saying that those who molest children ought not be punished. No one's saying that those legally obligated to report allegations ought not be called to account if they fail to do it. Joe acquits himself well here. His flaw is not legal, for he did everything legally required. His flaw is said to be “moral,” since the legal answer didn't take the alleged pedophile out of circulation. Moreover you run a huge risk defending anyone who's perceived to have fallen short in any way in the fight against child sexual abuse. “So you approve of child sexual abuse yourself, do you, Sheepandgoats?” they'll say. “Are you also a pervert?” Or, what about the people you hang out with? Do they approve of perverts?” I tell you, it's risky. The media certainly took no such risks. They scolded Joe at every turn, overlooking his irreproachable career, overlooking the three fingers pointing back at themselves.

But there's a reason you turn a “moral” obligation into a legal one. It's because the “moral” course to take is often highly subjective. People don't reach identical conclusions. Harping on one's “moral” obligation allows for Monday morning quarterbacks to attribute motives...invariably bad ones....though they know nothing of the actual circumstances. All Joe did was fail to relate an inspecific allegation directly to the police. I don't like to assume that when someone does that it betrays that they don't give a hoot about protecting kids. After all, people routinely ignore warnings when their own lives are at stake...evacuation orders in the face of impending natural disaster, for instance. God help us if we someday decide automatically notifying police is the gold standard in other arenas of life, say in the event of a traffic accident. It won't be enough to assume one of the ten cars already stopped will have called 911. You'll also have to stop and do it yourself, or else fail your “moral” obligation and have your license revoked.

Anyone my age remembers when you never ever heard of child sexual abuse, and thus assumed it didn't happen. And how within ten years, proven allegations had vaulted it to chief national evil, eclipsing any other wrongdoing. I mean, it took a staggeringly short time to go from unheard of to #1. Now, I don't disparage it's newly revised status...I really don't, but people don't turn on a dime. And the older the person is, the more time the pivot takes. I can readily picture Joe saying “Look, I'm not a pervert. I don't like perverts. I don't hang out with perverts. I never knew there were many perverts. And yet now all of us are on “pervert alert,” with everybody under suspicion!” Now, as it turns out, we are on pervert alert here, but it takes an 84 year old awhile to get his head around it. For crying out loud, Joe remembers (as do I) when you swam nude in the YMCA pool, boys and men alike, with no thought of impropriety whatsoever. A letter (11/16/11) to USA Today states: I'm sure my father would have done exactly as Paterno did [being a product of his time], notifying only his superiors, and he also probably would be as dumbfounded about the outcome of events as Paterno might be.” Yep. Same with my dad.

The times they are a changing, and you'd better keep up. That's Paterno's real sin: being a relic of the past. Seething with moral outrage, USA Today asks searing (in their opinion) questions, such as “Why didn't Paterno notify law enforcement of the 2002 shower-room incident? Was he protecting his saintly image as "JoePa"...." [No you moralizing idiots! If he was protecting his saintly image, he would have reported it, for nothing is more saintly these days then turning in a molester. And he did turn him in, so he likely thought, by relating it to the ones with legal responsibility.]

The newspaper continues: "Or was he blinded by a 30-year friendship with Sandusky and unable to believe he could do such a thing?” Notice here how friendship is portrayed as a flaw, as if life would be so much better if we dropped that antiquated custom and treated everyone as a suspect. Look, sometimes friendship can blind one to the faults of another, perhaps it did so in this case, but it will be a sad [though predictable] day if we fail to cut a person slack for that shortcoming.

But the thinking that prevails today is expressed in another letter (also 11/16/11) to USA Today: “I find it heartbreaking that those college kids reacted to finding out that their hero inadequately addressed allegations of child abuse by rioting in support of him instead of rising up against him. [rising up against him! Why not also lynch him?] As a base human reaction, that is disgusting.” Another source says that, instead of defending Joe, they should have been aghast for the seven victims. Yes, that's how people think today.

But it's just possible that those students, the ones who knew Joe best, realized 1) that Joe's role in the abuse was zero, and his role otherwise, if he even had one, was very limited, 2) that he apologized sincerely, 3) that he has four and a half decades of sterling service to his credit, plus 4) he's given millions of dollars to both university and community in his lifetime, 5) that tens of thousands of people die each day, butchered or starved through human depravity, with no one at all held accountable. And perhaps even 6) that they themselves will graduate tens of thousands of dollars in debt with few job prospects in sight, victims of a worldwide fraud, also with no one being held accountable, fraud aided and abetted by today's leaders. In other words, those seven victims, bad as the crimes against them are, are hardly the only ones victimized by human wickedness, so as to be the undisputed focus of national attention.

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Read ‘Tom Irregardless and Me.’    30% free preview

Starting with Prince, a fierce and frolicking defense of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A riotous romp through their way of life. “We have become a theatrical spectacle in the world, and to angels and to men,” the Bible verse says. That being the case, let’s give them some theater! Let’s skewer the liars who slander the Christ! Let’s pull down the house on the axis lords! Let the seed-pickers unite!

 

 

Comments

Romulus Crowe

It's the same in the UK. Reading the news you'd think there were two paedophiles in every bush (I'd say they were worth one in the hand but that kind of joke just gets the professionally offended all exercised these days).

We have Gary Glitter, the Shiny Pervert, who spent time in a Cambodian prison for molesting young girls. There has been no indication that he has done anything wrong since and yet every time he comes out of his house the newspapers have photos. Look! See the shiny pervert! Do you really want to be in his gang?

What he did was disgusting but his time in what must have been a far from pleasant place seems to have stopped him wanting to do it again. Also, he's pretty old now.

I have to wonder, if we are to tar him with the pervy brush forever, what incentive he has to reform his ways? If he can never be forgiven why would he try?

There are no more paedos around now than when I was a child. We knew who to avoid locally. What has changed is the hysterical reporting. Every one of them is now a threat to every child on the planet, as if they have Superman's ability to fly around the world and snatch remote children. They are horrible people but really, there aren't all that many of them.

Lock them up when they're caught, yes, and some have to be locked up for good.

But some can change and if we deny them the opportunity to change, then we can't be surprised when they think 'Well, if I'm going to get the blame for it anyway...'

tom sheepandgoats

Two years ago (Aug 9, 2009) Economist Magazine (which I respect) featured a cover story on America's sex laws. “America has pioneered the harsh punishment of sex offenders. Does it work?”

Some points that you rasie are in the article.

The Gal Herself

In your "about" section you used the word "imbecile." Are you aware that the medical definition of the word is, "A person of moderate to severe mental retardation having a mental age of from three to seven years and generally being capable of some degree of communication and performance of simple tasks under supervision. The term belongs to a classification system no longer in use and is now considered offensive?" Or that it is generally applied to a person with an IQ between 26 and 50, while the avg American has an IQ between 70 and 130? Where are references to Dr. Henry Goddard, the American psychologist of the 1920s generally credited with/blamed for developing these now outdated and discredited classifications? Have you ever once stopped to think of how your word choice might impact those with intellectual challenges who may visit icerocket and then troll sites like yours, scouring your posts for the casual reference that put you in the search engine's sites? What's that? You don't *want* to discuss intelligence quotients on your blog? How can that be? You mentioned it slightly only once while writing about something else entirely? Clearly that is an open invitation for people like me to blather on about it! If you don't want your blog shang hai'd with discussions of the comparative merits of IQ classifications and political correctness, rewrite your "about" section and change your settings. No offense intended, of course. Sorry for the intrusion. It won't happen again. (Get it now?)

tom sheepandgoats

I've not given the thought you suggest I should to use of that term. I've never had anyone take it in the strict medical sense. Many words have multiple meanings. A house dictionary for general usage lists your definition as the third. The first definition is "a stupid or silly person." That's how I expect people will take it, just an example of self-deprecatory humor.

Self-deprecation is a fine literary device, breaking tension, indicating one doesn't take oneself too seriously. Thank you for your comment. However, I respectfully disagree.

For whatever it's worth, I worked for several years with people who had developmental disabilities. The "i word" you mention is so outdated that it never came up, in either serious use or colloquial. There is a "r word", however, that is used quite frequently in general conversation, that is considered offensive to those with developmental disabilities. That word I have never used anywhere in my blog.

The Gal Herself

I suspect you are being purposely obtuse about my point. But just in case I give you too much credit, let's try this: You also mention the color "blue" in your "about" section. Which shade of blue? Can it be matched in the Pantone palette? Why no mention of the derivation of the popular CMYK system used in printing and desktop publishing? Why, the casual way you touched upon the color "blue," it's almost as if you don't consider the color blue to be the centerpiece of your posts! There isn't even a whisper of the important statistic that a full NINE PERCENT of American cars are blue! If you aren't willing to discuss, compare and contrast the various features and benefits of periwinkle vs. cobalt ad nauseum, why then you should rewrite your "about" section and change your blog settings. That's merely "part of the blogging process, you know."

Shame on you for disregarding the point of my original blog post, and my wishes, just so you could once again cut and paste your opinions about how poor old Joe recalls (as do you) more innocent times. I also suggest that, as one who is qualified to drive and vote, you truly did understand the point I was trying to make above. Are you really this desperate to attract traffic to your blog or for someone to talk to?

Now I hope we can agree to leave one another alone for all cyber eternity.

tom sheepandgoats

To show that I did understand your original point, I've thought it over and decided you are correct. 'Imbecile' risks being needlessly offensive. I've changed my 'about' page to read 'dope.'

Karen

Dope-Nope! When I hear or read "imbecile" I think Three Stooges. The one on the right is none of the above.

tom sheepandgoats

Perhaps if you knew me better......but thanks for the kind words.

earthenvessel

I actually like knucklehead the best. It's right up there with bonehead and butthead. It's non-clinical and somewhat ambigious as to its meaning. I like to think of it as, almost an endearing term, albeit sarcastic, in my own idiotic, or should I say dopey, way.

tom sheepandgoats

Llamas seldom know those words, however.

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