Joe Paterno is dead, and I’d like to take this moment to ask many of you reading this to spare us the farcical tributes and forced empathy.

For decades, Paterno’s public image was the ambling, grandfatherly figure at the sideline of Penn State games. He was a throwback to a bygone era, when the sidelines were monitored without headphones and microphones and under the command of respectable old men whose scowl was maintained until the moment the final whistle blew. He became a living Saint in college sports because people wanted to believe in him and outlets like ESPN with a vested interest in maintaining myths and facades were all too eager to comply.

Then we found out he thought it was okay for little boys get raped.

Well…perhaps that’s not entirely fair. What really happened is that his pal and former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, engaged in unconscionable sexual acts with small children: molested them, raped them in showers, and not only destroyed lives but may ave created more monsters like himself. It was Sandusky that preyed on the young, the innocent, the confused, and the tearful.

Not Joe Paterno. All he did, when he was told about these awful things, was nothing. He decided that a slight inconvenience to himself and the Nittany Lions program was far too much to justify reporting a serial rapist. It’s not as if he stood watching with his hands in his pockets smiling while children as young as eleven years old and possibly younger were raped. Quite the opposite: he stood with his back to the abuse, smiling with his hands in his pockets while encouraging everyone else to look away.

Maybe he thought he did enough by passing the buck to another school administrator. And maybe if I see a building burning down with someone crying out for help from the second floor, I should just send someone an e-mail about it.

You get the point. What the guy did was awful and there’s no excusing it, nor does the good he did as the head coach of a goddamn football team undo all the awful things he allowed to happen. Unfortunately, we still have a culture that wants to forgive the transgressions of the dead out of politeness. Condemnation of the dead is seen by most as rude, disrespectful, and even sinful. Especially if they’re famous, because nobody would write such shallow and misguided tidings for Joe Pa if he drove a fucking bus for a living. Yet what I find truly distasteful is the hemming and hawing over a man who got to live a long, rich, full, and successful life despite the fact that left in his wake are an untold number of young men forever ruined by what he allowed his friend to do to children.

America is sick with Hero Worship. One of the symptoms is permission and forgiveness for all those associated with football to engage in terrible behavior and be deficient in dignity and human decency (unless it involves dogs, of course). In this case, it has made some very good people display some very strange sympathy for a man who deserves nothing of the sort from them.

Joe Paterno is dead, but do not mourn him. Mourn those that have to live with what he let happen.

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  • http://twitter.com/rmadeo Rob Madeo

    First of all, 85 is pretty damn good, so don’t anybody feel bad. Secondly, it must be great to have reached 85 without being haunted by memories of being raped by some predator like Jerry Sandusky. 

    When it was time for Paterno to do the hard thing he took a pass. These vigils around his statue at Penn State make me sick.

  • Anonymous

    This is a hard view, Kevin, but I can’t disagree. In many ways, Paterno likely did what many of us do, which is to rationalize our way out of situations that would bring unwanted attention. You can almost hear him, in and out of denial – first yes, then no, then letting it go for a day, then seeing Sandusky acting normally and saying to himself: “Nah…can’t be,” then yes again, then no again, until finally it’s forgotten, lost behind a veneer of self-serving forgetfulness and day-to-day busy-ness.   

  • Eric Newsom

    B-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-but football! Football! FOOOTBALLLLL!

  • Anonymous

    How do you really know how much Paterno actually did? If he was anything like my elderly father, they grew up in a time where these sort of things didn’t exist, they had trouble BELIEVING that these sort of actions could really happen, and they gave everyone the benefit of the doubt before they hung someone out to dry.  Unfortunately, It appears that Sandusky did commit these horrible crimes, something that was probably hard to believe of him from those close to him.  Point the finger at the person responsible- Sandusky. And, please do not instruct people as to whom they should mourn. It is not your call.

    • Anonymous

      “How do you really know how much Paterno actually did?”

      Based on the grand jury testimony of various officials and Paterno itself. Really I only scratched the surface in this blog post. Bottom line: he knew. He didn’t have doubts about Sandusky’s guilt here. If he did, he would have confronted Sandusky about it, not passed it up the chain of command.

      If he was anything like my elderly father, they grew up in a time where these sort of things didn’t exist, they had trouble BELIEVING that these sort of actions could really happen, and they gave everyone the benefit of the doubt before they hung someone out to dry

      This is a really nice sentiment, but it’s complete bullshit built upon a nostalgic yearning for a simpler time that never existed. It’s not just you, by the way, but all of society that seems to think these are all new acts that have arisen in the last decade. Not true, at all. The medium that delivers news of these actions is stronger and on a wider scale than it used to be, but things like child rape and molestation did occur and people were aware of it, it just didn’t get talked about on the nightly news. Or it was allowed to continue because people were too coy to address it (the good ol’ days!). And, again, Paterno’s own actions and statements refute all your claims here.

      “Point the finger at the person responsible- Sandusky.”

      Believe me, I do. But I also point it at Paterno and all the other officials that allowed this to go unreported, even though they knew it was actually happening. They just said it couldn’t be in their back yard, even though the man was allowed to keep an office there. Also – and this is in no way to alleviate Sandusky’s guilt for his atrocious behavior and activity – he had a very dark, evil compulsion to do what he did. Paterno and others didn’t. It was selfish pride and greed that drove them to allow him to keep preying on innocents.

      “And, please do not instruct people as to whom they should mourn. It is not your call.”

      Sigh.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/OP7S64P2P5TIV76E4P2VDN6TLY Miniaztecman

    All of you who didn’t support JoePa should go to HELL!