Monday, November 7, 2011

Joe Paterno: I Was Right About Ol' Ratface

On June 5, 2009, I did a piece titled "My Most Hated Opponents -- Non-Players Edition," a companion piece to an earlier list of players.

Without getting into the reasons, here are Numbers 10 through 2:

10. Bobby Valentine, New York Mets.
9. Earl Weaver, Baltimore Orioles.
8. Bobby Cox, Toronto Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves.
7. Bobby Clarke, Philadelphia Flyers.
6. Dual entry: Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma, University of Connecticut basketball.
5. Jimmy Johnson, Dallas Cowboys.
4. Tom Landry, Dallas Cowboys.
3. Pat Riley, New York Knicks and Miami Heat.
2. Davey Johnson, New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles.

Number 1 surprised some people: Joe Paterno. I chose him for several reasons:

* Running up the score.

* Poaching recruits from other teams' areas. (New Jersey players from Rutgers, New York State players from Syracuse, New England players from Boston College, etc.)

* Covering up misdeeds of his players, all the while telling us, and having a JoePa-worshipping media tell us, that he ran a "clean program."

You'd think I'd shot Mickey Mouse. The reactions ranged from...

"Not running up the score is what many believe cost us a chance at the National Championship in 94. I can honestly say he doesn't do it."


"Great. A 40 yo accountant who can't find a woman sounds off on a great American like Joepa!"

Putting aside the subject of my lovelife -- and, by the way, finding a woman is easy, finding a good one is hard, and keeping her is even harder...

A great American. Really.

"LOL Joe recruits ethically and gives kids a genuine chance to start life with a good head start." (same guy as the last one)

A good head start for those kids? Kids?


I don't care what Penn State fans think of me. But don't be blinded by the legend of Joe Paterno. He's like Wyatt Earp: The hero's story has been told for so long, it's hard to accept that the truth reveals something less than a hero.

So, as you can see, I was willing to stand up and call Paterno out long ago.

And then...

Here's what George Vescey, one of the greatest sportswriters of all time, had to say in today's New York Times:

Football is the central fact of life in the State. When a large male newborn is on display in the hospital nursery, people make loving jokes about sending him out to JoePa to play linebacker. Not so funny at the moment, is it?

Apparently, young boys were brought to the massive football program by Jerry Sandusky, who was first a major assistant coach and later an emeritus member of the football “family.” Some family. The guy had keys to the facilities, with enough freedom to take showers with the boys, and, if we believe the warrant for Sandusky, jeopardize the balance of their lives.

People saw. People knew. A few people even talked. But ultimately it got swept under the rug for years because of the rush to Saturday, those autumn game days when people funnel into Happy Valley for the biggest thing in the State...

The legalities of all this are going to have to play out. We do know that Sandusky was arrested on 40 counts of abusing boys over 15 years. The athletic director, Tim Curley, took an administrative leave Sunday night so he could defend himself; and Gary Schultz, the senior vice president for finance and business, resigned Sunday night. Both were charged with perjury for their testimony to a grand jury investigating Sandusky.

That leaves Joe Paterno, the 84-year-old coach, the icon, the benefactor, and most important, the winner of 409 football games, the most by any coach at this highest level. Apparently, Paterno knew about his former assistant in 2002 and went to Curley and then he went back to supervising practices and giving news conferences and recruiting large young men to play football for the program...

The attorney general said Monday that Paterno is not a suspect in this case, so I would think he deserves a polite retirement at the end of the season.

(Bold = emphasis mine, not Vescey's or the Times'.)

A polite retirement?

Joe Paterno, often called Saint Joe, has been, in effect, as culpable in this mess as the Catholic Church officials who covered up similar crimes by its priests.

Paterno is a conservative Republican, whose son once ran for Congress in the district that includes Happy Valley -- and lost. So perhaps we should ask the question that was asked of Paterno's pal Richard Nixon in 1973, one of those years that Penn State "should have won the National Championship":

What did the head coach know, and when did he know it?

Michael Bradley at Philadelphia magazine has a better take:

After the events of the past two days, there can be no other way. Paterno is finished at Penn State.

It must happen. And it has nothing to do with whether the soon-to-be 85-year-old is fit to prowl the sideline on game days. (Or sit in the press box.)

Even if he did “do his job,” in 2002 by reporting what he heard from then-graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary about the disgusting, monstrous alleged crimes committed by former PSU defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, Paterno deserves an escort to the exit.

He did what he was supposed to, all right, but he didn’t do anything else. He didn’t make sure Sandusky would not have access to Penn State’s facilities. He didn’t check to see if athletic director Tim Curley was pursuing the matter after Paterno told him. He didn’t call the police.

The most powerful man in Happy Valley, a man who was able to tell Curley and school president Graham Spanier a few years ago that he would leave his position when he was damn well ready, made a perfunctory gesture that smacked of self preservation and then removed himself from the situation. In other words, he acted just like any other college football coach would have.

And that’s not good enough, especially for a man who, for decades, has comported himself as an oasis of character in college football’s scorpion-filled desert.

Sandusky’s alleged odious assaults—including sex with a 10-year-old boy in the shower on campus!—stain the entire PSU community, and for Paterno to have knowledge and do nothing more than pass it along the chain of command, as if it were a meaningless misdemeanor, is unforgivable.

This is a football coach who has more power and influence at a university (and rightly so, given his service to Penn State) than any other person in his profession. Had he removed Sandusky from the Penn State picture in 2002 (Sandusky resigned from coaching in 1999 but maintained an office at Penn State and continued to have free run of the facilities), when he heard of the alleged crime, he would have saved other victims on whom Sandusky allegedly preyed–under the guise of his Second Mile charity, formed in 1977 to assist troubled boys from broken homes. Instead, Paterno did the minimum...

Obviously, Paterno has no direct culpability in this. And it appears he was forthright when he spoke with the grand jury. His failing is one of not using his tremendous influence and authority to make sure nothing more occurred and the previous allegations were handled swiftly and decisively. This wasn’t a case of some players trading memorabilia for cash and tats. It’s not an instance of a slimy agent’s slithering into a program. Players weren’t involved. Current coaches had nothing to do with it—other than McQueary and his report. Next to this, the outrage directed at Ohio State and Miami in recent months seems almost comical.

But Sandusky was on Paterno’s staff for five years while allegedly sexually assaulting boys, and it’s astounding that when this information was brought to Paterno in 2002 (three years after Sandusky’s retirement from PSU) he didn’t do more.

Further, it’s hard to believe no one at the school knew about the alleged misdeeds before McQueary told Paterno what he saw. Paterno’s statement Sunday spoke of being “fooled,” along with “scores of professionals trained in such things.” Again, Paterno sounds like someone interested in protecting himself and his program, not a person in power for whom a report of such behavior would have triggered outrage and action.

Suddenly, the misdeeds of Woody Hayes, Bobby Knight, and others don't look so bad. They did run clean programs, but never pretended that they, themselves, were angels, or above the fray. Bear Bryant? He admitted he'd made mistakes, that he was accountable.

Paterno? "Hey, news to me!"

Am I happy that Paterno's legacy is now stained beyond any cleansing? No, because the reason for it is despicable.

But I am interested to hear the reactions of those who thought he was "a great American" who provided a great environment for "kids."


Oh, by the way, that quarterback who ran up the score on Rutgers at the Meadowlands in 1995, causing then-RU coach Doug Graber to curse Paterno out?

In my original June 2009 post, I chose not to name him, calling him a henchman rather than a villain.

Turns out, it was... drumroll, please... Mike McQueary, the same man who told Paterno about Sandusky's crimes.

I wonder: Was he trying to get Paterno to do the right thing? Or... was he Paterno's Haldeman? I wonder if there are tapes.

1 comment:

nutballgazette said...

I think he should be fired everyone in the organization should be arrested and executed , Penn State should be made to Forfeit all games during the Paterno era and they should have a Super Death Penalty against the entire sports program (Never be allowed to have a sports program again