Thursday, November 10, 2011
Oh, You're a Riot, Joe Pa, a Regular Riot
I've seen sports fans riot after losing a championship. The Vancouver Canucks lost in 1994, and their fans rioted -- while the New York Rangers' fans, so often castigated by me for stupidity, bad taste and boorish behavior -- pretty much obeyed the law after winning that Cup.
I've seen college students riot after simply winning a football game. The Big Ten seems to specialize in this: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State.
And I saw students at Indiana University demonstrate peacefully in support of Bobby Knight when he was fired as their basketball coach -- far more peacefully that Knight sometimes conducted himself.
Penn State? In defense of the indefensible Joe Paterno, a mob flipped over a news van, tore down two lampposts, and threw rocks and cans.
It doesn't matter of Joe Paterno stopped a war, cured cancer or invented a fat-free ice cream that tasted like heaven.
He knew Jerry Sandusky was a sexual predator who preyed on children.
And he protected Sandusky from firing and criminal prosecution. Until he no longer could.
I'm not talking about telling Sandusky to turn himself in, and then finding him a good defense attorney, and then telling the public not to prejudge him. Even the most loathsome person on Earth (whoever you might think that is) is entitled to defend himself in the justice system, to attempt to get the charges dropped or gain an acquittal. Every jury, no matter how bad the defendant appears to be, must presume his innocence, and let the prosecution prove otherwise; the defense only has to show that the case hasn't been proven -- not can't be, but hasn't been.
If what Joe Paterno did was simply try to do the right thing, by both his good friend and his good friend's alleged victims, he couldn't be faulted.
But he knew what was going on.
And he didn't go to the police. Or to the district attorney. Or any law-enforcement agency.
Whether he meant to or not, he let it continue. He could have stopped it. He chose not to.
And these students are rioting to protest the firing? They are rioting on behalf of this man?
In the immortal words of Jackie Gleason, "Oh, you're a riot, Joe Pa. You're a regular riot!"
Penn Staters like to talk about the library that Paterno's football program funded, with his and his wife's name on it.
I wonder if there will be a room in the back, separated from the rest of the books by a curtain, named The Jerry Sandusky Room.
Was that supposed to be funny? Of course not. Nothing about this is funny.
Penn State is a joke. A very sick joke.
Somewhere, Woody Hayes has got to be shaking his head and saying, "Damn it, Joe, even I didn't screw up as much as you did."