I can stay silent no more.
This could possibly alienate a very close personal friend, someone I truly would never want to hurt with my words and yet here I sit, unable, unwilling to stay silent any longer. I have to hope she will understand, I have to believe she will know that my intention is to share my feelings in the same way that she would know I would want her to share her own feelings.
I have thought about writing about the Penn State scandal since the story broke. Others have done it, most of them far better than I could ever hope to do, in fact. In light of the report that was just released and despite the fact that Joe Paterno is dead, I am speaking out.
I cannot stomach reading one more time about how this man is a hero, because of how he coached young men for years on and off the football field. How he was an inspiration to students and parents because he walked the campus like a mere mortal. When it mattered the very most, this man, this “hero” failed so profoundly that there is no recovering from that in my book. What is the famous line? It is what you do when no one is looking that shows your true character or something like that? Well folks, I think we can all now see that when no one was looking, Joe Paterno was certainly no hero I would ever choose to celebrate. He turned a blind eye to the rape of a child, and let’s be very clear here, he had been told point blank that a child was being raped in his locker room showers, because it might damage the reputation of his University and his beloved football program. Never mind, I suppose the damage that was being done to that child or would continue to be done to the children who came after.
Please do not misunderstand me here. I realize that this scandal was not solely the responsibility of Joe Paterno. I know that the abuser was Jerry Sandusky. I know that the cover-up was perpetuated by others besides Paterno, but here is what I also know about large football programs with men like Paterno at the helm; the buck stops with him. If the leader of that program says enough changes are made, charges are filed, children are protected. Make no mistake about that. This was not a trustee issue or a university police issue. This was a Joe Paterno issue. The moment that he decided not to proceed with protecting the victim, the child who was being raped in the shower by his own assistant coach, was the moment that any hero status he might have ever earned became null and void.
In order to be considered a real hero, you must protect victimized children. They should be your concern, not your own legacy, not the money your football program brings in, not the reputation of your university. In fact protecting victimized children wouldn’t even make you a hero, it would simply make you a decent human being.