When I wrote this post in November, after Paterno was fired, I didn’t really have a sense that I was writing about a frail old man who was probably already dying. This, however, doesn’t mean that I’m shedding any tears now that he’s gone. If anything, his self-serving interview with Sally Jenkins stuck in my craw, and convinced me that he was only worried about Joe Paterno’s legacy, not the children who suffered right under his nose.
For twenty years and counting, I’ve believed that the person in charge of an organization or unit is ultimately accountable for everything that goes on there. As a soldier, your ideal for integrity and accountability is Sam Damon, not Courtney Massengale, even though Damon is eventually killed by Massengale’s deceit. In the restaurant industry, I’ve seen managers get canned for poor health inspection grades or poor secret-shopper reports, because they must (fairly or not) answer to everything that happens in their store. Along the same lines, captains don’t fall accidentally-on-purpose into a lifeboat before their crew and passengers either, but that’s another story.
I think it’s great that Paterno had 17 grandchildren, and that they adored him. But for all of his 61 years as a coach in Happy Valley, his legacy will forever be that of a monster’s enabler. Was he a successful coach? Undoubtedly, but like First Sergeant Cliff Walters once said to me, “One oh-s**t can wipe out ninety-nine atta-boys, and you’ll only be remembered for that one f**k up.”
Rest, Joe Paterno, but not in peace. You robbed us of a full explanation of how you allowed Jerry Sandusky to prey on defenseless children. Since Paterno had all but become the face and god-head of Happy Valley, I just find it incomprehensible that Sandusky could have done what he did without Paterno’s knowledge. Mike McQueery’s allegations notwithstanding, Paterno had to have known long beforehand. To take this line of reasoning to its sick conclusion, Paterno most likely knew but kept quiet in order to protect himself, his football program, and his winning percentage. The one person who could have come clean about all of this took those secrets to his grave.
What’s that old revolutionary saying? You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs? So an assistant coach likes to shower with boys, – hell, priests do it too. We’re sorry that those boys’ lives are ruined because an assistant coach buggered them, but this football program can’t have these distractions, we’re contending for a national championship here. Let’s get the booster club to buy their silence, and maybe a new car for our starting middle linebacker.