Should the Joe Paterno statue come down?
All right. Because I’ve been so negligent this week, we’ll make this a two-post day. And also because of this…
My blogging buddy, Cassie, threw down the gauntlet on Facebook. She linked a Huffington Post article entitled “Joe Paterno Statue: Must Penn State Take Statue Down After Freeh Report?” Then, she insisted that I must blog about it. My first response was “What? Am I taking requests now?” Bluz Dude will start shouting “Free Bird” pretty soon. My second response was that it wasn’t my place. I have no connection to Penn State. Who am I to weigh in on their business? About a minute later, however, the answer (and the post) emerged. It was just so obvious.
If you don’t know about the Freeh report, I envy you. It is the “independent” review (if an independent review can be paid for by the Penn State Board of Trustees) that basically confirms what we’ve suspected all along: that Penn State authorities, including Paterno and the University president, knew about at least two instances of Sandusky’s abuse of a child and decided not to report it to authorities. We now know Paterno knew of a 1998 complaint. And then Sandusky conveniently retired as defensive coordinator in 1999 at age 55. Heck, Paterno was 55 in 1981, half a lifetime ago. No other coaching jobs. No other schools came a calling. Then, in 2001, a grad assistant saw him in the shower and went to Paterno with it. At that point, most decent human beings would experience a clenching in their gut and immediately call the police. Instead, on this second instance, an Email was sent claiming that Paterno thought that not going to the authorities was the “humane” thing to do. I assume they were thinking of Sandusky, because they definitely were not thinking of the children. (Do I need to write another post about the lack of freakin’ empathy up in here?) One can only surmise that the entity they were really trying to protect was not Sandusky but dear old PSU and their cash-cow football program. And so, the abuse continued. For TEN MORE YEARS!
You have to hand it to Penn State, though. They spent over a million dollars on this review and it will now be used against them in court settlements that will cost them hundreds of millions. Stupid? Or doing the right thing?
Paterno, Spanier, Curley, and Schultz all knew they had a monster at the university and they did nothing… for TEN MORE YEARS! We know Paterno perjured himself in front of the Grand Jury, when he said he had never heard about a 1998 incident. Either that or he forgot. Believe me, 84-year-olds forget what they had for lunch yesterday but they remember the most trivial things from twenty years ago. We know that janitors saw things but were afraid to speak up, knowing the entire football program would be against them. This was the culture. Men did nothing while children were being systematically preyed upon and abused. For TEN MORE YEARS!
So, now that we know more about the cover-up and complete lack of a moral compass at Penn State University, should the iconic statue of coach Joe Paterno come down?
Take it down, and the name Joe Paterno, as well as the scandal, will fade into history. His name will become a ghost of the past, like Knute Rockney, Pop Warner, and Amos Alonzo Stagg. Within a generation, he will be forgotten by most. But keep that statue up and it becomes a permanent, bronzed reminder of perhaps the greatest moral failure that any university has ever displayed. Nobody will be able to talk about who that man was without mentioning the scandal. It becomes like a tattoo on your arm of your most embarrassing and disgraceful moment.
Imagine a statue of Woodward and Bernstein in front of the Nixon Presidential Library.
Imagine this statue in front of the JFK Presidential Library…
Oops. Embarrassing? You bet. And yet, in both of those cases, no children were criminally molested for TEN MORE YEARS!
Leaving Joe’s statue in place will become a cautionary tale for our youth. I can hear fathers telling their children about the statue now:
“Look, kids. See that number 1 he is holding up. He failed and was fired in disgrace because he was more concerned about football and with being No. 1 than in doing the right thing and protecting a child in danger. Okay, actually, there were several children who were in danger… in the athletic showers… for TEN MORE YEARS! What happened in the showers? Hey, okay, who wants ice cream?”
That awkward moment will have to be played and replayed in front of that statue year after year as long as there is college football in Happy Valley. Believe me, I’m pretty sure that there is more than one Penn State administrator who wishes that statue would just melt away like a spring snowman. I’ll bet the new football coach would be the first one in line with a sledgehammer.
So keep the statue up. Don’t give Penn State the death penalty, either. That will only punish a bunch of people who had no hand in this. After all, this scandal didn’t involve a single student, athlete, or professor. Just the top brass. So, make the university complete their tour of shame to stadiums across the country. Let them hear the shouts and taunts from other student sections. Let nervous TV announcers have to rehash the details during each national telecast. I’d be okay if the university decided on their own to shut down football as a message to the students and the rest of the country that it is not the most important thing at Penn State University. But they won’t do that because football still IS the most important thing at Penn State University.
“May no act of ours bring shame to one heart that loves thy name.” I can’t believe that’s really a line in their Alma Mater. That’s like the O. J. Simpson family crest reading “May I never cut a bitch when she gets uppity.” Ah, the sweet slap of irony.
Penn State failed in every way and in everything they stand for. Their punishment should not be to hide and let it fade away. Their punishment should be to live with it, walk in it, talk about it, teach it, and, ultimately, to make sure they learn from it. After all, they are a university.