I was born in PA. The year after I was born, Joe Paterno became the head coach of the Penn State football team. There have been few people who have had the impact and created such a legacy in any realm, whether in sports or otherwise, as Paterno has. Until a few days ago, he was going to be heralded as a revered American.
In today’s world, we are quick to judge, condemn and convict others in the court of public opinion. Trust me, I know. I’ve been on both ends of that.
We need to assume, until proven in a court of LAW, that Paterno is innocent. At least initially, it appears he followed the reporting protocol. So for legal purposes, let’s just say he is totally innocent.
Other than the vile and damaging acts committed against children, the most disappointing aspect of this is Paterno’s reaction. A true man, a man who truly values children, young men, honor, dignity and integrity, would have taken EVERY STEP POSSIBLE within the past three days to begin the healing for the children who were raped, their families and for the Penn State community.
Instead of coming out of his front door with his wife to greet the media and act as the victim, he should have taken a leadership role. He should have resigned on his own. He should then have said that his salary and the millions in football revenue the team will make the remaining of the year would all go to healing the affected families and toward helping the efforts against child abuse. He then should have used his 46 years of influence to lead a fundraising effort asking Penn St. alumni to donate toward a fund for the same purpose.
Most important of all, however, he should have issued a statement saying, “I want to apologize to the individual and families of those that are affected by people whom I led. These actions are despicable and do not represent what we want to be here at Penn St. I will work harder than I ever did on the football field to make restitution, to restore the lives affected and to rebuild the character and integrity of our school. I feel awful.”
But that is not what he did. He may not be guilty in the court of law, but in my opinion, he is guilty of thinking that anything to do with himself, the game of football, or his own reputation, is more important than what happened to the children in a location he supervised and with people who were under his supervision.
Unfortunately, sometimes in the forest giant trees fall. Unfortunately for many of us, Joe has fallen as well.