In Slight Defense Of Joe Paterno
I’ve been a little upset as to how Joe Paterno has been treated in the last few days. It seems things have been blown out of proportion. You have Andrew Sullivan calling him a “powerful enabler of child rape” and others claiming he abdicated his role as the “most popular and powerful man in Pennsylvania.”
I feel like we’re spending a bunch of time talking about someone who didn’t quite do enough, especiallyin hindsight, and a whole lot less time talking about the actual guys being charged with criminal offenses, including raping little boys and lying to a grand jury.
I mean, if someone had fell off the earth the last 4 days and saw the headlines today, I can imagine the conversation I would have with them.
Off-earth-guy: “Wow. Joe Paterno abused some boys?”
Me: “No, one of his former assistant coaches did.”
Off-earth-guy: “So he covered it up then?”
Me: “No, he told his boss (the AD) but they didn’t do anything about it”
Off-earth-guy: “So he didn’t do it, and he didn’t cover it up, so…”
This isn’t to say that Paterno, or more importantly Mike McQueary (who saw Sandusky raping a little boy) or the janitor (who saw him giving oral sex to a boy), did everything they should have. Should these people, especially the witnesses, followed up more vigorously and make sure the police were involved? For the witnesses, absolutely. For Paterno, probably. I say probably because at his level it’s just hearsay. He didn’t actually see anything. And it’s not like he dawdled and held it close to his chest. Here’s the actual grand jury testimony:
I don’t feel like there’s a whole lot wrong with this. Especially if you think about it in the context of the time. Of course this looks bad now that we know that Sandusky abused countless numbers of boys, and you should rightfully shudder at the thought of all the boys that were put at risk after this incident that could have been prevented, but at the time, when this looks like an isolated incident where you’re not really sure what to think? I’m not so sure.
I feel like we should be in a spot where we are acknowledging a collective absence of ownership for Paterno and all the other witnesses, but not in a place where we are crucifying Paterno for not acting like Superman.
Taking this to it’s logical extreme, are those folks out there in the lynch mob prepared to always inform the police about any illegal activity they ever hear about?