Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Tragedy of Joe Paterno

A stellar career of a man that I maintained a deep respect for has crashed and burned due to a lapse of moral judgement.  As Heartsinsanfrancisco said in her excellent post at her blog,  "This story has epic qualities like a Greek tragedy or an Arthur Miller play, but everyone's life is epic, whether played out on a ball field in front of millions, or lived quietly away from the spotlight."  and she is right.  

Part of me feels very bad for Joe Paterno...but on the scale of theatrical tragedy there is no measurement for the rape of children seven to twelve years old by a trusted adult male.

Have we lost our minds?
Then we have the students protesting over Paterno's firing.  It reminds me of that old Beach Boy's Song "Be True To Your School".  I guess they have not yet taken any courses that teach critical thinking.  To me it appears that the students are saying that Penn State Football is more important than preventing the continual rape of children.  

I would like to post a thoughtful and well balanced commentary on this entire situation but I am not sure I am capable of it.  My mind seems to be flooded with thoughts of butcher knives and well hung horny inmates extracting a little frontier justice from Mr. Sandusky.  All I will do is descend into a babbling fury well peppered with obscenity and imagined nonsense of well deserved cruel and unusual punishments.  Heartsinsanfrancisco provided an excellent post that states everything that I would say if I was more intelligent, capable of controlling my anger, and a better writer.  Please read her post and the attached commentary at:

Guilty With An Explanation, November 10, 2011, Morality Play

Here is a timeline of events:

Huffingtonpost, 2011/11/09/, Penn State Scandal Timeline: Key Dates In The Jerry Sandusky Sex Abuse Case

No, not all of us. 

I have read that Sandusky was one of the best defensive coordinators in the history of college football, indeed one of the Illuminati of the sport.  When you look at the time line in the link above, one thing should stand out, there were many opportunities to stop Jerry Sandusky's rampage of rape.  But typically, just like the students at Penn State, the people involved allowed the reverence of a sport figure to cloud their judgement.  Sports in America has a very nasty underbelly.  In the popular imagination, the players and coaches exceed mere celebrity, they become demigods...above ethics, above the law, above morality, above any shard of human decency.  There is a much larger tragedy to this sad story than the tarnish on Joe Paterno's is, as the protesting students have more than adequately demonstrated, that many Americans are more than willing to overlook any crime, no matter how heinous, as long as you can deliver us that win.  There is something rotting in our Souls.

Image Credits: 


  1. What kind of a person witnesses the rape of a child, doesn't do anything to stop it, and then goes home to consult with his father, rather than immediately calling the police? How can McQueary, who was 28 at the time-- no kid-- live with himself? He obviously was aware, in the coming weeks, months and years, that telling Paterno did no good at all. As for Paterno, he's even worse. What an outrageous and tragic situation.

  2. Donna,

    You are absolutely correct, why didn't McQueary intervene? I read the description that he provided to Paterno and it was graphic and he said the child appeared to be 10. His description certainly didn't make it sound like he believed it to be a consensual act with an older teen. My own belief was that because it was the "great Sanduski" one of the gods, and it was within a hierarchy, McQueary was helpless to act. Then on the same principal everyone in the chain above also either failed to act or actively protected a friend. McQueary should have intervened and got the child safely away from Sandusky, and notified the police on the spot. He was the closest to the crime and most removed in the hierarchy, yet with the least power in the hierarchy, he was afraid to act.

    I am certainly no expert in hierarchies but I think that this is probably an example of a built weakness of a hierarchy. Every person in the chain of command knows there is one right thing to do, notify the police. But..."I don't want to be the guy who flings shit at the TEAM, at PATERNO, and the TEAM, at the UNIVERSITY. PATERNO, and the TEAM."

    To us removed from the whole thing, these seem like abstractions. But to the people in the hierarchy they are huge concepts. So the buck keeps getting passed upwards, nobody wants to be the whistle blower but hopes on the hand the next guy up has the balls to do it, but also fears for his own ass for not reporting it to the authorities. Each level of the hierarchy gets a little more removed from a raped kid and closer to the UNIVERSITY. An abstraction becomes more important than a child. But the hell of it is, it is almost guaranteed to come back and bite you in the ass. Paterno was in a unique position. He was the next level from the bottom in the hierarchy but he was also the god who could have stopped this with the minimal amount of damage and the buck should have stopped with him. He didn't need to turn it over to some unknown administrator. His failure to act on the spot just set the stage for a larger catastrophe for the hierarchy. And mean while the kid get forgotten, but Sandusky's appetite remains in place.

  3. Just having heard a ton of little "snippets" in the news regarding this whole matter I really didn't have a clear picture. I'm glad that you posted this and the timeline.

    I've watched the interview he did with Bob Costa and I thought to myself..."How could you not see that this man has a problem?" It's a sad situation.

    I know when I was in high school we had two football coaches that loved to come and stand behind the desk of all us girls so they could look down the front of our blouses. We were uncomfortable of course, but that was before the days that parents, teachers, the media told us that if we were uncomfortable it was ok to tell someone.

    I doubt anyone would have listened as high school football is considered sacred as are it's coaches.

  4. Alicia, if you have not seen Heartsinsanfrancisco's post, go read her commentary at the link up in the text. She has a excellent post on this problem.

    You experienced the problem in the past, and the problem remains today, people in powerful positions take advantage of those under them. Why? Because they can. It takes a lot of courage to report this kind of stuff even with the safeguards in place... and this incident makes it painfully clear that the safeguards often don't work. A bureaucracy does not want to hear that some of its gears are perverted. And you are most certainly correct, football and its coaches are sacred.

    I am sorry that you have experienced the discomfort from someone in authority abusing their position. Unfortunately, I don't believe that you are in a minority in that regard.
    Thanks for dropping by and commenting.