Saturday, November 12, 2011

Significant Saturday

Significant is the word I would use for a beginning or an ending, or simply as a synonym for important. Today's PSU game (against Nebraska) has an ominous significance. It will be the first time in 61 years that former coach Joe Paterno will not be involved in a game.

It has been 26 years since I've walked through Happy Valley as a student, and the names of important people have changed; when I was a freshman, the President was John Oswald, then starting in 1983, it was Bryce Jordan. He retired in 1990. Then there was Joab Thomas for five years, until Graham Spanier took over in 1995. (Rodney Erickson has just been appointed the interim president.) New buildings have appeared, the academic calendar made the conversion from terms to semesters, cell phones and laptops became necessities. Through all these years and all these changes, "JoePa" remained a constant.

This happens to be a beautiful day here in South Central Pennsylvania and I will not be spending it indoors watching the game. This is not unusual, since I rarely watch football--voluntarily, that is. But I realize that football is important at my alma mater, and that it pays for all of the other sports. Its demise would hurt cross-country, gymnastics, wrestling, and fencing. Everything. Programs would suffer in ways that haven't even occurred to most people.

It seems that those who are involved in running PSU's football program should have been very aware of this, aware of the responsibility they have. Joe Paterno was certainly aware of his own money making potential, a fact he rather arrogantly trumpeted when the president tried to get him to retire a few years back, but he tragically lost perspective on that which was most important: this was all about the kids, remember? Paterno held his players to the highest standards. Anyone who got in any trouble at all was benched. Joe Paterno was supposed to be Mr. Integrity.

So, when a graduate assistant came to him to report something truly horrendous, the rape of a child by a former assistant coach, surely heads would roll, yes? Surely Paterno, who was like The God of All Goodness at Penn State would put the brakes on this pronto. You'd think he would be Superman on the Spot to save these poor boys. You'd think.

It's unfathomable that Jerry Sandusky did what he did and got away with it for such a long time because a few men chose to look the other way. Disturbing, sickening. Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz--they all put the money machine ahead of the victims. Curley and Schultz are charged with perjury. Apparently, no one learned a thing from Watergate. Gee, looking back, what Richard Nixon did seems like small potatoes, but we all know that it was mostly the cover-up that made history. If only everyone with any knowledge of Sandusky's crimes had gone straight to the police at the time, many lives would be so much better today.

It's an awfully sunny day to be feeling so sad.


Doug said...

This whole story stunned me. I understand how someone might be a little slow to light the flames of hell for steroid use or gambling or even a scandalous nightlife, but of all people and of all crimes. Mind-boggling.

actonbell said...

Yep. Hard to believe.

actonbell said...
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Bone said...

A terribly sad and disgusting story.

I wonder if they would have fired him if he was twenty years younger and/or had won a national championship in the past ten years.

actonbell said...

Bone, I have the feeling that yes, Paterno would have had to go in any case; the university had to make a show of taking this seriously.