By Joe Vena
I’m going to be upfront and blunt about this so no one misunderstands my position. Joe Paterno deserved to be fired.
The fact that anyone could think any differently is outrageous, yet I seem to be in the minority in this opinion. While reading and watching news reports about the recent headline-dominating Penn State child sex abuse scandal, interviews with students of the renowned school seem to fall along the same pattern – tearful shouts, in many instances while senseless rioting rages on in the background, that Paterno in no way deserved to be fired or even penalized for his involvement in covering up his former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky’s problem of sexually abusing children on campus since the early 1990s.
Paterno, who was relieved of his position as head coach of the Nittany Lions, along with university president Graham Spanier, is clearly being used as a figurehead scapegoat to lessen PSU’s humiliation and attempt to give those who are understandably outraged some sort of pacification. There’s no denying that. However, that doesn’t make Paterno any more worthy of any sort of support from anyone.
Many of the more articulate students at Penn State are expressing outrage that while Paterno and Spanier were fired amidst a media circus, many others who were involved, including Tim Curley, Gary Schultz, and Mike McCreary were either allowed to resign quietly, go on interim leave, or simply keep their jobs. With this sentiment I can agree – every single person who knew anything about Sandusky’s heinous actions and either ignored them, covered them up, or stood idly by and did nothing should at the very least lose their jobs.
And that includes Paterno.
He shouldn’t be sympathized with or get a pass simply because he wasn’t the only one. Students who express that sentiment are only thinking in their own self-interest. How dare we ask that football frenzy be put on hold for a bit, while those who were victimized and kept silent for so many years receive their justice? I suppose it’s easier to be angry, though, than to admit the institution many tie their identity to made some major mistakes.
I’m not a Penn State student, nor do I have an overwhelming sense of school spirit in general, so I admittedly have a hard time understanding the hero worship that current attendees, as well as alumni, have for the legendary coach. The man won some football games. He wasn’t a saint.
Despite every positive or monumental thing he might have accomplished for the university, though, it was all cancelled out by the fact that he still in whatever degree or fashion had a hand in covering up the fact that his assistant coach raped or molested several children. How can anyone in their right mind possibly think it’s okay to let him off the hook?
People can split hairs all they want about who is more guilty, but the bottom line is everyone involved, no matter if they slipped through the cracks of justice or not, has blood on their hands and will have to live with the fact that they watched or were aware of their colleague raping children and that they did nothing about it for the rest of their lives.