You can’t handle the truth!
All right. Enough, already!
I’m a Penn State homey, but I’m annoyed by all you alumni and fans who are hanging on to some kind of fairy tale notion that a Tinkerbelle will wave her magic wand, restoring all that we thought the revered Joe Paterno was and banishing this Sandusky nightmare from our memories.
Ain’t going to happen.
“What we all need to do now is to stand behind the Freeh Report’s recommendations for changes at Penn State, so that the appropriate steps are taken in order that such heinous crimes cannot be committed on campus without appropriate immediate involvement of police and state offices.” —TNT
We’re all saddened, angered, outraged, disappointed, shocked, and horrified by the findings of the Freeh Report. Yet there are still many who cannot commit themselves to believing that our sainted Joe Paterno could ever have committed such heinous acts as covering up for the convicted child rapist, Jerry Sandusky. I’m addressing this post to them.
I might lose some readers, but I want to give you some straight talk nonetheless.
This is denial, pure and simple. While most of us have transcended this first stage of grief in the Kübler-Ross model long ago and moved on through the rest of them after reading the Freeh Report, some of us must persist in flogging a dead horse ad infinitum. Those who do so are people who urged us all to wait for the Freeh Report, accusing the media and others of rushing to judgment on Paterno.
They told us that once the report was released, they would live with it. However, now that the report has been published, the same people are condemning its veracity, as if they know better sitting on their asses dreaming of Joe than the Freeh investigation did after 430 interviews. Those who call some of the report’s conclusions “laughable” ought to look in the mirror every so often, when they need a laugh.
You know what? They’re not going to do it over. No matter how much you piss and moan about the Freeh investigation, it is a done deal. There will not be another committee to investigate the university’s handling of the Sandusky caper. What’s done is done. Nothing will come of your feeble protests, especially when you impugn the character of the rest of us who cannot bring ourselves to suspend our disbelief long enough to side with you. You’re making yourselves look like fools.
How can you on one hand know that Paterno had an iron grip on the football program, while on the other, you believe that he can’t possibly have known about the tickle monster operating under the program’s auspices? Was he a lame leader who could not possibly have had any knowledge of the 1998 episode, when police were involved? Do strong leaders walk around with their heads up their asses? Whether you think there’s enough evidence or not, Joe would not have been Joe if anything that major would have escaped his attention. Deny it all you want, but the record will show that Joe knew.
Look, I know we all grew up looking up to Joe. My history with Joe goes back to 1964. Many of us regarded his moral judgment to be above reproach, and his honesty to be absolute. He was indeed a saintly figure. Anyone in power has to make decisions, and with major decisions sometimes compromises are required. One would hope that those compromises don’t involve breeches of moral or ethical propriety, but in this case they clearly did.
Joe made mistakes. He was human. Accept it. Free yourselves from the bonds of denial.
You can and should exhibit anger for a while. At Sandusky. At Joe. At the university. At Spanier, at Curley, and at Schultz. And perhaps at yourself for being so naive as to believe that the imperfect Joe was perfect through all those years you thought you knew him. He had a football program to sell, and keeping the public record clean was an important marketing tool for doing that.
Bargaining will do you no good. Nit picking details of the Freeh Report won’t help. You’re preaching to no one but the choir. The devil and the powers that can affect Penn State are not listening. There will be no exoneration for Joe. Forget about it.
Depression will set in when you realize that all is what it seems. You are powerless to change it, as are the bloggists and the media who are nit picking the Freeh Report. Penn State will not risk its future on defending Paterno’s virtue, which is, in my opinion, at this point indefensible.
Finally, you will reach acceptance. You know that life will go on at Penn State and you now believe that Joe probably did make a few very serious mistakes. The rest of us need to be patient while you wrestle with getting to this stage. We all reach it at our own pace. For all but the most paranoid, acceptance will occur and you will be at peace with yourselves.
What we all need to do now is to stand behind the Freeh Report’s recommendations for changes at Penn State, so that the appropriate steps are taken in order that such heinous crimes cannot be committed on campus without appropriate immediate involvement of police and state offices.
When powerful men become too powerful, they think they can do anything and they pay scant attention to extraneous issues surrounding their main thrust. That’s a good way to paraphrase Lord Acton’s famous dictum. The university’s board of trustees must ensure that there is never again an opportunity for one man to grow as powerful as did Joe Paterno.
Certainly, Joe did a lot of good for the university, on and off the football field. That is undeniable. He also screwed up, and did so in such a manner that young men will have to live with horrible nightmares and psychological counseling for the rest of their lives. This egregious series of screw-ups can and will offset much of the good Joe did; it can and will destroy the pristine legacy he would have left without it.
Joe Paterno was a mortal man, not a saint.
That cannot be denied.
So, please get over it.
I’ve read the report front to back twice and can’t disagree with a word you say, however, I still need to hear Curley and Schultz testimony’s at their trials (and probably Spanier’s) before I sign on the dotted line. A lot of connections were made off a handful of emails and if the right questions are asked and the answers support Mr. Freeh’s conclusions from the emails, I’ll help tear the statue down and move it to storage. But hey we’ve waited this long why not give it a couple more months until the trials are done. Just sayin’!
I do believe the Freeh recommendations should not be delayed, but implemented in a sane and coherent fashion as there are some much needed improvements in there, but God I hope we don’t leave this to the members of the BoT to handle!!!!!
And as I respect your opinion, I hope you will also respect the opinion of others-that not happening would more than anything else cause me to hit the delete button for the link to your site. I don’t think it will!
The Nittany Turkey says
I respect all of my readers, especially those of you who make coherent, thoughtful, incisive, and sometimes controversial comments. You folks are my reward for blogging. You make me think.
Differences of opinion are to be expected dealing with the broad and diverse collection of characters we are. I welcome constructive criticism and dissent.
I do not believe that we or succeeding generations should be allowed to forget what happened during 1995-2011. That is why I’ve settled on my position about the statue. I no longer believe that tearing it down will serve any useful purpose, other than to appease the large contingent of haters (largely with no PSU ties) demanding to tear it down. I believe it should serve as a reminder of what happened.
You’ve probably read my thoughts on moving the statue to the All Sports Museum as part of a chronicle of Paterno’s life, contributions, and failings at PSU. A 60+ year career cannot be erased, ignored, or whitewashed. The truth should be told.
I agree with your opinion about Joe. I knew some of the mid 1960s – early 1970s football players personally, and can assure you that they didn’t regard Joe as a saint. Many even thought he was only the second best assistant coach on Engle’s staff (George Welsh being the best).
His legend and hubris grew over the years and he became almost a caricature of reality, particularly for the post 1980 graduates. Personally, I believe he should have been “retired” at the end of the 2002 season or 2003 at the latest.
Professionally speaking (I wrote/approved hundreds of audit and investigative reports during my career), Freeh’s report was beautifully organized and written. However, the writing obfuscates analytical shortcomings that resulted from lack of subpoena power and refusal of key witnesses to talk . More details MIGHT (or might not) surface as with the Schultz and Curley trials.
So, I’m going to withold judgment about whether Penn State “engaged in a decade long cover up” until those trials are over. IMO Freeh’s facts only prove a culture of lack of empathy for Sandusky’s victims, criminal neglect, and extreme incompetence – beginning with the cop and DPW employee who handled the 1998 investigation.
The Nittany Turkey says
Many of us were crying “Joe Must Go!” between 1999 and 2003: The Dark Years. We all pretty much knew about his stubbornness and his heavy-handedness back then. We didn’t need court testimony or reports by former FBI directors on which to base our judgments. We saw it all unfold before our eyes.
Of course, nothing succeeds like success, as they say. Larry Johnson saved a couple of those seasons from being total disasters, and Joe restored the confidence of some of us with the 2005 Orange Bowl season. However, his performance was at that point rather ordinary, not the stuff of legends. Many of us grumbled that time had passed Old Joe by, and once again called for him to retire.
Joe said, “What would I do if I retired? Mow the lawn? Play with my grandchildren?”—implying that coaching football was all he knew, and all he wanted to do. I could make a connection here, but I will only suggest that one reason Joe wanted to hang around past his time was that his leaving would allow the potential for the lid being blown off of the Sandusky case. He quite possibly was carrying that guilt with him all the way to the grave, where he hoped it would be laid to rest along with him.
It didn’t work out that way — by a few months. I wouldn’t have even brought that up were it not for the New York Times article this morning about Joe renegotiating his retirement package concurrently with the grand jury investigation. Joe was no dumbass. He could see the handwriting on the wall, or at least the subpoena in his mailbox. He knew that the shit would hit the fan big time, and he wanted to protect his family.
Thus, my opinion of Joe has unfortunately been denigrated, and I’ve chosen to believe the Freeh report. My intuition, coupled with 13 years working in another large state university, is not infallible, but I’ve found the cover-up to be more than plausible based on the culture of secrecy I’ve experienced. I’m going to hang most of the blame on Spanier, but I believe Joe played a large part. How could anyone with such iron-handed control over his entire program (including his piece of Curley) play dumb about what went on in close proximity to him and his employees, and be able to turn a blind eye on it?
I don’t know that the Schultz/Curley perjury trials will prove anything, if the trials actually occur. If Spanier is prosecuted, those two might fade away. After all, Schultz worked for Spanier, and Curley worked for both Spanier and Paterno effectively, and Paterno is dead. Thus, if the AG’s office can nail Spanier, they might not have an effective case against Curley and Schultz, who were, after all, just following orders.
So my mind works, anyway. I don’t claim to have any great amount of legal knowledge or information beyond what the rest of the public knows. I’m just the boorish guy sitting next to you at the bar who decided to bloviate about the Penn State morass.
Guess a lot depends on how you define “cover up.” “Cover up” is not a statuatorially defined crime anyway. Obstruction of justice is probably the closest statutory crime for what I would consider to be a “cover up.” And obstruction of justice requires an affirmative act, such as: destroying evidence, altering documents, encouraging others to be uncooperative, or lying to Federal agents. Remaining silent is a consititutional right unless you remain silent after being given a grant of immunity.
Freeh’s report DOES indicate that Curley reported the 2001 incident to the head of 2nd Mile. That act alone means that Sandusky’s actions were disseminated outside the “Penn State family” and exposed State to the possibility of public disclosure. One can argue that 2nd Mile had more to lose than State and could be trusted to remain silent, but people intentionally trying cover up something probably wouldn’t take the risk.
I doubt that Joe hung around because of the Sandusky situation. IMO, he hung around because he was afraid of dying. He knew that Bear Bryant died shortly after retiring and, since Joe identified so closely with Bryant, he was afraid the same thing would happen to him.
As it turns out, Joe’s fears were justified. But only because he hung on too long. If had retired by age 70 like a normal person, he could enjoyed his retirement. Perhaps he could have been an ESPN analyst, pontificating on the corruption in college football.
The Nittany Turkey says
I wasn’t trying to get technical legally. As I’ve said, I’m not a legal scholar, and I would be way off base trying to make such representations. I lazily used the term “cover up” because it seemed to fit the circumstances. “Benign neglect”, which has no legal definition, either, might have been a better characterization. Do you agree that at the very least, institutional negligence was exhibited by PSU?
My personal opinion is that Curley took no risks in discussing the Sandusky matter with the head of Second Mile. It was in Second Mile’s interest to keep the matter quiet. I can cite empirical evidence to support that now that the shit has hit the proverbial fan and Second Mile is all but out of business. There were close ties between Second Mile and Penn State, including a sale of PSU property at PSU cost to Second Mile during the time period of the Sandusky affair. No one has investigated the nuances of that relationship or the nature of transactions between the two entities, but my gut feeling is that there are more skeletons in the closet. Just my opinion, which is … well, you know what “they” say about opinions.
The common wisdom was that Joe would die with his boots on, and I’m inclined to believe that. His renegotiation of the contract to protect his family when the aforementioned booted demise occurred affirms that notion. Joe might not have stuck around particularly because of the Sandusky affair, but it must have figured in there somewhere. He was well known for having wanted to control the program from the grave.
The fact that he would tell Sandusky that Jer would not be the next Penn State head coach (emphasis mine) back in 1998 tells me a couple of things. First, what kind of chutzpah does it take for a sitting coach to make a definitive statement about who his successor would be? Paterno didn’t say, “I’m not going to recommend you as my successor.” He slammed the door on Sandusky. If Paterno had been even a typically powerful Big Ten coach, he would not have been able to dictate who his successor would be. The limit would be a strong recommendation, which might be accepted. However, Paterno viewed himself as a one-man search committee, university president, and dictator of the program who made all the decisions. The other thing that statement to Sandusky told me is that Joe was contemplating retirement back then in 1998. Again, just my opinion, but I don’t think he was planning to stick around another 12 seasons at that point. I could go both ways on that issue, though, because he was a stubborn old guy who gritted it out through broken legs, hip replacements, diarrhea, and so forth.
Retiring at 70 would have indeed rendered him capable of enjoying retirement like a normal person, but could he have done so? His contention that playing with his grandchildren and mowing the lawn was all he could think of doing in retirement paints a picture of a guy who derives his joy from working.
I’m off to write about some of the reactions to the Freeh Report, particularly some I heard from talking heads like Bob Costas, George Will, and James Carville this morning.
Malignant neglect , incompetence, and extreme shirking of responsibilities would be how I’d describe the situation.
And you’re right, Spanier allowed Joe to become far too powerful. To an outsider like me, its seems like all educational establishments these days are run by politically correct, consensus building, butt kissing, back stabing, passively aggressive wimps who will do anything to protect their jobs and the status quo.
Eric Walker was probably the last Penn State president who had any balls. I still remember his welcoming speech to incoming engineering freshman where he stated that Penn State’s primary mission was not to train the student body, but to “wage war on ignorance”. He then told us to look at the person in front and on either side and side, and stated that only one of them would graduate in engineering.
I don’t think Paterno would have been naming his own sucessor if Eric was president.
The Nittany Turkey says
You and I must have matriculated around the same time at PSU, as I, too, sat spellbound through Prexy Walker’s welcome speech. Walker had everyone’s respect, although it was into the pond behind his house where the Volkswagen was deposited after the 1964 Ohio State blowout. But I digress. Eric sure had his hands full with the famous Ad Hoc Committee In Loco Parentis, didn’t he. (But we were far more civil than they were at Columbia or UC Berkeley.)
There are a couple of strong university presidents around, but it seems that far more of them are pussified sellouts, as you stated. We had a strong one for a while at my institution, but he had other issues, like a penchant for paid female entertainment while in Tallahassee and Washington. He offended the entrenched good old boys, who did a reverse Spanier on him — opened up all the records for all to see (including credit card receipts for aforesaid entertainment) and invited in the local newsrag. That president was swiftly run out of town, which was a pity because he had some big ideas about the future of the institution.