I wanted to write this blog a week ago, but couldn’t get to a computer. Perhaps it is best that I had to wait a bit because had I written it a week ago, I was so angry I might have not said things the best way, or in an unoffensive way.
So I have had to sit back and calm down and see what was going to happen.
I have seen mob rule in this country, but I could not believe the amount of vitriol that was being spewed over JoePa when the Penn State scandal broke. All I could see was that he, being the face of Penn State nationally, was getting so much blame for the scandal, with cries for his scalp. I thought it was indecently unfair.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have as much compassion as the next person for the children who suffered the alleged wrongs that happened to them sexually. I regret that children don’t get to be children any longer. But then I blame the media and video games and baby beauty contests and parents who are trying to live their lives through their children, and perhaps even the music and movies of the day for their children having to grow up way too fast. But sexual deviants should all be put behind bars for their uses of children.
Now having said that, and hoping everyone reading this has understood how I stand in the whole sexual abuse situation, I now want to defend JoePa.
I don’t know how many of you have ever experienced the criminal system in this country. I know that I had a friend who claimed to have been raped, but all I had was her word about it, and her story changed almost day by day. So when the alleged rapist was arrested and taken to trial, I stepped in to plead on behalf of the man. There were things he should probably have been arrested for before, but I never believed he committed this offense because of her changing story. Since I didn’t see any of the actions, I could only take her words to judge. When I got on the stand, as long as I was telling them things that she said that could help her, I was allowed to speak freely. But when it got to the point that I started talking about the discrepancies in her story, and some of the things she said beyond that point, I was censored from testifying because it was all “hearsay”. The man ended up in prison, probably deservedly so for other actions I had “heard” about, but I don’t believe he should have been convicted of this so-called rape. Anyway, I use this to parallel what happened according to what I have read. Again, I was not there, so I didn’t see anything.
McQueary, the grad student and assistant coach, allegedly saw Sandusky sodomizing a young boy. Instead of doing anything about it, he went home and told his dad. At his dad’s advice, he told coach Paterno the next morning, when nothing could be proven, or even stopped. Coach Paterno, being a receiver of hearsay evidence, at any rate went and told his own superior. At that point it became a matter of hearsay of hearsay. How were they police to be called and such charges made without any proof, or certainly a “caught-in-the-action” sort of situation. Morally, I suppose a lot could have been done, but I don’t know what at that point. Perhaps an internal investigation should have been made of Sandusky, but I don’t think that was Paterno’s call.
However, once the scandal broke, and it got noisy about JoePa, I can understand his resigning for the sake of the university. After all, he was the face of the university (and still is, as far as I’m concerned). What I don’t understand is how he could have been fired in a very public way for something I understood to be beyond his control. And to make matters worse, the two senators from Pennsylvania who had nominated him for a Freedom Medal pulled their nomination. I cannot think of anyone who deserved it more.
I watched the football game that following Saturday, when Nebraska defeated Penn State by three points, and just saw it as the first game since the 1960s that JoePa was not involved in. But the students, and the players, played their hearts out for JoePa. I very much thought that was wonderful.
I have since seen an occasional article about how JoePa was saying he wished he had done more. The printed media write about these things as though JoePa is saying he knew more. I don’t know, but I simply cannot believe everything I read in the newspapers. In fact, I can hardly believe anything I read, and only half of what I see, any more. And I’ve seen a lot in my nearly 71 years (18 more days). In this day of folks trying to make themselves seem more important, or running over the good and kind in the world, or the need for scandal simply because folks cannot control their own lives, I want to ask if anything is true. It would be easy, if not ethical, for me to make an accusation against someone out of spite, and it would go viral within an hour or two. Even though I would eventually be called out as a liar, the stigma against the person I made such an accusation would stick.
So I ask you. What will JoePa be more known for now. For his benevolence in many areas of his life, for all his records as a coach, for simply being a kind, if older, gentleman who has receiving many accolades, or will he be most remembered for his name being attached to this scandal, right or wrong? People remember the scandals. They lap it up, they enjoy it, they like being heard to scream “off with his head”.
I often despair of the human condition, of what we have become as a race of peoples, of the unfairness of being open one’s mouth and hurt the good reputation of a fine person. Maybe it is all a symbol of trying to cover over one’s own short-comings.
I am, and remain, a fan of JoePa. That will not change because if nothing else, he has done more for the good of his students and fellow human beings than could ever be erased in that great judgement court than a small aberration of not reporting something he heard, a day later, from a person who did nothing at all. Allegedly.
Carol Stepp, Austin, TX