Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Paterno makes it official

It was only a matter of time:
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State football coach Joe Paterno will retire at the end of the season, his long and illustrious career brought down because he failed to do all he could about an allegation of child sex abuse against a former assistant.

A source told ESPN's Tom Rinaldi that it was Paterno's decision to retire and that he has had no contact with the board. It is not yet known if this is adequate action in the board's eyes.

"I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case. I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief," Paterno said in a statement released just after initial reports of his pending retirement.
I don't have much else to say beyond the stuff that filled yesterday's mandatory outrage post. It hurts a little when we find out people aren't who we thought they were (insert Denny Green rant here). We feel cheated. Paterno is, by all accounts, a great man who's done little other than win a lot of football games, be a great leader of men and represent Penn State in squeaky-clean fashion for the past 50 years. But there was one thing he had to do in his life to stop something awful from happening, and he didn't do it; that'll always overshadow the rest. That's unfortunate but unavoidable when the effects (many years of could-have-been-stopped sexual abuse by his top assistant, specifically) are taken into account.

There's a great piece up on Grantland about what it means meant to grow up as part of the Penn State community. For everybody who believed JoePa (past-tense reference) was the perfect man, the larger-than-life-yet-still-a-common-man coach on the perfectly American small-town campus running the perfect program, the new image of Penn State football is one that's really hard to grasp (obviously).

These excerpts seems particularly poignant:
Sometimes we were guilty of regarding him as more deity than man, as if he presided over us in mythological stand-up form. He was as much our own conscience as he was a football coach, and we made that pact and imbued him with that sort of power because we believed he would wield it more responsibly than any of us ever could. Maybe that was naïve, but we came of age in a place known as Happy Valley and naïveté was part of the package, and now that word isn't in our dictionaries anymore. ...

Our leaders failed to cover, and while they deserve the benefit of due process, they deserve to be held accountable for whatever mistakes they made. If it means that this is how Joe Paterno goes out, then so be it; if it means that 30 years of my own memories of Penn State football are forever tarnished, then I will accept it in the name of finding some measure of justice. Every sane person I know agrees on this. ...

I don't know what it feels like to grow up there now. I want these things to disappear from my consciousness, but they won't. The place where I grew up is gone, and it's not coming back.
That middle portion is bolded for emphasis. Outside of the stupid brahs rallying outside Paterno's house Tuesday night singing "Sweet Caroline" -- a truly disturbing choice, BTW -- everybody realizes that this is what must be done because it's right, and doing what's right is more important than a coach's legacy. Anybody who doesn't realize that is making the exact same mistake Paterno made nine years ago.

Matt Millen might have been the most awful general manager in the history of sports, but I cede my last words (for now) to a guy who played at Penn State in the Paterno-Sandusky glory years and can put that aside to see the whole situation for exactly what it is:

That is all.


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