Celebrities and other important people used to be good at dodging punishment for their wrongdoings, or at least that’s the way it seemed to me. But the recent scandal at Penn State seems to have turned that notion on its head, and the result is a tarnished reputation for a beloved coach.
Joe Paterno, head football coach at Penn State for 46 years, was fired Nov. 9, 2011, for failing to follow up on an allegation that his former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, had sexually abused an 11-year-old boy in the showers of the football house in the fall of 2000. Sandusky’s alleged crime, of course, is one of the most disgusting things somebody can do. Yet much of the public blame fell on Paterno. He died Jan. 22 with people looking past his legacy and focusing instead on the mistakes he made.
I understand Paterno did something wrong. The allegation was reported to him, and he reported it up the Penn State ladder. However, he didn’t step up and report it directly to the police as he should have. Call him guilty of a major case of misjudgment or faulty thinking. But don’t trash the man’s entire body of accomplishments as a coach and as a person.
Paterno is a legend; he was the heart and soul of Penn State. Firing him was a little over the top. Paterno had only heard about the incident, but so had several other people and none of them, including the janitor who says he witnessed the assault, called the police either. The janitor appears to have been held blameless for not contacting the police, while Paterno, in ailing health, was cast out. Just because Paterno is a public figure doesn’t mean that he should get an unfair amount of the punishment.
Remembering the good in spite of the bad
Paterno recently passed away from lung cancer, but he will forever live on as one of the greatest college coaches ever. He will still be loved by Penn State alumni and current students, despite the Sandusky scandal.
Let’s not let this issue tarnish this man’s amazing legacy. In 1982, he led the Nittany Lions to his first National Championship as head coach, then repeated that feat four years later. His team had five undefeated seasons. Paterno also had more bowl appearances and wins than any other coach in NCAA history. More than 350 of his players signed NFL contracts. In 2007, Paterno was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Putting blame where blame is due
It pained me to watch Paterno being trashed, and it was especially galling to know that every accusation that focused on Paterno was a moment when Sandusky was out of the spotlight. For awhile, people seemed to forget who was accused of what in this case.
Sandusky has been charged with heinous crimes, and I feel it is wrong that he is only on house arrest until his court date. If he is guilty of the alleged acts, then a little ankle bracelet won’t stop such a man from committing more crimes against young boys. One of the boys he allegedly molested said he was held in the basement of Sandusky’s own home.
Sandusky needs to be held in jail until his court date. He’s a possible danger to young children, and nothing other than imprisonment will assure people that their children are safe. Sandusky seems to be getting off a lot easier than he should be. This is the complete opposite of what happened to Paterno; he didn’t commit the crime, but he seemed to receive far more scorn than Sandusky.
If Sandusky is locked away, everybody can calm down and stop worrying about what he can do to children. And while we’re at it, perhaps we can remember the man who served college football so well for so long.