Another friend did die recently. We never met, but we consider him our friend nevertheless, for he embodied much of what is good in the world, and had the character to wear Integrity, Honor, and Courage well. We always respected him. He was, truly, a good man.
The Gettysburg area, indeed, Central Pennsylvania in particular, has at its heart, among other things, the fortunes of Pennsylvania State University. One of the major things that has symbolically endeared the University to the citizens of this area is the Penn state football program, led for nearly half a century by one Joseph V. Paterno, affectionately known as JoePa. His death has caused the Penn State Nation to rise in mourning, and the faithful to honor him at this time. He will live on in a history that, had they ever written on football, would have best been told by Jack London or Joseph Conrad.
Far too many media people rushed to judgment on the Sandusky issue and made it JoePa’s crime. That is not only wrong, it is moronic. It was Sandusky’s crime.
The only mistake JoePa made was in trusting Curley and Schultz, the two superiors to whom he reported McQueary’s information.
As JoePa himself said, he should have done more. That’s not even easy to say in retrospect. At the time, he did not have the knowledge that Curley and Schultz would sweep this under the rug. But JoePa trusted them to do the right thing. He never felt the knife in his back.
As for not doing enough – there are five people who not only had the opportunity, but also the legal responsibility to report the crime [which JoePa did not have]: Curley, Schultz, Spanier [the PSU President], and McQueary and his father, to whom he told his story first.
No one castigates them for their actions…or inactions, as the case may be. Their failure to notify the police is a far greater moral lapse than JoePa’s.
The ONLY one of those five who did do the right thing was McQueary, and he is the one who should have gone to the Police in the first place. The others should have reported it to the police as soon as JoePa reported to them what McQueary had told him. Spanier should have known better.
JoePa did not tarnish his reputation. The others did it to him, and the media was happy to become complicit, and continues to do so. The media lacks Integrity, Honor, and Courage. How do we know this? We know because they were unable to live with a JoePA who lived those three qualities every day of his life. If one does not possess those qualities then those who do make them nervous, and envious. They lurk then for the right moment, and lunge at the opportunity to slay a dragon-slayer.
His critics would have you believe he had too much power. If you put into context his report to his superiors of McQueary’s observations of Sandusky in the shower with a young boy, then you can see how little power beyond the football program JoePa really had, and who had the power in the University. [The students know this, and so does the Faculty. Look at their reactions to what happened to Paterno!]
Sandusky assaulted more than those kids, a crime for which he should spend the rest of his life on earth locked away from society, and the rest of eternity burning in the depths of Hell. He assaulted Penn State, and Joe Paterno, as well, and the Penn State Nation. It is funny how no one talks about him or his crimes, which are at the root of all this.
Finally, the gutless mob who call themselves the Penn State Trustees could not bring themselves to let Joe go out as he chose when he announced his retirement, which was the right thing to do [certainly Joe knew he had lung cancer at that point]. And they feared going to his house to tell him, knowing the students out front would probably lynch them. Another example of a failure of character: the Trustees lack of Integrity, Honor, and Courage.
Joe deserved far, far better than the media, the Trustees, and his own superiors treated him, and continue to treat him. The utter disrespect is appalling.
Joe Paterno was an incredibly positive direct influence on thousands of young men who played for him, and tens of thousands of students who took his courses. Indirectly he was a positive influence on hundreds of thousands of others, if not more. He set a standard in major college football that was tough to match, and nearly impossible to exceed. It was based on Integrity, Honor, and Courage.
The man is on his way to his grave, likely hastened there because of all that transpired in the last two months of his life. It’s time to leave the man his true and honest legacy and honor him for it, and not castigate him for unknowingly misplacing his trust in folks who let him down, and let the victims of the real crime down.
Joseph Conrad is known as one of the greatest authors of English Language fiction. He wrote prolifically about humanity, and its strengths and weaknesses, both in individuals and in masses from mobs to states, most notably in books such as Lord Jim.
Conrad should be alive to tell JoePa’s story, and the story of how Integrity, Honor, and Courage almost went to the grave with him.
Instead, JoePa takes his own Integrity, Honor, and Courage with him to the grave. He will be in good company. Rest in eternal peace, JoePa.
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