An open letter to the Paterno family from a PSU alum

I wrote about the Sandusky scandal after the story first broke, and I haven’t stopped being upset about it. Today’s announcement that Penn State would face fines, post-season suspension, loss of scholarships, and a 5-year probation under the strict watch of NCAA observers should have come as a surprise only to those who expected the “death penalty” (shutting down the football program entirely).

So, what came as a (sad) surprise to me was hearing that the late Joe Paterno’s family referred to the NCAA ruling as “panicked”. Worse still, they claim that the punishments “defame the legacy [of Paterno].” In all fairness to their grief over the loss of their family patriarch: YOU HAVE GOT TO BE F*%$ING KIDDING ME.

Who defamed the legacy of Paterno? Joe Paterno.

Here’s why: there’s ample evidence that Paterno knew Sandusky was preying on little boys, and yet he didn’t call the police. Joe Paterno was scared of calling the cops? This was his one failing, as so many have suggested? It’s a pretty big one.

I’m not one to claim that all of this falls on Joe Paterno’s lap. The ultimate failing lands squarely on Sandusky, who will hopefully rot in jail before he rots in hell. There are few things more deplorable than raping children…although I’d be hard-pressed to say what those things might be. Genocide, maybe?

Others at Penn State should also pay for what they’ve done, well beyond what the University is doing in dishing out settlements quickly and quietly (as they began doing the day after Sandusky was found guilty). These individuals (and groups) include EVERYBODY associated with the football program from the Paterno era – coaches, trainers & staff – as well as everybody in Old Main (the administration building) who knew and didn’t lift a damn finger to stop it. Campus police needs to be purged of anyone who was there at that time and who knew, and the Board of Trustees’ surviving members from the Paterno/Spanier eras should be ritually purged from the campus, never to return. Their incredible failure of governance – the one real responsibility they had – was nigh unto criminal.

So then we get down to the actual punishment. Is it panicked? No. Is it severe? Yes. Is it punishing innocent students? Absolutely. But what the NCAA is trying to do is make a point: Penn State football can only be allowed to exist if it can be part of the school, not the point of the school. Building up any mortal to be a god is colossal foolishness, and the Paterno statue was nothing but the second coming of the golden calf. Let it sit in a warehouse, much like the Ark of the Covenant at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, hopefully never to see the light of day again.

Joe Paterno did some great things, and I was damn proud to root for Penn State football during and after my time on campus. But Paterno failed critically as a leader, and while he tried to lift up young men to his own gain, he failed young boys and, ultimately, the entire Penn State community as well. He shouldn’t bear that burden alone, and hopefully Spanier and others will face some form of criminal or civil proceedings so they receive punishment well in excess of banishment from the campus they so miserably let down. Current PSU President Rodney Erickson now has a supreme challenge – not just to rebuild a football program but to rebuild a school and a nation of alumni that so desperately needs to heal. And putting one man’s “legacy” above the school he was supposed to serve is just self-serving bullshit.

Let me be clear: we got off light. There is NO PUNISHMENT SEVERE ENOUGH for the rape of children. None. Nothing takes that back. Nothing erases that, and nothing makes it all better. Even revoking someone’s universal bus pass isn’t enough to make up for the loss of innocence, the pain, the internal agony of it all. WE GOT OFF LIGHT. So bitching and moaning about how it’s too much and the football program will take a decade to recover…it falls on deaf ears when spoken anywhere near me. It will take some of these victims their entire lives to recover, if that, and football doesn’t hold a candle to the importance of a human life.

I will continue to root for Penn State, both on and off the field. The challenge to all of the Penn State community – current students, faculty, staff, and alumni – is to rebuild our school into a place where we would never again let that happen.

Where we will never again let a wolf prey on lambs.

Where we will never again raise anyone to heights where mortals cannot tread.

Where we will accept responsibility for our failings and take our medicine like grown ups.

Where we can ALL be proud to bleed blue and white.

Where we can all answer with no shame in our hearts: WE ARE…PENN STATE.

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