I’m sitting here, late Wednesday night, watching ESPN and their ongoing coverage of the recent events that have unfolded over the past several days at Penn State, culminating this evening in the firing of longtime head coach Joe Paterno. And I’m very bothered by what I’m seeing in the students Penn State, yet not sure if I should be surprised or not at their failure to see the err of their ways.
The first question asked at the press conference announcing the firing of Joe Paterno:
“Who will coach the team on Saturday!?”
I’m not sorry about this, but some things are just bigger than football. Some things are bigger than tradition. Some things are bigger than one man pouring his heart and soul into a university for 46 years and giving so much back. The destruction of one child’s innocence is simply so much bigger than all of those things.
In the end you walk away with nothing but your dignity and the legacy you leave behind. JoePa’s legacy was always one of the highest integrity, but that’s ALL in question now and he knows it. He may not have been the athletic director or the president of the school, but he arguably held a position much more powerful as head coach of the Penn State football team. It matters not that he apparently reported the incident to the athletic director and did what was necessary according to the letter of the law in Pennsylvania. The law is far from perfect and if we merely use the law as the measure of what is wrong and what is accepted, what are we really saying?
Our leaders MUST be held to higher standards than the minimum bar required by the law. If we choose to follow these people, to raise them up, and to build statues of them, then maybe we can’t be expected have perspective when we realize that their colossal failure in judgement led to the continuation and coverup of untold horrors.
How about we not worry about who’s going to coach the team on Saturday. Football will go on. Penn State will survive. Students will get over the disruption to their Rose Bowl hopes. But nothing can ever take back the atrocities that occurred. Yes Joe, you of all people, should have done more.