Until his death a decade ago, any time my grandfather and I spoke about my dreams or aspirations, he always liked to end the conversation with something along the lines of, “Well, you can wish in one hand, shit in the other, and we’ll see which one fills up quicker.” Being the impressionable youngster that I was at the time, I never really asked him what that meant; and until this moment, I never really felt the need. But now, with the tremendous amount of shit that I’ve read or heard over the past year about a man who always reminded me of that grandfather, I feel that this might be the perfect time to figure that out.
(Please allow me a moment to metaphorically unbuckle my pants… Alright. Here we go.)
- I wish people didn’t need to mention the scandal every time Joe Paterno’s name is brought up.
- I wish that it was still socially acceptable to speak highly of his views and ideas.
- I wish someone else would pick up the torch that was beaten out of his hand.
- I wish I could still say that the successes of Joe Paterno were never defined by a Jerry Sandusky defense.
(See what I did there with that last sentence? See how that works on multiple levels?… Damn. I almost forgot. I shouldn’t be wasting any time because this race is starting to heat up.)
- I wish that no child will ever have to go through what Jerry Sandusky put those boys through.
- I wish a few people would’ve had better judgment when dealing with the possibilities.
- I wish things were different.
- I wish it had never happened, but we were still able to understand how bad child sexual abuse is.
(Wow. It’s really flowing right now. I’m actually struggling to keep up. I better change it up a bit.)
- I wish sports columnists didn’t play Follow-the-Leader when they don’t have time to do research.
- I wish that twits and twats weren’t allowed to use Twitter.
- I wish referees could be held accountable for flagrant blown calls that directly influence games.
- I wish there was something else in college football that gave me hope for its future.
(Man. What did I eat that would cause this much shit to come out of me? Twitter?… Alright, these last ones are going to need to be over the top if I’m going to catch up. I gotta stay focused.)
- I wish that the NCAA would’ve punished the schools that sidestepped the rules by “over-signing.”
- I wish that the NCAA would’ve punished Oregon fans for supporting a culture that believes that it’s okay to corrupt young athletes by paying their recruiting advisors to steer their college decisions.
- I wish that the NCAA would’ve punished UVA for one of its athletes committing murder.
- I wish that the NCAA would’ve done more about the strong speculation that Auburn had purchased a Heisman Trophy and a National Championship.
- I wish that the NCAA would’ve felt that the UNC academic scandal combined with a sports-agent scandal deserved much more than a one-year bowl ban.
(The NCAA being the moral authority for college athletics is about as dumb as a football bat. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m pretty sure that academic fraud is nowhere even close to free tattoos. Could it be that they ruled this way because they didn’t want to open the Pandora’s Box on academic scandals in major-college football? [cough]SEC. [cough]… DAMN IT!!! Why do I keep getting sidetracked like this?)
- I wish the Big Ten had a business partnership with “The World-Wide Leader in Sports” because the scandals at both Penn State and Ohio State would’ve gotten a lot less airtime.
- I wish the NCAA possessed the track record to make me believe that having the all-time-winningest football coach remembered for a “Grand Experiment” wouldn’t have somehow hurt its future profitability.
- I wish that if and when Joe is exonerated of his supposed crimes, the retraction and apology also be front page news for an entire week.
- I wish Joe Paterno had possessed the superhuman ability to see other people’s thoughts.
(And… I still lost. You know, I really thought that those last few would’ve put me over the top. That’s depressing. But I guess I should probably get used to that feeling with the way things are going these days. Maybe if I hadn’t wasted so much time commenting on everything, I would’ve won this race and had a much different story to tell… But hey, perhaps this outcome isn’t all bad. What if I can pull a little bit of speculation out of this steamy pile of shit and mold it into something much bigger than what it actually is? Hmm…)
Yeah. What if I needed all of this nonsense in my life for some reason? What if this was just karma tapping me on the shoulder; trying to help me realize that nothing good lasts forever, that everything turns to shit on a long-enough timeline? Yeah. Maybe I should just do what everybody is telling me to do and forget that Joe Paterno even existed; letting go of the idea that I had always felt so unreasonably sure about. Maybe I should just blend into the crowd of ravenous football fans that only really care about wins and losses.
Ah, who am I kidding? If a person doesn’t stand for anything, they’ll fall for anything; and until the United States Justice System tells me that Joe Paterno was no better than this clump of shit in the palm of my hand, I’m going to continue to give him—just him—the benefit of the doubt, because the NCAA and ESPN do not have the credibility or the integrity to steer my core beliefs on a matter such as this. And in this case, when much of who I am as a person has ultimately resulted from what Joe Paterno was able to accomplish, how he was able to accomplish it, and where he was able to accomplish it at, I am more than willing to take my chances of being considered a fool for refusing to believe the propaganda that’s being forced on me.
You know, maybe you’re not the same as me. Maybe you always felt that a man like JoePa just couldn’t possibly be real and that he was never the man that he claimed to be. Maybe you were already fully aware that a coach of that magnitude has to cheat if he wants to win. But in the end, when all is said and done, who would end up being considered the bigger fool? A fool that stands up for what he believes in? Or a fool that followed the fools that pushed the speculations of a fool who was hired by another fool that admittedly wanted to reinforce the foolish idea that Penn State shouldn’t be known as a football school, even though the most successful coach of all-time walked its sidelines for his entire career?
Or… maybe this heaping pile of shit that’s been presented to me over the past year is just enough to make me realize that I shouldn’t be wasting so much time hoping that Joe Paterno’s name be restored to what it used to be, because major-college football is just becoming a massive ruse now, anyway. Just like the pros.
(Oh. Here is something you might want to check out concerning the “infallible” Louis Freeh. Don’t hesitate to read the fifth paragraph a few times.)
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Before I begin, I feel that I must remind the American public that the basis of an argument relies on the fact that any idea can be perceived in multiple ways, ultimately depending on the perspective of the person perceiving it or the manner in which that idea is presented to them. Here is a quick quote that might illustrate how a good majority of the American media chose to argue Joe Paterno’s supposed involvement in the scandal at PSU.
“The one-sidedness fallacy does not make an argument invalid. It may not even make the argument unsound. The fallacy consists in persuading readers, and perhaps ourselves, that we have said enough to tilt the scale of evidence and therefore enough to justify a judgment. If we have been one-sided, though, then we haven’t yet said enough to justify a judgment. The arguments on the other side may be stronger than our own. We won’t know until we examine them.
“So the one-sidedness fallacy doesn’t mean that your premises are false or irrelevant, only that they are incomplete. You may have appealed only to relevant considerations, but you haven’t yet appealed to all relevant considerations.”1
Now please don’t get me wrong for what you’re about to read. I am in no way disputing that something horrible occurred at Penn State. Nor am I suggesting that Paterno never once had the chance to stop Jerry Sandusky from committing horrifying acts of sexual deviancy. All I am trying to do is what nearly every columnist in America had done when dealing with the Joe Paterno aspect of the case—speculate on what had actually happened from the lacking evidence that was given and fill the gaping holes with opinion.
(Yes. That’s right. I am actually admitting that this is entirely speculation. In no way, shape, or form is anyone supposed to believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that what precedes or follows this statement is of absolute truth, and is meant only to inspire thought in those that still have the ability to think freely on a subject as polarizing as this one.)
I remember the moment I found out like it had happened yesterday.
As soon as I stumbled across the news that Joe Paterno was no longer the head coach at Penn State University, I was struck by a heavy cloud of anger, confusion, and shame. The feeling overwhelmed me and left me frozen to my chair with my eyes fixed to the screen of my cell phone; my mind still unwilling to give in to the fact that one of the very few people to have ever earned my complete admiration would forever be associated with child rape. But no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t understand how a man like that could’ve ever felt it to be in his best interest to knowingly cover up the actions of his former assistant. How could it be that the only blemish on the man’s résumé be something so utterly despicable that it made you cringe when you heard it? It just didn’t make any sense.
“But that’s because everybody was covering everything up. Everything Joe was doing wrong was being swept under the rug up there at Penn State,” says an obligatory voice.
Oh yeah? How did you come to that conclusion?
“The janitors, dude. They saw what was going on, but they were afraid to lose their jobs because of their fear for Paterno.”
Oh yeah? A janitor? That’s your argument? A janitor was afraid of losing his job, so much so, that he was willing to spend the rest of his life knowing that he had turned his back on a young boy being raped? I’m sorry, but that’s just dumb.
And really, if you think about it, what kind of person would’ve been deluded enough to believe that something as expansive and ongoing as what was happening could’ve possibly been covered up. Multiple children’s memories aren’t some steroid needle that could just be destroyed. It wasn’t some money that could be laundered back into the system. It wasn’t a set of classes that could be hidden inside a college curriculum. Jerry Sandusky was a man that was known by most everyone that he came in contact with, who, if he continued to molest boys the way he was, would eventually be investigated. People were going to find out. It just didn’t make sense.
This is why it baffles me that, out of all the enraged voices in the media, none of them ever suggested that it may have been senility that caused this indifference in Paterno, if he was to have done what they’re saying he did. I might be wrong, but I don’t ever remember reading anything that had suggested that, even though there were journalists already declaring that he was too old to be doing what he was doing at the time of the McQueary-incident. Now, I’m not saying that that is definitely what happened. I just find it as much, or even more, of a possibility than an elderly man running a winning football program while also directing an elaborate scandal to keep his name clean at the same time. Ridiculous.
You see, Joe Paterno was one of my favorite people in the entire world. He was the godfather of my favorite football program, the patriarch of the Penn State community, and exactly the kind of man that I had always hoped to become. He was loyal—turning down more lucrative contracts to stay in the same place for his entire career. He was humble—working for a salary much less than what he could’ve asked for, while living in a house that was much less than what he could afford. He was charitable—giving millions back to the university that employed him to build a library for its students. He was kind, diligent, intelligent, funny, and a great role model for the players that he coached. I loved how he spoke, how he carried himself, and how he carried others. But even now, with everything that is being said about him, the one thing that I will always regret about my time at Penn State is having never approached him, shaken his hand as sternly as I could, and thanked him for being the man that he was.
But it all came crashing down when we least expected it.
“They fired JoePa?!? No! This isn’t right! This is bullshit! It’s not supposed to be like this,” I remember thinking. “There is no possible way that a man like Joe Paterno could’ve ever truly believed that someone was molesting children and not have done anything about it. None. Not a chance. Joe told the people that he needed to, and I guarantee that he didn’t even believe it to begin with. I bet that whoever it was that he told informed Joe not to worry and that they’d take care of it all, and Joe probably never heard about it again… Sandusky wasn’t supposed to be Joe’s problem anymore. That piece of garbage was The Second Mile’s problem. This can’t be happening right now.”
By then, though, it didn’t matter anymore. The public had already considered the evidence possibilities and marked Paterno as being a guilty, knowing participant in a “scandal” that would rock the sports world. And as everything spun out of control, mostly due to ESPN’s overly-vicious tabloid journalism, certain people on the Board of Trustees felt that it was necessary to save the image of the university by shoving the old man in front of the bus in the first instance they could; inadvertently fueling all of the rumors and speculation that had been circling in the atmosphere. To many, the quickness in which he was fired was not only confirmation that something corrupt had occurred at Penn State, it was an indictment on everything Joe had ever done.
Suddenly, everybody and their sister felt the need to voice their opinions on the matter, whether or not they were actually informed on the situation; and without a shred of real evidence against him, the world began discrediting everything good and honest that Joe had ever done. In the matter of days, the reaction on Twitter reduced his image to that of Saddam Hussein or Osama Bin Laden. I’ve never seen anything like it before. And as the social-media storm darkened, news outlets started lighting their torches, finding their pitchforks, and gathering rocks for a highly-profitable, prime-time stoning of a living legend.
Even still, Joe had expressed his interest in finishing out the season, and to me, that didn’t sound like a man that was knowingly involved in a decade-long scandal to keep the school and his legacy out of harm’s way. That didn’t sound like a man that knew that there was a chance that he could be spending the last days of his life in jail for allowing a sexual predator to prey on young boys so that he could further his career. That sounded like a man that understood that something had occurred under his watch that he thought had been dealt with. I don’t care what anyone says, there wasn’t enough guilt in that statement for me to believe otherwise.
“But McQueary was working under Paterno after the shower incident,” the resounding, obligatory voice contended. “How do you explain that?”
Alright. You actually have a point there. I really don’t know why that is.
“Probably because he gave him the job to keep his mouth shut.”
Just stop. You sound like Skip Bayless and I hate that. There’s nothing good that can come from you saying something like that when you have no idea, whatsoever, of what happened. Who’s to say that McQueary wasn’t hired by Curley to keep his mouth shut and report to a gullible, old man that there was nothing to worry about because he didn’t actually see what he thought he saw?
“Whatever you gotta tell yourself, bro. But why did Paterno continue to allow Jerry Sandusky around the program?”
Listen. I can tell that I’m not going to get anywhere with you, so I’m just going to end it right now. You seem like an intelligent-enough person. Would you ever trust the words of a man whose back was being held firmly against the wall, who also would be willing to do or say anything to keep himself out of jail? Now before you answer, keep in mind that this person was never the hero whistleblower while his job was secure.
“No. Probably not.”
Exactly. But yet credible journalists are eating his story up like a freshly-baked apple pie. Why?
But even now, considering everything that went on, one of the things that I will always appreciate about Joe Paterno was that his plight was not necessarily in the game itself, but in molding the young men that chose him to be their head coach. And as a Penn State fan, I found get pride in the fact that he always held his players to a much higher standard in the classroom than what was expected of him and was still able to win. And this is why it remains so amazing to me that he was able to do what he did and become the most successful college coach ever, even after having placed unneeded sanctions on himself regarding the type of player that he recruited.
(I can only imagine how many wins he could have had if he had allowed himself to play on a level playing surface.)
But no matter what anybody says, namely Mark Emmert, Joe Paterno was not a god for many Penn State fans. He may have been the greatest coach that anyone could’ve ever asked for; but throughout the 2000s, when his age and mortality were beginning to show in his decision-making, there was a large percentage of the fan base that believed the only thing holding the program back from becoming a national power once again was an elderly head coach who could no longer contend with the country’s best recruiters. And because of this, we watched helplessly as Ohio State flashed its dirty nuts all over the western part of our state; as the Irish Catholics routinely stole from the Philadelphia region; and as a myriad of superstar recruits were being lured into the South by the promise of warmer weather, much less class work, and caviar dreams. But at the same time, I was willing to live with the seven-to-nine win seasons from the past-his-prime coach because the man stood for what is right in college football and he deserved to be coaching in a place like Happy Valley for as long as he very well pleased. I believe that’s called compassion, not worship.
And no matter what happens, I will never look differently at the university because it wasn’t an environment of higher learning that turned its back on those boys. It wasn’t a lecture hall in the Forum that withheld information from the proper authorities. It wasn’t the IM building or Rec Hall that feared for their jobs if they were to have done what is morally right. It wasn’t anything that I had fallen in love with while at Penn State that fired Joe Paterno or committed crimes of indecency. The blame rests squarely on a small collection of people who, in their own personal interests, would turn their backs on the hundreds of thousands of alumni, tens of thousands of students, thousands of local businesses, hundreds of faculty members, and most importantly, a dozen or more under-advantaged boys who were in need of a fatherly figure a decade ago. And whether it be the janitors that feared for their jobs, a graduate assistant who was looking for a job, an athletic director and president that were wanting to keep their jobs, or possibly a head coach that was trying to finish off having done the greatest job ever; knowing how much blame should be placed where may be months or even years away. So, until the university gets rid of the world-class campus and camaraderie, I will continue to maintain that Penn State is the greatest university in the entire world and nobody will ever be able to convince me otherwise.
You know what? Maybe I’m wrong about Paterno. Maybe he did everything that I am suggesting he didn’t. Maybe I’m just a young, deluded fool that has yet to realize the true nature of the world around me. But a life is made up of choices that you have to live with and learn from, and right now, I am choosing to stand up for the man whose once-pristine image was beaten into a bloody pulp over a bit of speculation run rampant. And you know what else? Even if the United States Justice System tells me otherwise, I will remain a person who would be willing to teach anyone who asks about the ideas that he stood for, because those ideas transcend a criminal offense that calls for a three-month prison sentence and a $200 fine.
“Three months in jail and a $200 fine? That can’t be right,” the obligatory voice interjects.
Whatever you got to tell yourself, bro. All of this shit happened because of something the government barely considers a misdemeanor.
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Dear Mr. Emmert,
It is becoming very bothersome to me that you’re being so emotional and hypocritical when dealing with the situation at Penn State, because the president of an organization that governs the athletic departments of over a hundred institutions of higher-education should never be either of those things, let alone both. But now that you’ve chosen to make yourself Captain Hindsight and extend your jurisdiction to include speculation, the NCAA’s member schools—many of which are state-owned—might start to think that you should not have the same type of power as, say, someone who ran a professional-sports league of individually-owned or group-owned businesses. The truth is: the last thing I want to see happening to amateur football is a dictatorship that is hell-bent for headlines; and as a fan who had liked college sports much more than pro sports due to the lack of hypocrisy, I just hope that you receive this and put the consequences of what you trying to do into consideration before the NCAA ruins its image even further; losing even more of its casual fan-base because of it.
As for my former school, I am angered by your reasoning behind punishing Penn State the way you have. Do you truly and honestly believe that the entire Penn State community deserves to be punished for supposedly having nurtured an environment that places the football team above rape? That might be the most ridiculous thing that I’ve ever heard. The people that felt that the image of Joe Paterno was more important than the sexual integrities of underprivileged boys will be going to jail and will never be getting another job. You know all too well that it was only those few people that can and should be held accountable for what they’d done, and they can and will be held accountable for it. I just really hope that you have some pretty-damning evidence against Paterno; because if it it’s found out that you catered to public opinion to destroy the image of the man that had always opposed you, in the end, that image may finally be what brings you down. Karma? Possibly. But you can thank Twitter for that.
Also, just to inform you, I would stop talking about the changing of a culture at Penn State when that culture was passionate about academics and charity, much like its former coach. Maybe it’s entirely coincidence that the most-philanthropic football coach created the most-philanthropic student body, but I don’t think so. Perhaps what you really want is for your member schools to strive to become like the most prominent program in the nation—a notable football factory which, within the first five years of its coach being there, built a shrine to Nick Saban because he happened to win a few championships. I don’t know, but I wouldn’t want a group of my fans worshipping the characterization of greed, infidelity, and dishonor the way they are. But maybe that’s just me. So please don’t lecture Penn State fans on the types of images that we should have or shouldn’t have looked up to, because that is just ridiculous. Needless to say, your story is full of holes.
Now close your eyes and extend me your hand, because I am holding something for you.
Your Biggest Critic
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1 Peter Suber. “The One-Sidedness Fallacy”. http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/courses/inflogic/onesided.htm 11/26/2012.