He had a chance to prove his true greatness….and failed (tf)

We’re numb to most things. We’re subjected to such a barrage of people-behaving-badly coverage that after a while it’s like trying to recall the exact shape, size, and taste of the 27th potato chip you ate during the first quarter of the game. It all runs together and eventually rolls over everything else. Crooked politicians and newly dead dictators and the reiterated real possibility that our economy, what little of it still exists, may indeed spark rioting in US cities if us 99% ain’t pacified soon with some trickle-down coins and folded paper. We live on borrowed money and borrowed time but if we can watch the world go by on a large screen HD TV, we’re reminded how lucky we are and mostly just put up with things we probably could fight but don’t have the energy to. Let others occupy Wall Street. I’ll cheer from the sidelines where it’s warmer….and I’m less likely to get tasered. I’m proud of myself that I can spot a democracy turning into an oligarchy, but I do wish I was a bit more vociferous in my reaction to it all. I guess I’m just tired. I was raised on Nixon, plied myself with booze during the Reagan years, stammered like a donkey as W made Jesus and Tony Blair honorary Americans…..and right now feel about 1000 years old. All I want is to turn on a reading lamp, get under warm covers….and travel someplace else.

And then this story out of State College. A revered coach at Penn State starts a charity to help disadvantaged kids, and the word is out that he’s been buggering many of them for years and years, some even in Penn State athletic facilities. Like the showers and the weight room. Kids. Maybe 10 years old.

Kids. We notice this one.

I’ve never been one to revere coaches….no matter how many wins they collect or how many young men they “mold”. A coach is just as likely to be an asshole as a bricklayer. I had coaches growing up. Some were Ok. Some were fools. All received special favors.

Things get so out of whack you had a sociopath like Bob Knight effectively running Indiana University. Nobody thought it was strange that an obviously deranged basketball coach, who would question his player’s toughness by putting tampons in their locker, and once said if rape was “inevitable”, a woman should “just lay back and enjoy it”, should have run of an esteemed place of higher learning…..and it wasn’t until a brave player stepped forward….and the school was forced to watch Knight, actually caught him on film, choking this kid, that the cowards who were supposed to be running the place were forced to act. And even then, Knight was still defended. And is still defended. By many. The whisleblower had his life threatened and was forced to leave the state.

Joe Paterno runs Penn State. He’s the football coach, but for years if Joe made a “suggestion”, it was treated like a decree. Paterno was the face of Happy Valley….a throwback with highwater pants, google glasses, and a sort of “aw shucks it ain’t nothing special I’m doing” charm. He turned out powerhouse football teams, was never caught cheating, and made a fortune for the University. No coach is America was more revered….or more associated with his team.

Until now. Paterno knew his long-time friend and 30+ year assistant coach was sexually abusing children. He was told. Back in 2002. And he didn’t get the information via hearsay. No….a graduate assistant actually witnessed the abuse taking place. Was tipped off by disturbing noises coming from the showers. On University grounds. At this point, only someone who is morally bankrupt or dead from the neck up does not go to the police. Or does not grab a baseball bat and take it to the abuser’s skull.

Paterno went to the Athletic Director….a guy who in a later deposition denied knowledge of any abuse and will probably end up in jail himself on a perjury charge. Paterno did not go to the cops and did not grab a bat. And though folks aren’t making a big deal out of this part, he made no attempt to find out who the abused child was. To me this is the most sickening part. Paterno considers his behavior above-board and is expressing no regret. He’s saying all the “right things”, which means he’s saying nothing at all. At least not yet.

Joe Paterno is not a pedophile, obviously. But Joe Paterno knew a pedophile was operating right under his nose. And Joe Paterno did next to nothing. What does that make him, actually?

What kind of “molder of men” could he possibly be? Is this the best we can come up with to (pardon the pun) lionize? At least everybody who ever dealt with Bob Knight knew he was an unstable bully. Knight was refreshingly honest in a lot of ways. He adored being an asshole. It was part of his charm.

But Paterno plays the squeaky clean old-fashioned values thing to the hilt. In his own way, he now appears every bit as arrogant as Bob Knight.

Paterno has grown old and legendary because he wins football games. I don’t think he “molds” kids anymore than any other teacher does. See how much molding any of these guys do after they recruit you and you blow out your knee.You’re in the way then. In his mind, Paterno best serves the University by winning football games. In a real sense, reporting the pedophile in the next room would have jeopardized this goal. You want to send your own blue-chipper to a school with a sexual predator roaming the sidelines?

So Paterno covered it up. Like an un-elected Bishop deciding what’s best for his flock.

His penance is now a tarnished legacy. He had a chance to prove his true greatness as a coach.

He failed.

–Tom Flannery

~ by admin on November 7, 2011.

2 Responses to “He had a chance to prove his true greatness….and failed (tf)”

  1. Preach on, bro.

  2. I enjoy your writing a lot. Keep posting and I’ll keep reading.

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