Thursday, November 10, 2011
Give Paterno a eulogy ... then give up.
Say that Joe Paterno was wrong and needed to be removed because he couldn't stop children from being hurt on his watch, and you draw the ire of the entire Penn State culture who firmly believe it's "My school, right or wrong." Say that Paterno has been a scapegoat and that his share of the blame is smaller than other school officials, and children and family advocates pile on for supporting him in any way.
While you're right on both accounts ... you're wrong on both accounts. So why bother taking a side?
I give up. So here's my feeling: Joe Pa died.
When someone close to you passes away, like my grandmother who was in the throes of Alzheimer's, you don't focus on their state in the last years. You remember them in the good times. You try to smile. I'm not a Penn State fan, but I often think of that 1987 Fiesta Bowl where the Nittany Lions' defense shoved it up Vinny Testaverde's ass. Historians will recall the other four undefeated seasons that didn't result in national championships. There were other things Joe Paterno did over a 60-year career that makes it kind of cold to spit on him because he failed -- albeit rather miserably -- while making a very big decision.
I read the grand jury report. Mike McQueary should have gone to the police. Paterno should have persuaded him harder to do so, or done it himself. That was a mistake, as was, it turned out, expecting the administration members he did tell to do what they are supposed to. Paterno committed a crime of omission, but one that was not on par with those of school president Graham Spanier, AD Tim Curley and senior VP Gary Schultz. And don't get me started on that monster Jerry Sandusky. But, hindsight is always 20/20.
None of it matters now. Paterno's been labeled. And removed. In an odd juxtaposition because of what's going on now, his long career as a football coach only happened because he passed on law school, defying his parents.
Choose to grieve his loss, or choose to spit on his grave, so to speak. Either way, somebody's gonna write a euology.