It became official late Wednesday night: Joe Paterno was fired from his position as head coach of Penn State, effective immediately. After the events and revelations that have transpired in the last five days, it’s hard to say I am surprised. The magnitude of this investigation was simply too great for Penn State not to take immediate action. Although I feel that this was the inevitable, correct decision for the University to make, I refuse to jump on the Paterno hater bandwagon.
Shortly before I heard the news of his firing, I finished reading the Jerry Sandusky grand jury report. The 23-page report was incredibly disturbing to say the least. It made me sick to my stomach. The report also confirmed, however, that numerous people were aware of some sort of improper behavior by Sandusky years before and after Paterno was informed of the matter. Why are their faces not on the front pages of news sources with people calling for their heads?
I am making no attempt to defend people who failed to do the best thing possible in the matter. But I refuse to imply, like so many others are, that Paterno was the sole person who stood in the way of Sandusky being arrested years ago. I refuse to only focus on Paterno simply because he is Joe Paterno.
If we want to blame just one person, then let’s focus on the janitor who walked in on Sandusky and a child in the shower and failed to take “proper action” two years before Paterno became aware of improper behavior. Or the 28-year-old graduate assistant who walked in on another sexual encounter in the shower and went to his dad before letting Paterno know of the matter. His dad? He didn’t bother to run in and stop what was happening, call the police, and THEN report it to the head coach and athletic director?
I don’t want to put all the blame on the graduate assistant either, or anybody else for that matter; I’m just trying to reiterate that the problem of failing to take the best action goes way beyond Paterno or any one person. This story has really only been public knowledge since Sandusky was indicted on Nov. 4th. The general public is way too quick to jump to conclusions about who’s to blame after five days of headlines.
I’m not a Penn State fan hoping to remember the ‘good times’ of a beloved coach, nor am I trying to preserve the legacy of a legend. We all know his impressive coaching résumé by now. But to think that Joe Paterno is now one big hypocrite after five days of emotional news is unfair. This case revolves around an investigation that took three years to develop; it seems a little hasty to make knee-jerk decisions about a man’s character in less than a week. Especially considering we don’t know what specific conversations were had by whom and at what time.
This case sickens me as much as it does anybody else. But the fact that so many are willing to place the blame on one person in an incredibly complicated case just because he is the easy target is irresponsible.
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