Trust me, I tried. I sat on my hands for as long as I could while this story grew into the giant ball of shit that it is today. Oh, I have my opinions for sure, but I wanted to avoid talking about this sad mess for as long as I could stand to. I mean, It’s a story about a grown man (allegedly) molesting and raping kids. Worse, A supposedly trustworthy adult taking advantage of foster children, young people who have already been dealt a bum hand to begin with. As someone who spent several years in foster care, I can’t even imagine what my life would be like now if I had been put in that kind of situation when I was 11 or 12 years old. So yeah, forgive me if I haven’t wanted to talk about foster kids getting raped by old men. I certainly have no great desire to get into all the “whose fault is it that this guy was allowed to continue on while his friends and family swept it under the rug” arguments that are floating around the internet, and I couldn’t give a shit about all the guessing games and hypotheticals and wild rumors. All of it is stupid and needless, if you ask me. I say give him his day in court, and if he’s found guilty, lock him in jail until the day he dies and be done with it. End of story.
I wish that was all that bothered me about this, but it isn’t. It’s one thing to condemn someone for these kind of crimes and mourn the fact that the world we live in includes these poor fucking souls. It’s a whole other deal to try to understand the mind of someone who seeks to excuse, protect or cover for them. That’s where a story like this always loses me. It’s a story about hero worship and the lofty, almost beyond-reproach status of an institution that had the power to make something like this go away all those years ago when it needed to be dealt with swiftly. Nothing new, but true nonetheless.
Depending on where you go in this country, Football is either simply revered or outright worshipped. From Pop Warner to High School to College and the Pros, it’s deeply woven into the fabric of our culture. So much so that we inevitably find ourselves in these kinds of situations, where mythical figures can sheltered and protected in ways that normal people are never afforded. Of course, it always comes crashing down sooner or later, and in this case, it came down like a motherfucker. In the wake of all the lies and cover-ups, the timeless dean of college Football coaches was sent home in shame, now likely to be more remembered for the sad end of his tenure than the 46 years that preceded it. Not that anyone should feel the least bit sorry for Joe Paterno here, let me be crystal clear on that. A price has to be paid after all, and if his legacy is the down payment, so be it.
I really do wish this whole story would go away like yesterday, but I’m hardly naive enough to count on that happening. For now, I’ll continue to read the Penn State-related headlines with one eye open, prepared to turn my head at a moment’s notice. I’ll gasp at the stories, like the one about Franco Harris being fired from his job for his job for continuing to support Paterno, facts be damned. I’ll read about Mike McQueary having to leave his job at Penn State under a storm of death threats from Penn State fans who blame him for coming forward about Sandusky and ruining their precious little Football team and I’ll get frustrated enough to kick a hole in my wall or something. It won’t be the first time I shook a self-righteous fist at the hopelessly delusional nutjobs of the world, but it doesn’t make me feel any better about it, either.
And now that I’ve said my peace, I can be done with this.