Is Paterno as guilty as Sandusky? What may have really happened to an honourable man caught up in a predator’s web
“Evil prospers when good men do nothing” . . . Edmund Burke
In cases of child abuse where one parent remains willingly oblivious to the heinous acts of the other, I have always considered such silence to be every bit as damnable as the actions of the one perpetrating the crime. It is as if by their silence they are giving tacit approval of the other’s behaviour.
The Casey Anthony tragedy is one such example, except it is the parents who fell asleep at the moral wheel and allowed such a creature as their daughter to snuff out the life of a precious child. Whether it is denial or guilt or evidence of a decency vacuum, they did little to avert the death of their granddaughter Caylee.
Unfortunately, and outside of public consternation, there is not much the courts can do in terms of criminal retribution. Although the move to hold parents accountable for the crimes committed by their under age children is a good place to start. But this is a discussion for another day.
The above point of view takes on an interesting perspective when you consider what is currently happening at Penn State University, where Gerald Sandusky faces charges for sexually molesting young boys and doing so during and after his tenure as the football team’s defensive coordinator.
While Sandusky’s apparent guilt is palpable, it is the collateral extension of accountability that resulted in the termination of perennial Nittany Lion football coach Joe Paterno that has of late drawn the most media attention.
As more of the story comes out it is becoming clear that Paterno was aware of the accusations against his former defensive coordinator to the point that he only put in a token appearance at the latter’s retirement party . . . a behaviour that seems more in line with having to be there disgust or contempt, than one reflecting the usual gridiron comaradarie shared by those select few who play the game in front of tens of thousands (millions if televised) every week.
So here’s the question . . . if as it appears that Paterno knew what was going on and said nothing, even to the point of allowing Sandusky access as reported to the football facilities after the accused’s retirement where alleged abuse or abuses took place, is his being fired reasonable?
It is an even bigger question given the fact that unlike Casey Anthony’s parents, who besides raising a monster have done little to further the well-being of their community, Paterno has a 61 year track record of service to both the school and college sports in general.
Add into the equation that outside of coaching, he has no discernible relationship with Sandusky, his choosing to remain silent and risk (and lose) it all is even more puzzling?
By all accounts, Paterno is a decent man deeply dedicated to his profession which included shaping the character of the young men placed under his charge over the years.
Perhaps he was caught up in the Sandusky web of despicability in much the same fashion that the driver of a getaway car is inextricably linked to those wielding the guns in a bank robbery?
Unfortunately, and while his finger wasn’t on the proverbial trigger, his role in Sandusky escaping justice for such a long time cannot be denied.
Again, and while being an accurate analogy, it still doesn’t answer the question why?
Coming right out and admitting that this is purely conjecture on my part, perhaps Paterno along with school officials were involved in delivering their own version of justice while simultaneously protecting the reputations of both the football program and school.
Specifically, upon discovering irrefutable evidence of Sandusky’s crimes they had given him the option of retiring or face prosecution, and in the process bringing his abuses to public light. Suffice to say, scum-bags like Sandusky obviously prefer the dark recesses of anonymity.
Given that all predators like Sandusky are manipulative and usually narcissistic, after the token denials he probably accepted their offer to retire with an outward appearing honour, while Paterno and company found solace in their averting an embarrassing and reputation damaging public disclosure of the repugnant conduct of one of their own along with the questions as to how this could have happened in the first place.
Unfortunately, when you get into cahoots with the devil, any illusions of getting out in front of the situation dissipates very quickly. This goes a long ways towards explaining why Sandusky continued to have access privileges to the University’s football facilities where in 2002 he abused a young boy in the locker room showers.
Think of it like this . . . you help Sandusky to cover-up his crimes by allowing him an honourable discharge. As a result, denying him the courtesy of access that is normally afforded former coaches and players, may open the doors to the slippery slope of questions that would result in the disclosure of that which you were attempting to cover up in the first place.
Of course Sandusky probably realized this scenario from the beginning, and played on the fears and vulnerabilities tied to Paterno’s loyalty to the school and his desire to protect the image of his beloved Penn State University. Again, this is what predators do best re finding and using a person’s weaknesses against them.
So even though Paterno and those involved in the cover-up were likely sickened by Sandusky’s presence and were hoping against hope that he would behave himself, the fact of the matter is that they were living on borrowed time, in that the inevitability of the very truth that they feared so much would ultimately be disclosed.
While there will likely be more details surrounding the public revelation of Sandusky’s crimes in the coming days and weeks, the fact is that Paterno never really had control of the situation, nor did the school officials who also played a role in the perpetuation of the lie. In the process, and this is just another sad part to this tragic tale, instead of protecting the school Paterno ultimately did more harm to both the institution and his own reputation.
In this context, Paterno’s guilt is not so much tied to Sandusky as it is his own fallibility of judgement. The punishment for this miscue . . . 61 years of faithful service overshadowed by the actions of a repugnant human being with whom his name will forever be associated.
Now that is a stiff penalty!
ARE ADOLESCENT SPORTS AND COMMUNITY-BASED ORGANIZATIONS THE HARVESTING GROUNDS FOR PAEDOPHILES, AND WHY ONE READER BELIEVES THAT THERE IS A SPECIAL PLACE IN HELL FOR JOE PATERNO