By Roland S. Martin
After years and years of over-the-top stories attesting to the character, honor, integrity and moral fiber of the late Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno, we now know, after reading the 267-page Penn State internal report on child predator Jerry Sandusky, that the legendary coach was nothing more than a narcissistic, arrogant coward.
The report by former FBI director Louis Freeh details the shameful conduct of top officials at Penn St., including Paterno, caring more about negative publicity than young boys being scarred for life.
“The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized,” the report concluded.
Imagine that. For 14 years they were silent and complicit in Sandusky’s sexual transgressions. For 14 years, Paterno, President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz could have picked up the phone to call the cops and tell them what they knew about Sandusky sexually assaulting young boys. But they didn’t. All they cared about was negative attention and how it may reflect on the program and the university.
Please, don’t bother with the petty justifications, rationalizations and calls to look forward instead of back. No man or woman, Penn State alumnus or not, can stomach even hearing Paterno’s name or seeing his face after reading how he played an integral role in covering up the vile and evil sexual misdeeds of his former coach, Jerry Sandusky.
Paterno was treated like a saint in Happy Valley; in some quarters, he was a little “g” god.” He was the man above reproach. He had more power than any other official on campus, possibly in the state. He’s famous for saying he stayed in coaching because had he left, “it would leave college football in the hands of the Jackie Sherrills and Barry Switzers,” two coaches known for their winning ways, albeit breaking NCAA rules along the way.
But Paterno didn’t break NCAA rules in covering up for his buddy Sandusky and allowing the coach free reign to wreak havoc on the lives of numerous young men.
What Paterno did break was the moral code that every man and woman should abide by.
If Penn State officials or Pennsylvania politicians had any guts, they would strip the university bare of anything that is adorned with the name Joe Paterno. What his teams accomplished on the field is impressive, but no one can turn a blind eye to the failed leadership he exhibited off the field.
By leaving his name on buildings and his statue up, decades from now, people will hail his work on the field and not think about the devastation he allowed to happen off the field. If sports fans nationwide could heap scorn on Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens for allegedly taking steroids, then a special place in sports hell should be reserved for Paterno.
Football is nothing more than a game. But Sandusky raping young boys is a matter of life and death, innocence lost.
In the aftermath of Sandusky’s arrest, Paterno was treated as a victim; a man who was unwittingly caught up in something he wasn’t aware of. Now we know they were all lies.
Freeh produced the documents showing Paterno, his family and his legion of supporters lied to us in order to protect his name. All he cared about was breaking the all-time record set by Grambling State head coach Eddie Robinson.
Paterno, and the other Penn State lackeys, had to know that turning Sandusky in could prevent Papa Joe from breaking the all-time coaching record. So they all stayed silent; all the while, young boys suffered in their own silence.
When it’s time to name the great coaches of college football, Robinson, Bear Bryant, Alonzo Stagg and Knute Rockne would certainly be mentioned. Prior to the Freeh report, Paterno would be on that list. But his actions in the Sandusky affair destroyed everything he accomplished in his career.
Great coaches make the tough calls. When Paterno failed to make the toughest call of his life — to the police to turn in his longtime friend — he did more than cost his team a victory. Young boys lost something they can never recover.
That’s what cowards do, and Joe Paterno is a coward.
Roland S. Martin is an award-winning CNN analyst and author of the book “The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House as Originally Reported by Roland S. Martin.” Please visit his website at RolandSMartin.com. To find out more about Roland S. Martin and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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