Italians say, “Only good people die.” They are not referring to the American myth that “bad things happen to good people,” but rather to the universal practice by which eulogies declare every corpse a saint.
Joe Paterno is now dead and already the sanctifiers are blaming authorities at Penn State and the state of Pennsylvania for killing the coach. These sports fanatics cannot accept that, for years, Paterno oversaw a team where students, alleged victims and assistant coaches claim that young boys were sexually assaulted and molested by Paterno’s underling Jerry Sandusky.
The illegal and unconscionable silence of Joe Paterno about the possibility of rampant pedophilia on his watch does not resonate with jock-happy mourners. They are simply interested in the game—intoxicated on the tailgate brews and adrenaline highs of Paterno’s record number of victories. If young boys were raped in the shower in the meantime, it is to them a small price to pay.
They say the scandal killed Paterno: they wonder why an ailing coach with Joe’s history should have been fired for closing his eyes to the pain of young boys claiming to have had their youth and their future serenity decimated by the alleged perversion of a man pretending to be their mentor.
Those for whom the Penn State scorecard is more important than the truth need to grow up. Those who would rather revere the sports hero than stand by children sacrificed at the altar of pedophilia while football heroes turned the other way ought to reassess their priorities. And those who say the Sandusky scandal killed Joe Paterno ought to read the death certificate.
Joe Paterno was already dying from lung cancer before he was fired from Penn State. He continued to die slowly of that cancer after he was publicly accused of refusing to blow the whistle on Sandusky.
Lung cancer killed Joe Paterno. If, in his final months, the coaching legend also suffered remorse for his actions and inactions of the past (or for finally having been caught neglecting his legal and moral duty) so be it. Joe created that guilt: no one else should be held responsible. It is, as school authorities like to remind students, “…a part of his permanent record.”
Joe Paterno is dead. Now he will either rot in peace or answer to a higher authority, in the ground, in paradise or in some circle of hell, depending on your view. It is doubtful, however, that whatever God one may believe in, Paterno’s winning football record will count more than his adherence to the golden rule-- to love one’s neighbor as oneself-- which is known as the greatest commandment.
(image courtesy wikicommons public domain)