Mary Ann Sorrentino's 2 Cents Worth

Opinions, Observations and Musings

Mary Ann Sorrentino

Mary Ann Sorrentino
RI or FL depending on season, USA
June 19
Mary Ann is a columnist for the Keene (NH) Sentinel, the Providence Phoenix and other newspapers and has appeared on She was an Associated Press Award-winning radio talk host for 13 years and the Executive Director of Planned Parenthood of RI 1977-1987. Her most recent book, ABORTION - The A Word (Gadd Books) is available on line and in major bookstores.


JANUARY 23, 2012 11:43AM


Rate: 21 Flag

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)


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my daughter and I had this conversation last night.
Great Post, Mary Ann
Thank you, Muse...I'm sure a lot of parents/children will be having this conversation too...
I was thinking the same thing! Thanks for writing it so eloquently.
Football is a game. Child sex abuse is not.
Perhaps, like the cancer, he was hoping to take the secret to the grave. I am sorriest for his family, whose last months with him were full of so much emotional pain. Nothing like not having breath in your lungs to be able to apologize or explain yourself at the end.
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Mary Ann, I think you have overreacted. As a sports fan, I spend a fair amount of time at sports websites - Sports Illustrated, ESPN, the sports sections of major newspapers - and I have yet to see anyone there point a finger even casually at the Penn State Administration. Every analysis I have read has said that Paterno's legacy will be tarnished.

The problem with the Internet is that it gives every nut job with an axe to grind a chance to state their opinion in public and have it taken seriously. Don't confuse the rantings of a few crazies with a modem for the opinion of the mainstream sports world.
Thanks for reading and commenting -- all of you-- I appreciate the many reactions possible to this man's death ...
Act 3, scene ii of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (Mark Antony: "The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones".)
I will not shed a tear over his passing. I mourn the poor children (now adults) who suffered abuse and have been scarred for life.
Joe Paterno did not die of a broken heart. He died of lung cancer which he has presumably had for quite awhile, yet he continued to coach long beyond his usefullness. Joe Paterno was pig-headed and selfish - refusing to step down and staying on until others had to clean up his mess. It's a shame it had to come to this - for the victims, the program, the University. But not Paterno, he ended up with about what he deserved: a program in tatters, the University in disgrace and his records on the shelf along with those of Cal Ripkin and others who gained fame by simply refusing to go away.
I agree Mary Ann. I had a facebook friend placing his death at the feet of Jerry Sandusky, which I thought was ridiculous. An 85 year old man dies of lung cancer and you blame the death on stress? Not so much. Rated!
You have great courage to write this. I thought about it but couldn't quite get there. I live in Big Ten Land (which I believe is twelve now) and people put JoePa up on a pedestal.
I wish they had just let him stay on instead of ending his career the way they did. There really was no need of it. Thanks for sharing. :-)
Well said, excellent piece, Mary. R
And if Terry Sandusky turns out to be innocent, as he is presumed to be until there is a trial, and which was the result in the McMartin Preschool case in California, would that change anything? Penn State is a very, very deep pocket as to lawsuits, if time, and the criminal justice system, will tell what it is appropriate to say in that matter, or not. That's why we have a criminal justice system, to adjudicate matters.
As to Paterno, most people who liked Joe Paterno liked him for the fact that his program had good academics, and not necessarily just the wins, as in reality, on a percentage basis, there were people who were better at winning than him, but not nearly so much the graduation rates, or essential lack of NCAA violations. That's why he was a big deal at least as much as a lot of wins, if granted, if he had been a .500 coach, he wouldn't have lasted very long either. He did give back rather a lot of the money he ever earned there to the schools' academic programs. It is not remotely alleged that Paterno himself did anything wrong other than possibly, if not yet proven in a court of law, place trust in one person he shouldn't have, possibly, and then possibly not do enough about that when the assistant made a claim that cannot seemingly ever be verified in a court of law, since that person was never identified in the indictment, and therefore presumably will not be, especially since the assistant has made statements that it seems like could be impeached on cross-examination rather easily, as they are not from what one reads consistent statements. That's why juries o our peers decide such things, or if Sandusky so chooses, a judge. Time will tell.
Excellent piece, Mary Ann. I see the Shakespeare quote is taken.
I read another post today that expresses similar reactions to this news. I cannot disagree. History has a way of smoothing over the dirty parts.
@ D. White: Looks like the Shakespeare quote is not the only taken. Is your imitating my signature rating a compliment?
Contrary to popular opinion, eulogies are NOT for the dead. No part of a funeral service is. None of it. It is all about the living; those left behind in such pain. To speak well of a dead person of whom you'd never have spoken well when he was alive, it not to offer him undeserved praise. It is only to sympathize with the family.
Whatever their lost one may have been, it was not their fault.

Fear not, when the pain eases, they'll not hold you to those silly praises. They likely know of his faults better than anyone. But they will appreciate that you offered that comfort in their time of need.
I'd like to know how you got a copy of his chest x-ray.
I have no sympathy for him. He lived the life that created his death and if he wanted to be considered a saint at his demise, he should have handled that situation we all know about better. If he is in a place where judgement takes place, I don't think they will be impressed with his football record over the cries of a raped child.
Eloquent and thoughtful, as always. Thanks for presenting a sane, sensible unbiased viewpoint for people to ponder. rated
Several friends have suggested that Joe Paterno willed himself to die. The question is whether it was because of shame, perceived injustice, anger about a lost legacy, or guilt? This was a route to making himself a martyr? Maybe. r
Cancer on the game.