17 July 2012

Revisiting Paterno

Indeed, Mr. Freeh’s investigation makes clear it was Mr. Paterno, long regarded as the single most powerful official at the university, who persuaded the university president and others not to report Mr. Sandusky to the authorities in 2001 after he had violently assaulted another boy in the football showers.
It is, of course, deeply troubling that JoePa would try to cover up the sexual molestation of minors.  In fact, this changes my initial assessment of his guilt.  However, Paterno’s actions, as wrong as they are, are not nearly as deserving of condemnation as Sandusky’s.  Furthermore, Penn State’s president and Penn State’s campus security team are as deserving of condemnation as Paterno, since they also participated in a cover up.  In fact, it can be argued that PSU’s president and PSU’s security office are more deserving of condemnation since they had failed in their primary duty by participating while Paterno had failed only in his secondary duty.

Anyhow, my point in all this is that as awful as Paterno acted during the scandal, he does not merit the level of ire directed his way.  That is not to say that he doesn’t deserve any, only that there are more deserving targets.  Paterno’s memory should not exist simply as a target for preening moralists, as Vox eloquently put it.  Rather, he should simply be remembered for who he was:  an imperfect man that many looked up to because of his decent qualities.

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