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Saturday, Sep 23, 2017
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Martin Fennelly Columns

In harsh reality, Paterno was no saint

TAMPA - Maybe we were part of the problem. Maybe it was me. "He turned 84 years old four days before Christmas. Yes, he has slowed down some, and the drumbeat for It's Time To Go is getting louder, but Joe Paterno remains a gift that keeps on giving." I wrote that before an Outback Bowl, several months before the music died. I also wrote: "The day Joe Paterno went to work for Penn State, well, it was a very good day. And it always will be."
Lesson 232: You make Gods out of men and you're bound to get burned. If there's an oven setting in hell, they'll spin the dial for Jerry Sandusky, who until that special eternity will spend his life in prison and denial. But this is about another legacy, the one of the late and once great Joe Paterno, formerly the gold standard for coaching and character and integrity, for making men into better men. Who isn't a little shaken right about now? As an exhaustive report says people in at Penn State, Paterno included, turned the other way and all but buried child sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky to avoid bad publicity. By doing so, they gave safe harbor to a sexual predator. They let a monster walk among us. Of course Paterno's statue outside the Penn State football stadium should come down. It's only a statue, not a child's life. Of course Paterno's name has to come off that library on the Penn State campus. Of course those Penn State officials should be thrown in jail if they perjured themselves to hide any horrors. Of course Penn State football should give itself the death penalty. Of course it's the worst example of lack on institutional control ever seen in even NCAA history. SMU's death penalty offenses were Candy Land. To anyone thinking different, I can only say: These were children. Are you INSANE ? But this was Joe Paterno . Now a newspaper reports that when Paterno knew prosecutors were on Sandusky's trail, Penn State's head coach began aggressively seeking to change his contract to get a sweeter retirement deal: a payment of $3 million, the university forgiving personal loans to him, the use of a university jet, a luxury box at Penn State games for the next 25 years … It makes you want to throw up for 25 years, doesn't it? But this was Joe Paterno . It wasn't some snake-skinned cheater coach, some renegade. It was the guy we always pointed to when we were pounding on those such lesser men. Joe Paterno apparently knew there possibly was a deviant criminal on the loose in and around his program, his university, his community, and didn't press the issue. Think he would have looked the other way if it had been his son or his grandson? Ask yourself that. Folks, when it comes to these crimes, they are all our sons. No wonder his family is fighting the report's findings. They don't want to believe it. I'm not sure I do, but I do. It's sad that someone could make so large a mistake so late in life. It shouldn't be that surprising. The report on Penn State talks of a "culture of reverence." But this was Joe Paterno . Not anymore. They really don't have to tear down his statue. Everything it stood for is already gone. Scratch one football god, forever. And shame on us for building gods in the first place. Will we ever learn?
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