Friday, July 20, 2012

End the madness, Penn State, and give us Paterno's statue

Give us the statue, Penn State. Take it down, and do it now.

What about this don't you understand? Seven months ago the school fired Joe Paterno for not doing enough -- barely doing anything, really -- during the previous decade to stop longtime assistant Jerry Sandusky from molesting kids. Eight days ago Penn State released its own commissioned report on the Sandusky scandal, a report that focused on blame for the cover-up and concluded it lay heavily with Joe Paterno.

And still the statue stands. At Penn State. Outside the football stadium where Jerry Sandusky worked for 30 years, where he built up his name, his reputation, to the point that he was a celebrity around State College. Sandusky used Penn State football to win over parents, get access to their kids, take them to campus or his basement and do unspeakable things.

And still the statue stands.

Give us the statue, Penn State. It would be a symbolic gesture at this point, nothing more, but symbolism is all we have. We can't go back in time and wipe Sandusky from the face of the earth, though if we had a time machine ...

We can't fix the victims he ruined, because some wounds are just too deep. We can't throw Paterno in jail for abetting a pedophile, because he's dead. We can watch the perjury trial for Paterno's spineless cronies, former athletics director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz, and hope their trial goes so badly that they get the maximum sentence, but whatever it is won't be nearly enough -- and anyway, they were just doing what Paterno wanted. So was former school president Graham Spanier.

So give us the statue, Penn State. Take it down because at this point, all you can do for the world is to acknowledge that something went terribly wrong within your football program. And every second that the statue stands with its acid-churning words -- "Joe Paterno ... humanitarian" -- is another second that we think, no we know, you still don't get it.

So understand something, Penn State. This is not another Joe Paterno rant. We've been there, we've done that, and who knows? Maybe we'll do it again someday. But don't confuse this story about Joe Paterno, statue, with any of those earlier stories about Joe Paterno, man. The man has been taken down, his reputation dismantled by his own ambition and cowardice.

The statue remains, even if everybody knows how this story is going to end. It will end with the statue coming down, just like the Joe Paterno story was going to end with his dismissal -- everyone knew it -- once the grand jury indicted Sandusky and the world learned that the man Paterno once groomed to be his successor had been grooming young boys, a secret known only to a handful of people in the world, that handful including the victims, yes, but also including Joe Paterno. When that story broke on Nov. 5, we knew Paterno would be fired. He had to be. Penn State fought it for four days before finally giving in.

Now, the statue. It will come down, although the longer Penn State waits, the more this looks like the school is worried about triggering a student riot. We all know what happened the night Paterno was fired -- the students went nuts.

Light poles were knocked down and TV trucks were turned over as profanity-chanting students -- not all of them, but thousands of them -- embarrassed themselves and their school. Surely that's a consideration now, what with some students taking the statue so seriously, even now, that they're camping out alongside it to keep it safe.

If the statue hasn't remained up to assuage the student body, what else could it be? It can't be the insulation of State College, insulation that spawned this evil scandal. Can it? That insulation still exists, but only on the micro-level. It exists inside the Paterno house, with his children defending their father, attacking the Freeh Report and vowing to conduct their own investigation to get to the bottom of this whole matter, as if the Paterno family could possibly find out information that eluded the former head of the FBI.

The Paterno family is tone-deaf, saying things nobody wants to hear, but they're insulated from reality just as their father was for decades. They're surrounded by idolizers and apologists, and also they're family. Blood is thicker than water or common sense or even, apparently, a father's cover for a pedophile.

But that's no excuse for Penn State. There is no more insulation there. It has been ripped away, exposing the school as a frail phony. The world is angry and getting angrier with every day the statue stands, and the school knows it. Someone even rented a plane to pull a banner that suggests domestic terrorism will ensue if it isn't removed. "Take the statue down," the banner warned, "or we will."

See, it's no longer a statue of a football coach. It's a monument to everything Paterno ever did, and while he won a lot of games and graduated a lot of players, he also chose not to protect a lot of victims when he covered for a pedophile.

Give us the statue, Penn State. Is Joe Paterno all you see in that cold, unfeeling pile of bronze?

We see Jerry Sandusky. Standing outside Beaver Stadium. With a smile on his face.

Source: Gregg Doyel,

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