Joe Paterno Will Retire at Season's End -- Not Good Enough
Not so proud a claim now.
"The worst people. The twisted and demented psychos who kill people for pleasure, the cannibals, the degenerate bastards that molest and torture little kids." -- Tony Soprano, in response to the question "Who deserves to go to hell?"
Exactly, Tony. People like Jerry Sandusky.
Sandusky, the retired Penn State defensive coordinator and soon to be convicted pedophile, was arrested over the weekend on 40 different counts of sexual abuse of children, charges dating back to 1994.
The number of victims should unfortunately climb over the next several days. As of yesterday, reports had the latest number at around 20 children targeted and raped by Jerry Sandusky.
The victims were children who Sandusky came to know through his charity known as The Second Mile, a charity for which Sandusky served as front man and whose mission (per its Web site) is outlined as the following:
The Second Mile is a nonprofit organization serving the youth of Pennsylvania. At The Second Mile, we are committed to helping young people achieve their potential as individuals and as community members and providing education and support for their parents and youth service professionals.
As of today, the only instances of Sandusky's name on the organization's Web site occur in a statement on the front page where the charity's employees left to deal with Sandusky's mess, in a desperate, Darwinian plea of survival, try to explain to visitors that Sandusky's assaults occurred independent of Second Mile events and that the charity remains committed to helping kids in need.
If it's possible to make a story of a pedophile using a children's charity as his own twisted grooming ground worse, prominent members of the Penn State community knew about specific instances involving Sandusky's raping of young children and failed to report it to the proper authorities.
Mike McQueary, a Penn State graduate assistant in 2002, went into the football facility late one night and heard strange noises emanating from the showers. He walked in to find Sandusky anally penetrating and raping a ten-year-old boy. McQueary's response to that horrifying image was to call his father, tuck tail and run from the facility.
And thus began the cycle of denial, secrecy and betrayal of the poor children whose lives were being ruined by the monster Sandusky, who had retired from Penn State in 1999 but inexplicably still had an office in the football building and full access to the facilities.
Today, McQueary is Penn State's recruiting coordinator, sending letters like this one to Penn State recruits:
I'm not sure what part of ignoring a ten-year-old child being raped in the shower counts as the "honorable" part. Perhaps McQueary can help clarify that, if he ever decides to speak.
One day after witnessing the child being raped, McQueary reported what he had seen to head football coach Joe Paterno (more on JoePa in a minute), who in turn reported McQueary's findings to the athletics director, Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz, the school's vice president for finance and business. Curley and Schultz, apparently busy with something far more pressing than a pedophile running around unchecked on their campus, met with McQueary ten days later. TEN DAYS.
Eventually, school president Graham Spanier was apprised of the matter, which was couched to him with the very general description of "inappropriate behavior."
So McQueary, Curley, Schultz, Spanier and Paterno all knew about this most deplorable of acts and this most evil of individuals roaming their hallways unchecked. Their collective reaction? Sandusky was no longer allowed to bring kids on campus. That's it.
In other words, "If you're going to rape little kids, all we ask is that you do it in someone else's house."
And so it went. No calls to the police, no confronting Sandusky, no seeking out the victims. Just a trail of victims left in Sandusky's wake of pedophilia over the next nine years.
In 2011, the tendency with reporting anything impactful is to label it with superlative or extreme adjectives. Best, worst, great, evil. All of these words get thrown around and ultimately land in the hyperbole graveyard next to every other overexaggeration. So let the record reflect that I've acknowledged this annoying tendency when I say that this is, by far, the worst story brushing up against the sports world that I've ever heard. So while Tony Soprano's quote about who is destined for eternity in hell is entirely appropriate for this scandal, so too is Jimmy Conway's quote in Goodfellas -- "Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut."
That's what everyone at Penn State did.
Everyone involved clammed up to protect the big business of Penn State football. Because the fact of the matter is that Joe Paterno is less "Head Football Coach" and more "CEO of Nittany Lion, Inc.," the "$50 million in profit" juggernaut that is Penn State football, and as such he's absolutely the most powerful man on that campus, and possibly the most powerful man in the state.
In short, if anyone could have headed off Sandusky's path of terror in 2002 (or perhaps even in 1998, when another incident in the showers was reported prior to Sandusky's odd retirement as Penn State's defensive coordinator) without any fear of reprisal, it's the man who answered to nobody.
Legally, Paterno fulfilled his obligation of reporting Sandusky's misconduct to his superiors. Morally, ethically, as a father and grandfather, he failed. You can't reap the benefits and espouse the virtues of leadership 23 hours and 55 minutes out of the day, and then conveniently call yourself a middle manager in the five minutes where your leadership is needed most. You just can't.
Sandusky wasn't thieving office supplies, he was raping children. Paterno's first call after meeting with McQueary should have been to the police. That call never came.
And in something like this, there are no degrees of failure. If you knowingly allowed child rape to continue, you're on the same side of the "child rape" line as Sandusky.
Joe Paterno is on the same side of the "child rape" line as Sandusky.
Sadly and not surprisingly, the Penn State community (at least a portion of it) has used the turmoil from this scandal as a reason to celebrate their coach, showing up at his house to cheer him and marching through the streets by the hundred chanting his name. Perhaps, knowing that society and the Penn State Board of Trustees view what's happened through a much different looking glass than a pack of 22-year-old kids looking for a cause celebre, Paterno announced his retirement today, effective at the end of the season:
I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case. I grieve for the children and their families and I pray for their comfort and relief.
I have come to work every day for the last 61 years with one clear goal in mind: To serve the best interests of this university and the young men who have been entrusted to my care. I have the same goal today.
That's why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can.
This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.
My goals now are to keep my commitments to my players and staff and finish the season with dignity and determination. And then I will spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to help this university.
So there you go, Board of Trustees. No need to work on JoePa's status anymore. He's got this. He'll retire. As you were.
It's the directive of a man who's been CEO of his entire world and the boss of those around him for several decades. I will retire, but it will be on my terms, are we clear about this? Unfortunately and miraculously, Joe Paterno has actually crossed the figurative line where the answer to "Is he worth the trouble?" is a resounding and repulsed "NO."
Enabling a child rapist will do that.
So now Joe Paterno wants to retire at the end of the season. This time he can't get what he wants.
End of the season? Not good enough.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game and Yahoo Sports Radio weekdays noon to 3 p.m., and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCalinasian.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Houston, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.