Service went too far absolving Paterno of responsibility

January 30, 2012



On Thursday, a memorial service with 12,000 mourners was held at Penn State in honor of Joe Paterno. The speaker who garnered the most emotional reaction was Phil Knight of Nike.

“There is a villainous tragedy that lies in that investigation,” he said. “Not in Joe Paterno’s response to it.”

The comment, according to the Washington Post, hit the audience like a “thunderclap,” bringing the crowd to a “roaring, standing ovation.”

Perhaps Knight was just speaking unclearly, but his comments missed two important points. First, the tragedy doesn’t lie with the “investigation.” The tragedy lies in what happened to those young boys.

Second, Paterno wasn’t criticized for his “response” to the investigation. He was criticized for his response to an eyewitness account of an adult man – in a position of authority – sexually assaulting a young boy.

In fact, at the time Paterno was told there was no investigation. And Paterno’s weak and inadequate response helped make sure it didn’t happen for years to come.

That doesn’t mean Paterno wasn’t a great coach and perhaps even a great man. But his actions – or, in this case, lack of action – shouldn’t be whitewashed.

Ask yourself this: If you were a parent of one of the abused boys, how would you like to hear Paterno absolved of all responsibility to have this case investigated?

Paterno passed it on to his superiors? Please. They were superiors in name only. Who had more power at Penn State – Joe Blow College Administrator or Joe Paterno, Legendary Football Coach?

I’d be amazed if the administrators didn’t have a pretty good idea how Paterno wanted things handled. Quietly.

Ultimately, Paterno didn’t do more because he wanted to spare Penn State and himself the bad publicity.

Yes, it’s unkind to speak ill of the dead, but it’s also important to remember what happened and why. That’s the only way future tragedies can be prevented.

ANNOY A LIBERAL … OR NOT: The other day, Sarah Palin said, “Annoy a liberal, vote Newt.”

Here are some of the liberals who have come out against Newt Gingrich: George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Pat Buchanan, Bob Dole, Ann Coulter, etc. The list gets longer every day.

ALL BY HIS (OR HER) LONESOME: A lone snow goose has taken up residence at our neighborhood pond. At first, from a distance, I thought it might be another kind of bird since I’ve never seen a goose hang out by itself. But it’s a snow goose all right and apparently it can’t fly, though it has no visible injuries. It walks around the pond all day, occasionally taking to the water.

How it got there, I don’t know and how long it will survive is anybody’s guess. A neighbor has already chased away one bald eagle looking for a meal but we can’t – and perhaps shouldn’t – keep all the predators at bay. They have as much right to a meal as I have.

As species, of course, snow geese are no longer threatened. In fact, the Nature Conservancy recently noted that they have “rebounded a little too well,” perhaps because of a change in feeding habits. They have left the salt marshes and are now eating enough grain to be a problem for farmers.

Still, it’s hard not to feel sorry for the lone goose out back.

MINI-REVIEW: “The Grey,” with Liam Neeson. And speaking of keeping predators at bay, here we have a bleak tale about men trying to survive in the Alaskan wilderness against a menacing wolf pack.  By turns compelling, slow and silly, “The Grey” could have been a better movie if it stuck to realism. When you see the weirdly glowing eyes in the darkness, it’s hard not to think: Oh no, they’re being attacked by animatronic wolves!