Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sadness In The Valley

TigerBlog wanted to write about the whole Penn State situation, except he wasn't sure that Princeton's athletic blog was the right forum for that.

Then he read about the students at Penn State and their rally in support of Joe Paterno, and that was too much.

If you missed this part of it, there was a rally last night - word spread on Facebook - in front of Paterno's house. The students chanted "We Are ... Penn State" and "Joepa Terno, Joepa Terno" while the 84-year-old football coach gushed.

Sorry, but now is not the time to support Paterno. Now is not the time to talk about the great feelings that exist between the students and the venerable coach.

Not when what obviously happened is coming to light.

The bottom line is that even if Paterno acted within the letter of the law, he had a moral obligation to do so much more than he did. And if he'd followed his moral obligation, then, what, 90% or so of what is alleged to have happened never would have?

Do the students who chanted his name realize that? Do they know the names of little boys who have had their lives irreparably ruined? Did they want to chant those names? Or did those little boys not matter, because hey, just two weeks ago, Paterno set an important record with his 409th career win, the most in Division I history?

TigerBlog has no idea how Paterno slept at night all these years, knowing what he was covering up. And why? So he could continue to be the football coach?

Really, it's been that way for years with him. Once seen as a model citizen and the total personification of what Gary Walters calls "Education Through Athletics," Paterno's legacy was already tarnished by his staunch refusal to admit that his time to retire had long since passed.

As it turned out, the reason everyone thought - that he was too old - wasn't the real reason he shouldn't have still been the coach.

TigerBlog has always rooted for Penn State. He liked the plain uniforms, the way the teams played, the way the community embraced it all.

He's been to Happy Valley - it's called Happy Valley, of all things - a few times and really enjoyed it, especially this past summer, when he was there for three days and really got a chance to see the area.

Mostly he liked Paterno, who seemed like just another guy, like the high school coach that everyone in town knew rather than one of the two most legendary college football coaches of all time, along with Bear Bryant.

In contrast to the average big-time college football coach - consumed with self-promotion and cutting every corner necessary to maintain what he has - Paterno seemed to be an educator, a simple man with a big heart.

And in truth, maybe he was all this time with everything other than his handling of the situation with his former defensive coordinator. The point is that because of that, nothing else matters.

TB has been trying to figure out what he would do if he had been in the same situation, where allegations of child molestation involving someone close to him, or someone for whom he had the greatest amount of respect, came to his desk. Would he have done the right thing?

Maybe at first, on the first night, his reaction would have been "no way, not him, TB has known him all these years, no way, no chance." But by Day 2, he wouldn't be able to live with the "what if?" and know that there was even a small chance that by not doing more, TB was opening the door for one more child to be harmed.

Still, all of this takes TB back to his original premise, that this is Princeton's athletic blog.

So what does this have to do with Princeton?

A lot.

The other question that TB has been asking is could this have happened here? Of course it could. It could happen anywhere, in any profession, with anyone.

You never really know anyone. Never know what's lurking under the surface.

If it could be Jerry Sandusky, it could be anyone.

The issue isn't whether it could happen, it's what would happen next.

TB guarantees that there is no chance that everyone at Princeton wouldn't immediately do the right thing, legally, morally and otherwise. There simply is no chance that any other outcome would happen.

And the reason is that nobody is bigger than the institution.

At Penn State, Paterno became bigger than the school. Think of Penn State, and you think of the head football coach first. That's just how it is.

Here, nobody is bigger than Princeton itself. Not any coach, not any professor, not any administrator.

On a normal day, it's one of TB's favorite things about Princeton. The football coach or the basketball coach can't simply say "give me this" and know that within seconds, 10 people will be jumping to make it happen.

At a time when something like this is enveloping a great school with great people, it's even more acute.

Beyond that, it's a matter of right or wrong. It's not a legal thing. It's a right or wrong thing.

And TB can't imagine the people here would be so morally skewed.

Anyway, TB probably shouldn't have written any of this, but he felt like he had to.

He's a bit outraged by it all.


Anonymous said...

How could Paterno sleep at night knowing what he knew? This is unforgivable. I hope he lives out his days in jail.

Anonymous said...

Great article and I could not agree more. Unlike Pricenton, football at Penn State is a huge part of the school and millions and millions of dollars are at stake. I can't imagine anyone that knew what happened and did little to nothing to stop it or report it should ever be part of Penn State. I hope this weekend there will be all new faces on the coaching staff of PS, that is the least they can do.

Bexis said...

There was an assistant coach Sandusky at Princeton when I was a football manager in 74-76. Was that the same guy?

Bexis said...

When I was a football manager in 74-76 there was an assistant coach named Sandusky. Don't remember the first name. Was this the same guy?

TigerBlog said...

Jerry Sandusky was never an assistant coach at Princeton. TB will try to find the rosters from back then to see which Sandusky was here.