(This is an slightly updated version of what I put up yesterday. The first four comments were left on the initial post. And while I didn’t change much, please take that into consideration. This version sits a little better with me. Also: I wrote this rather hastily still. This is precisely why I don’t blog much anymore, no time to refine and edit. But hey, I wrote something!)
By now everyone has read about Penn State. I won’t reiterate what’s taking place because it’s a waste of time, which I have very little of these (summer) days. This post is about my thoughts on the matter. It’s probably pretty selfish of me to write about my feelings (again) but this is a blog and I do that sometimes.
I mentioned before that while I went to Penn State I was no fan of football. In fact, I held a great deal of disdain toward the sport. I was an art student, one who saw firsthand just how much attention and money the football program got. What annoyed me most is there was, and continues to be, so much more to Penn State than its football program. Penn State is a great school, filled with intelligent, creative people. It was difficult watching all of that get overlooked because of football. So my hatred for the sport intensified.
I graduated, moved to DC when I was 23, and started to watch the occasional game with friends, friends who’d gone to other Big Ten schools. We’d get together at a local dive bar or someone’s apartment, make some food, drink some beer and heckle one another. Football became kind of fun.
I started to pay attention. My football-following friends made Joe Paterno seem charming, admirable; I started to really like the guy. The more I liked him, the more I liked the team. I became a fan of football. Weird.
So there I was, age 37, when the news broke last November. I truly and honestly believed he was a good and honest man, one who never would have looked the other way had he known a child was being abused. I still, to some degree, believe he was a decent human being. I don’t think he is the epitome of all evil. I believe he suffered from a powerful dose of denial, coupled with a massive ego, one Penn State University helped build.
After I read the Freeh Report a friend said to me, “I hope you’ll finally stop defending Paterno.”
I won’t sit here and defend Paterno. He is guilty of idleness, of not doing the right thing. I admit that. So, no, I will not defend him. But I must defend myself.
I’m conflicted, you see; I reckon many of us are. This man did great things for hundreds of people, many of whom were kids.
This ugly truth that he didn’t do more for abused boys and should have. This ugly truth that he could have stopped a pedophile and did not.
Does that undo everything he’s ever done? For many, yes. I suppose it does. But the world isn’t always black and white, especially when it comes to one’s emotions and so I remain confused, conflicted and surprised.
I was wrong. I truly believed Paterno was 100% innocent and did everything he should have done based one what he knew. He wasn’t. He didn’t. He could have stopped Sandusky, just like Spanier, Curley, Schultz, McQueary, and the janitors who were too afraid to say something because they might lose their jobs. (Incidentally, stop making these guys out to be victims. I don’t care how hard up I am for cash or how many children I’m supporting, if I saw a child being sexually abused, like actually saw it happening, I’d lose that fucking job straight up. But I digress.)
I was wrong. Joe Paterno could and should have done a lot more. He had the power to stop years and years worth of abuse.
I was wrong. I hope it helps people to read that.
And I hate that I was wrong, but not because I’m embarrassed for “being so blind” or “defending Joe Paterno”. I don’t need to hear another “I told you so!” I hate that I was wrong because I liked liking Joe Paterno; who doesn’t need more people to admire? We all need heroes. I have hundreds of heroes. Some folks I know personally; some are athletes, teachers, parents, doctors; many work with animals; some I’ve only ever shared a minute with on the subway. I like admiring people. I liked admiring Joe Paterno.
So, yeah. I very much believed he was a good man who did many good things. And I wanted to believe he did everything right this time, did everything the way he should have.
I was wrong. But I wasn’t wrong for believing in him. Please don’t make me feel badly about that.