Monday, July 16, 2012

'Monumental Mistake'

Paterno's reputation now tarnished by one monumental mistake.
It's just a statue.  Taking it down won't change anything.  It won't reverse the well-documented actions of former Penn State D-coordinator Jerry Sandusky.  It won't give back those child victims their innocence.  It won't take away 60 years of what Joe Paterno was able to accomplish in State College, PA on the football field. 
What it will do, or will symbolize, is a program in the most dreaded of turmoils making a point to move forward.  The past cannot be erased; we have no control over that.  But our future can at least slightly be determined by the choices we make now.  With this mentality in place, the best thing to do right now is for Penn State to move forward as a university and football program, and it starts by taking care of the small things that they can control, such as taking the statue down. 
Some might argue that it should remain erected as a reminder that no matter how big we get, we should still 'do the right thing'.  But I argue that, especially for the victims and those directly or indirectly effected by the actions of Sandusky and the passivity of Paterno, the statue's likeness is a reminder of a once revered leader of men, a father and father-figure to many, actually stood pat for some 14 years while knowing of egregious misconduct by someone he employed, and could have taken swift action in preventing these transgressions from occurring, but for some reason unbeknown to us, failed to act in the manner or character in which we all expected him to.  As a man and a father, I believe that JoePa's inaction is inexcusable.  Clearly, the main 'bad guy' in the situation is Sandusky, whose direct actions were the beginnings of the deterioration of a once pristine football program.  But Paterno not making an immediate decision on the matter was a big mistake.  BIG MISTAKE.  Over time, maybe more leniency and forgiveness can be applied to JoePa, but every mistake has consequences.  This mistake deserves the 'mea culpa' of penalties.  Take the statue down.  Furthermore, I think the Penn State Football program needs to shut it down for at least one year. 
Shutting down football might be good going forward for PSU.
This situation shows that the people in charge of running the football program at the university knew that they had a potentially damning ordeal on their hands and rather than stemming off what had transpired and accepting whatever backlash that may have occurred, decided to sweep the dirt under the rug and do its best to keep anyone from finding that mess.  This is not the behavior that is expected out of 'Penn State Football', let alone any football program for that matter.  But especially in Happy Valley, where the three words 'Penn State Football' has been a symbol of what college football once was and what its supposed to be; no names on the back of the jersey, plain and simple uniforms, and a head coach that could promise a kid that he would be there for all four years of his enrollment and would not bolt for another high profile college job or high paying NFL gig.  All of that is lost now and it is time for rebuilding.  Southern Methodist in the 80s was dealt the NCAA 'Death Penalty' after paying recruits, being penalized for it, and continuing to do so after the fact.  Similarly, officials at Penn State were aware of the investigation into Jerry Sandusky, and did little to nothing on their own to really look into the 'red flags' that former assistant and PSU quarterback Mike McQueary pointed out, and continued to let him work with young kids.  This to me is a clear dysfunction.  It's dysfunction on a whole other level than paying college kids to play (which, frankly, probably still goes on today many programs).  Those years of abuse, the victims can't ever get back.  The reputation of 'WE ARE PENN STATE' will forever be marred, but is salvageable.  The program can be brought back to some semblance of dignity, but it won't be done by living in the past, but rather by doing the right thing in the present and looking toward the future.