Friday, November 11, 2011

Pope Paterno

I really can't understand the reaction that many Penn State students have had to the news of Joe Paterno's firing. I would have thought that these college kids, if anyone, would not tolerate the privilege of authority in protecting a serial sexual predator and child-molester.

Seriously, once Paterno himself admitted that he screwed up and could have done more, the University had no choice but to immediately fire him.

Here's how I see it: some of the students (including some Tulane students) are arguing that Paterno did what was expected of him by reporting the abuse up the university chain of command and that it wasn't Paterno's duty to do anything beyond that.

In a purely legal sense, that's probably a fair thing to say. But let's remember that Joe Paterno was not just any Joe doing the rote expectations of his job. He was a leader whose reputation exceeds simply getting a pass for doing the bare legal minimum job requirements. In fact, the precise reason why he is given Godlike status at Penn State and why so many people are defending him is precisely because he has, over the years, been much, much more than simply a coach who wins games.

You can't make Joe Paterno a God and give him Godlike adulation when it suits you and then claim that his being human and doing the bare legal minimum in dealing with something so serious like one of his assistant coaches engaging in serial child sexual abuse is all that we can expect. NIX, NEIN, NO! In my mind, Joe Paterno's Godlike reputation makes his firing all the more necessary and pertinent. He failed, in a colossal way, to be the moral rock and public servant that his reputation demanded.

I am of the mind that no man deserves Godlike status and that there is something perverse in the universe when we afford this kind of status to college football coaches such that his firing for such an egregious failing in a much more important realm of life is considered unjust.

Paterno had to go immediately. He did not merit the benefit of a graceful exit on his own terms. He, and college football, are not Gods. The administrators of Penn State did the right thing. End of story. Period.

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