My, how the mighty have fallen. Penn State football has gone from representing everything that is right in collegiate athletics, to quickly serving as the perpetrator in the sickest form of corruption the sport has ever known. The releasing of the Freeh Report this morning confirmed that a cover-up involving former head coach Joe Paterno was rampant, in protection of convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky.
The 267-page report details the truth behind the scandal, and linked Paterno’s first knowledge of Sandusky’s lewd acts all the way back to February 1998, three years before the infamous Mike McQueary incident in the Penn State showers.
All of that hope for tradition’s sake that Paterno was clean is gone. The man we all knew as Joe Pa, with the black horned rims and the navy tie, is now forever tainted, factually.
When the Sandusky scandal first made news back in Novemeber, many villified the Penn State student body for being outraged at the ousting of Paterno. Flipped news vans were called acts of savagry and the world called the Penn Staters naive.
But how were they supposed to act? They were, as we were, convinced that Penn State was built on morals and virtue.
The Penn State way was just the right way. That’s what we were taught.
Paterno forced his team to clean Beaver Stadium as punishment for the violations of team rules, and in an era when USC, Ohio State and Miami were in hot water with NCAA violations, there was Penn State, sitting pretty, with all of us convinced that they were the cleanest program outside of the Ivy League.
Everyone bought into it. It was easy to buy into, and rightfully so. It was all college football knew: Penn State was the epitomy of virtue.
And we loved it. ESPN showed Paterno leading his team off of the bus every week, and he had such an immense following that critics couldn’t get rid of him over his age.
When Penn State and Florida State met in the 2006 Orange Bowl, the storyline of Paterno vs. Bowden made the world of college football giddy. It was poetic, having the two most loveable coaches in football not only in the same stadium, but playing each other, for what ended up being one last time.
Penn State won and Paterno’s age was put on the back burner. Again, as fans of college football, we loved it. All of those people who dressed up as JoePa on both Halloween and gamedays loved it too.
It was perfect: Paterno, Penn State, football and tradition were four ideas that meshed so well.
So again, going back to November 2011, how were Penn Staters supposed to react? The man that was painted so flawlessly was removed as head coach of the school he so well defined, both then and now.
Penn State students acted like children who were told that Santa Claus isn’t real. But again, given the illusions of JoePa’s aura and stature in the state of Pennyslvania, how were they supposed to think differently? Joe Paterno was deemed a saint to college football fans and Penn State was considered the cathedral of ethics.
Fast forward to today, as Paterno’s name is now factually tied to the cover-up. All of those memories of Penn State we thought we knew, are gone.
The Penn State perfection, the legendary stature of JoePa, the whiteness of their helmets, all kind of look different today.
And it’s sad.
Not just because of how horrific it is for Joe Paterno, Tim Curley, Graham Spanier and Gary Schultz to spearhead a 13-year coverup of a sex offender than enabled several children to be abused to monster. That ire can’t be put into words.
But even as a selfish football fan like most of us are, losing what we thought was a jewel of college football is sad. Especially, because where it puts those with that mindset. The same mindset that Paterno and company had: win, at all costs.
From one confused football fan to another, let’s just hope everyone can somehow pick up the pieces. The victims, Penn Staters, and everyone who lost a hero today. Which is probably most of us.