Lloyd Waters: Say it ain't so, Joe

July 22, 2012|By LLOYD WATERS

Joe Paterno was the face of the Nittany Lions. He was Mr. Football on the Penn State sidelines and nothing should have taken him away from the game of football except for death.

I was sure that’s the way it was going to end for Papa Joe.

But it didn’t happen that way.

When you read Louis Freeh’s investigative report, the only real conclusion that you can leave with is that Joe Paterno and the leadership of Penn State knew exactly what Jerry Sandusky was doing.

They had their real suspicions, but failed to stop the guy from his sick behavior.

Maybe Joe knew something was amiss with Sandusky from the onset. He knew enough to tell him that he wasn’t going to be the next Penn State football coach.

Maybe Joe had some underlying doubts about Sandusky as a person. Maybe he knew Sandusky was a liability to the program.

Joe Paterno was a grown man. I’m sure he had been in many shower rooms. I doubt seriously that he believed it incidental behavior for a grown man to take showers with 10-12 year old kids.

Why even wait a day, like he did, before telling his boss about his assistant’s observation of Sandusky in the shower with a youth?
Hard to believe that a defense attorney would even suggest that Sandusky’s behavior was just a little frolicking in the shower with a kid.

There are a whole lot of problems at Penn State. Lack of leadership was the primary problem. Everyone wanted the problem to go away by itself so the Penn State program would not be tainted.

This problem was not going to go away.

You can write a lot about leadership, but the bottom line is that often the wrong people end up in the wrong positions and when the time comes for them to make the right decision it doesn’t happen.

Paterno did a lot of good things in life, but he made a bad decision when it counted most; someone thought Graham Spanier would be a good college president, but he, too, made a bad decision when it counted most; Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz did the same.

All those people who thought the four individuals above were worthy choices also made some bad decisions. 

They selected the wrong people for the job because when it counted most, these individuals failed. 

Why would Paterno and the Penn State leadership ignore the obvious?

You know the answer to that question. The University had a lot to lose. The persona of Penn State would be forever damaged.

Reputations, dollars, prestige, all down the proverbial slope.

Just maybe if we soften the facts and information the matter will go away quietly and the great name associated with Penn State might remain.

But what happens if it doesn’t stay quiet? How will this be viewed?

Like something was let out of Pandora’s box?

Sandusky’s behavior was totally inappropriate for an adult and the jury had no difficulty finding him guilty.

Why can a jury of 12 take so little time to find him guilty of 45 counts of delivering human misery to so many youth, when a football coach who knew Sandusky for 30 years and the Penn State leadership failed to find an ounce of fault?

Writers have suggested that we not condemn Penn State football; they have suggested we not condemn Paterno, and instead look at all the good he did over his football career.

Joe Paterno was a hero of mine. He was the epitome of all the good in college football. He did so many positive things for so many college kids over the years, and if he were still alive today, I would want him to read Freeh’s investigative report, and I would say to him, “Say it ain’t so, Joe.”

Sadly, I’m not convinced that Joe Paterno could look me in the eye and say that.

Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes columns for The Herald-Mail.

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