NOTE: The following is an opinion piece. The opinions stated in commentaries, here and otherwise in our newspaper, are those of the author and not The Brillion News, Zander Press Inc. or the owners or staff. The Brillion News welcomes letters to the editor to respond to this or any other topic of interest.
Commentary by David Nordby
Penn State is wrong. On September 17, it is going to honor longtime head coach Joe Paterno. Many of you are familiar with the story of Paterno. If you are not, Paterno coached Penn State for 46 seasons, became the winningest college football coach ever and had many thinking he walked on water. But in 2011, his longtime assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, was charged with over 50 counts of child molestation.
Paterno was fired for his role in covering up Sandusky’s long history of sexual abuse, including how Sandusky used his own charity to meet children dating back to the 1970’s. Sandusky was only charged for crimes between 1994 and 2009.
When I originally read the court documents in 2011, it was the only time I have ever become sick to my stomach from reading up on a legal document. The quote attributed to Albert Einstein comes to mind. “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” What happened to the children was evil to the highest level, and Paterno never stopped what was happening.
Imagine going into coaching meetings knowing someone on your staff is a serial child molester and doing nothing. I can’t. Even after he was off the coaching staff, Sandusky was allowed onto the team facilities. Paterno passed away months after being fired and before Sandusky was convicted.
A graduate assistant had told Paterno in 2001, but it only resulted in the athletic director stopping Sandusky from bringing “any young people” with him to Penn State’s campus. Recently unsealed court documents showed that a victim allegedly told Paterno in 1976. At one point, Paterno allegedly said, “I don’t want to hear about any of that kind of stuff, I have a football season to worry about.” Does this sound like a man who should be honored?
Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd said last week that “you can’t talk about his life without acknowledging that he was a heck of a football coach.” Sure, but you also can’t think about those wins without thinking about the victims who were never the same, and a man who could have put an end to evil. It would have been a far better accomplishment than anything he ever coached. If Cowherd is more worried about football than victims of heinous crimes, maybe he can contact USC to set up a ceremony for O.J. when he is eligible for parole next year.
I could not believe when I heard Penn State was going to honor Paterno, and fortunately, neither could a lot of people. In a world of political correctness and fake outrage, the shred of silver lining was seeing others outraged over a real topic. Except, of course, at the same campus planning it.
According to Penn State’s athletic director, Sandy Barbour, it is the right thing to do. Barbour said that Paterno helped create an identity to be proud of. She is missing that it was an identity built on lies and deceit. An alumni survey also had 91 percent of responders say it is the right thing to honor him. Tell that to the victims of Sandusky’s abuse, or anyone else who has been a victim of sexual abuse.
It should be noted that Paterno was not alone in the cover up. High ranking officials at Penn State, all the way down to a custodian who was also a witness. But none of them are being honored on September 17.
I hope Penn State cancels the tribute. It is the right thing to do. And unlike Paterno, who died with the lies of his legacy coming out, Penn State still has time to save themselves from more embarrassment.
If not, I will follow the plan that actor John Fugelsang tweeted out: “If Penn State feels the need to honor Joe Paterno then allow me to imitate Joe Paterno and look the other way.”
This commentary by editor David Nordby appeared in the September 8, 2016 edition of The Brillion News.