Monday, September 19, 2016

The persistent voice

There is tone deaf, and then there is whatever that was at Penn State on Saturday, where they honored legendary football coach Joe Paterno on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his first game.

A bunch of former players and longtime supporters were on hand. Somehow I doubt any of Jerry Sandusky's many victims were among them.

They are the witnesses, no longer silent, who will always be there to do the necessary work of deconstructing mythology -- the noble, persistent voice that will interject the "Yes, but ..." that keeps blind eyes open and the ledger balanced. There is now testimony that Paterno knew about Sandusky's serial abuse of little boys for some 40 years, and looked the other way because he had a football program to run. And Sandusky was a hell of a defensive coordinator, at least when he wasn't giving defenseless children a lifetime of nightmares.

Honoring Paterno's legacy without acknowledging his virtual  acquiescence in Sandusky's crimes was not only appallingly inappropriate, it was dishonest, a stage play based on a work of fiction. They didn't honor his legacy Saturday; they papered over it. And on some level they all somehow had to know that.

However many games he won, whatever good he did or values he upheld while doing so, Paterno's legacy will always be judged by what he didn't do. He didn't step up when he needed to step up. He chose expediency over the right thing. He betrayed a generation of children not with his actions, but with his inaction.

And so they can fete JoePa's legacy all they want, out there in Happy Valley. But they aren't the ones who get to decide it.

As this man says here with inarguable and heartbreaking eloquence.

And, yes, I've already posted this on Twitter.  But it bears repeating.

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