When I criticized Penn State's Board of Trustees for firing Joe Paterno I realized that I was swimming against a tidal wave of public opinion but I simply felt that someone has to speak truth to power regardless of how controversial that stance might be; no matter how many people say otherwise, it is not justified to fire Joe Paterno without clear cause nor does that summary action realistically bring comfort to Jerry Sandusky's alleged victims. It is heartening to find that at least one other writer is not afraid to speak an unpopular truth: a Philadelphia Daily News column by Christine Flowers brilliantly makes it clear that it is possible--and indeed quite reasonable--to feel full compassion for Sandusky's alleged victims while also believing that Penn State's Board of Trustees acted in a cowardly and disgraceful fashion toward Paterno. Flowers' entire piece is worth reading but her conclusion is particularly stirring:
I'm seething with anger that Penn State decided to fire Paterno before letting the legal system wind its way through the normal processes. This is a man who gave unerringly of himself to the college, who built Penn State and who didn't deserve to be kicked to the side of the road for appearances sake.
Was it too much to ask for a little introspection before trashing his legacy?
It's not a simple case of blind loyalty, nor does it mean that we're ignoring the plight of the abused kids. Clearly, there is evidence that heinous crimes were committed. But, why is it only when the accuser is a child or a woman that the usual presumption of "innocent until proven guilty" is exchanged for "hang 'em high"?
And the fact that the board of trustees didn't even have the decency to tell the greatest coach of the last half-century, in person, that he was being fired is a disgusting example of cowardice.
Pliny once wrote, "It is generally much more shameful to lose a good reputation than never to have acquired it."
JoePa definitely acquired it. But the shame is ours.
The Penn State Board of Trustees claims to be acting in the best interests of Penn State University and most media members are blindly parroting that idea but the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office--which presumably knows more about this case than ESPN's talking heads and the various other commentators who apparently delight in bashing Paterno--has a completely different take: spokesman Nils Hagen-Frederiksen said, "We have a cooperating witness [Paterno], an individual who testified, provided truthful testimony but two others who were found by a grand jury to commit perjury whose legal expenses are being paid for university. One is on administrative leave. Very interesting development. It's certainly curious and [has] not been explained yet. Speaking as a prosecuting agency, we have a cooperating witness who has not been charged, while two individuals accused of committing crimes continue to be affiliated."
The way that Penn State has handled this entire matter is a joke but not a very funny one. Why did Penn State muzzle Paterno (by cancelling his regularly scheduled news conference prior to firing him), not bring forth any administrator to publicly speak about the scandal and then send out interim head coach Tom Bradley to face questions that he cannot--and should not have to--answer? What possible sense does it make to fire Paterno and yet retain the services of Mike McQueary, the person who witnessed--and did nothing to stop--a criminal act? Why did Penn State initially indicate that McQueary would be on the sidelines during Saturday's Nebraska game and only after much public outcry then switch gears and say that--allegedly for his own protection--McQueary would not in fact be on the sidelines? If the idea behind firing Paterno was to prevent the Nebraska game from becoming an unseemly spectacle it is fair to say that the Board of Trustees completely failed--and that this failure was quite foreseeable.
The Board of Trustees acted with but one goal in mind--turning Paterno into the public face of and scapegoat for the Sandusky Scandal; the Board is despicable and most of the media coverage of Paterno's firing is equally despicable.