The most striking thing about ESPN's seemingly around the clock coverage of the Sandusky Scandal is that Jerry Sandusky's name is hardly mentioned at all. ESPN and other media outlets have made Joe Paterno the face of this scandal--and Penn State's Board of Trustees piled on by unceremoniously firing Paterno instead of letting him retire after his contract expired at the end of this season.
Joe Posnanski, who has been working on a biography of Paterno for the past two years, strongly believes that the voracious appetite of the 24 hour news cycle has unfairly chewed up and spit out the good name of a fundamentally decent man. Here is an excerpt from Posnanski's take on Paterno's firing:
I’m not saying I know Joe Paterno. I’m saying I know a whole lot about him.
And what I know is complicated. But, beyond complications--and I really believe this with all my heart--there’s this, and this is exclusively my opinion: Joe Paterno has lived a profoundly decent life.
Nobody has really wanted to say this lately, and I grasp that. The last week has obviously shed a new light on him and his program--a horrible new light--and if you have any questions about how I feel about all that, please scroll back up to my two points at the top.
But I have seen some things in the last few days that have felt rotten, utterly wrong--a piling on that goes even beyond excessive, a dancing on the grave that makes me ill. Joe Paterno has lived a whole life. He has improved the lives of countless people...
I am sickened, absolutely sickened, that some of those people whose lives were fundamentally inspired and galvanized by Joe Paterno have not stepped forward to stand up for him this week, have stood back and allowed him to be painted as an inhuman monster who was only interested in his legacy, even at the cost of the most heinous crimes against children imaginable.
Shame on them.
And why? I’ll tell you my opinion: Because they were afraid. And I understand that. A kind word for Joe Paterno in this storm is taken by many as a pro vote for a child molester. A quick, “Wait a minute, Joe Paterno is a good man. Let’s see what happened here” is translated as an attempt to minimize the horror of what Jerry Sandusky is charged with doing. It takes courage to stand behind someone you believe in when it’s this bad outside. It takes courage to stand up for a man in peril, even if he stood up for you...
...the way Joe Paterno has lived his life has earned him something more than instant fury, more than immediate assumptions of the worst, more than the happy cheers of critics who have always believed that there was something phony about the man and his ideals. He deserves what I would hope we all deserve--for the truth to come out, or, anyway, the closest thing to truth we can find.
I don’t think Joe Paterno has gotten that. And I think that’s sad.