Entries in Mike McQueary (1)

Thursday
Nov102011

A Few Words on Joe Paterno and the Penn State Student Riots

 

REVIEWING THE NEWS: This whole mess on College Avenue is a rare instance in which almost everyone is wrong.

By Kenny Herzog

We should reserve judgment on Joe till we hear all the facts, but school officials, students and, naturally, media are clearly guilty of making a bad situation worse.

 

Late last night, in the wake of news that Penn State University's legendary football coach Joe Paterno had been fired, riots broke out on College Avenue, the central thoroughfare that runs through PSU's ironically dubbed Happy Valley. Students who weren't even born when the 84-year-old Paterno had already reached theoretical retirement age rallied, chanted and expressed their outrage through vandalism and anger. It was an unfathomable and rapidly descended low point amid a totally deplorable series of revelations and accusations implicating Paterno's longtime assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, in heinous acts of child molestation, and possibly Paterno himself in not properly addressing the situation several years prior.

By this morning, Facebook posts and Tweets from mortified onlookers, most of whom were probably wired into ESPN's sensational coverage, conveyed a largely unified sentiment that PSU rioters are defending the protector of a pederast. That itself seems a bit black and white. Paterno, like anyone else, deserves the benefit of presumed innocence. Not because he's an icon and a Pennsylvania/college-athletics deity. Far from it. It's because he's a man with no prior documented misconduct who's been accused of criminal negligence, but has yet to offer his own testimony. He also acquiesced to impending retirement yesterday morning before Penn State trustees opted to nip that issue in the bud, axeing Paterno and university President Graham Spanier, effective immediately, in hopes of avoiding further distractions from their program come Saturday's game against Nebraska. 

That, clearly, backfired. And what we have here, to quote Cool Hand Luke, is a failure to communicate. A failure by PSU administration and trustees to effectively express the complexity of the situation to their student populus before covering their own ass. A failure by the students to communicate with each other and/or their on-campus mentors in an organized and educated fashion before abusing their privilege to protest. And a failure by ESPN in particular to try and offer some perspective, rather than simply encourage and inflame by rubbernecking their own televised footage.

What allegedly transpired over multiple decades between Sandusky and the children in his Second Mile charity program is incomprehensibly disturbing and enraging. And if Paterno turned a blind eye at any point to Sandusky's indiscretions, all for the sake of keeping his and the Nittany Lions' intertwined legacies crystalline, then that's just irredeemably sad, infuriating and reason to thoroughly evaluate our cultural ethos.

These are the real talking points in this story, not whether the stature of one tenuously corrobarative individual will be thought of differently by sports enthusiasts and current PSU undergrads in 30 years. And that's what makes these riots in particular so demoralizing in their own right: It's just a bunch of young kids angrily reacting to the notion that their heroes aren't perfect, without anyone there to remind them just how flawed human beings can really be, and how lucky they are.

 

IN OTHER WORDS: What a mess.

THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS IS JUSTICE FOR ANY VICTIMS AND THEIR FAMILIES RATING: 10/10

 

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