Joe Pa letter stinks to high…
- Updated: July 11, 2012
There’s a part of me that really wishes the Sandusky/Penn St. story would just quietly fade into the night. Then I quickly remember that it can’t possibly go away. More importantly, it shouldn’t. It demands and deserves to remain in our consciousness and of all those involved who played a role in leaving physical and emotional wounds for so many that will never be healed.
The heinous acts and unforgivable missteps of a select group of men should remain front and center to be accounted for and answered to by those who can. Joe Paterno won’t be able to answer those critics. Judging by a letter he wrote following the scandal and before his death, it maybe seems unfair that he won’t be asked to respond. Because his words alone reflect a lack of awareness that is simply inexcusable.
The contents of Paterno’s just-released missive can be read here. The communication was apparently intended for his former players. Though the letter went undelivered until now, it is clear that its message misses the mark in so many ways. The focus of the letter is Paterno’s defense of his players, his program and what was in so many ways “his institution” – a university that bore an inextricable connection and association to JoePa.
The missing element found nowhere in those 712 individual words is the victims. While it would be months before Jerry Sandusky was tried and convicted of 45 of 48 counts of sexual abuse, the opportunity to acknowledge the severity and gravity of those charges and show concern and empathy for the children associated with those accusations was there — and it was entirely and conspicuously ignored. Maybe Joe Pa was advised by legal counsel to avoid any reference to the scandal. Perhaps he felt his players largest concern was the negative light in which the program they committed to was being portrayed. Unfortunately, any excuses lack merit. No free pass can be granted here.
I don’t think Joe Paterno was an evil man. There is plenty of good he did for Penn St., the Happy Valley community and the thousands of football players that came through his program. In the end, it appears clear he lost sight of what mattered most and failed to act in a manner consistent with the ideals and values he claimed to hold in such high regard. The program became bigger than anything. It is reflected in the letter, and it’s a sentiment and reminder that will only serve to further sully what was once a historic legacy for all the right reasons.