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Joe Paterno Gets Due Process of Us

Posted on Nov 10, 2011
AP / Matt Rourke

Penn State coach Joe Paterno watches his football team practice Wednesday. He was fired later that day.

By Mark Heisler

Of course, this is still a nation of laws in which you’re innocent until proven guilty.

It’s just that these days you don’t get due process of the law until long after you have gotten due process of us ... and the “us” isn’t our rational side, but our bloodthirsty one, as presented by media.

It’s especially unfortunate when one of our intensely mediated pastimes intersects with real life.

If the actions of, and/or charges against, former Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky constituted a full-blown tragedy, it took a millisecond for the media to turn it into something it could get its teeth into ...

A Joe Paterno story.


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Sandusky was nobody. Paterno was famous, long held up as a role model (sometimes by JoePa), still coaching at 84, even if now from the press box, as the program took its lumps and, whether he was haloed or not, alumni yearned for his departure.

Paterno’s inaction was indefensible, informing the athletic director of the 2002 incident but failing to report it to police. In the absence of actual knowledge of what went on between the two men, it may also have been human and understandable ... not that many humans were trying to understand.

It’s not hard to imagine a contrite Sandusky assuring Penn State people he would seek help, a common pattern in sexual abuse cases like the recent one in which Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny threatened to jail 15 Catholic priests who heard peers’ confessions but refused to cooperate with authorities.

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network says 67 percent of assaults are by someone known to the victim, 38 percent are by friends or relatives, and 60 percent go unreported.

On the other hand, it’s not a Judge-Not-Lest-Ye-Be-Judged world anymore.

“Penn State Students Rally in Support of Incompetent, Morally Complicit Old Relic,” went a Deadspin headline the day after the story broke.

With Paterno announcing he’d retire after the season, ESPN columnist LZ Granderson called for his immediate firing for “allowing that animal to stay on campus.”

And that was the professional perspective.

For the pure hate that bubbles under the cauldron, super-heating the process—no matter what the press discusses—talk show hosts took their usual role as elevator operators on the descent into hell, and the listeners and readers, safe in their anonymity, posted their rage.

Wrote “Disgusted” on Business Insider:

“The best you can say of [Paterno] is that he’s so drooling old that he’s innocent by ignorance and addle-mindedness. … FUCK PENN STATE! YOU ARE … MOLESTERS!”

Retaining a balanced perspective, “Spencer096” wrote on The Big Lead:

“Fuck Ohio State. fuck penn state more.”

Announced former wrestling commentator and defrocked ESPN reporter Mark Madden on Boston’s WEEI:

“There’s a rumor. … Jerry Sandusky and Second Mile [his charity] were pimping out young boys to rich donors. That is being investigated by two prominent columnists even as I speak.”

Tweeted Sirius’ Opie and Anthony, insulted at having their integrity questioned:

“To the CUNTS that think this is a bit, FUCK OFF! Joe Paterno failed as a human being. Go defend football over a kids innocence somewhere else.”

Of course, this was the worst of the worst, not that it was hard to find.

I Googled “Fuck Joe Paterno” and “Fuck Paterno” and got 498 hits.

With “Paterno sucks,” Google came back with 2,890 (in 0.21 seconds).

Since that’s hardly the full spectrum, I’d guess hundreds of thousands typed out profane or obscene condemnations of Paterno. Counting all the other languages of the wired world, it may have been millions.

Paterno had been at Penn State for 62 years.

Of course, the demographics of today’s instantaneous process are such that he had been there 40 years before most of this audience was born.

Having tearfully informed his players that he would resign, Paterno, who turned down multimillion dollar NFL offers and raised $14 million for the library wing named after him, was summarily fired.

University President Graham Spanier went too, adding to a list that is sure to get longer.

With the university’s future at stake—in other words, looking at the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars—the trustees didn’t have time for niceties like telling Paterno in person.

Instead, they told him by telephone, 15 minutes before announcing it in a news conference.

A downtown riot ensued, which wasn’t as heartwarming as it sounds.

Surprising everyone with another of Paterno’s latter-day comebacks, the Nittany Lions, who went 7-6 last season, were 8-1, 5-0 in the Big Ten, about to host new conference member and No. 19-ranked Nebraska.

At 7-6, there would have been fewer students in the streets, overturning fewer cars and requiring the police to use less pepper spray.

Saturday’s game is now one of the most anticipated in college football history, as the Nittany Lions try to win one for JoePa.

After Paterno resigned, but before he was fired, Rich Mauti, a ’70s wide receiver, went on “SportsCenter” in his campaign to get former players to the game in support of their coach.

That was another thing about Paterno. His players loved him, even ESPN’s Matt Millen, who choked up on the air, despite having played James Dean to Joe’s Jim Backus when he was there.

If you’ve heard that one before, it’s not like the awe and fear Bob Knight inspires.

In Paterno’s first bowl appearance at the Gator in 1968, when he went for it and missed on fourth-and-1 at his 15, the Lions, who had Florida State 17-0, wound up settling for a 17-17 tie.

Paterno told Sports Illustrated’s Dan Jenkins that a player came up to him afterward on the flight home.

“Joe, the guys wanted me to tell you something,” the player said. “You blew it.”

Of course, Mauti still thought Paterno would be coaching when he made his appeal to former Nittany Lions.

On the other hand …

“Rich, you mentioned the kids that are still there,” said anchor Robert Flores. “They’re vying for a conference championship. They’re off to a fine start and there’s still a lot to play for on the field.

“Do you think it’s fair to them to have Coach Paterno coach this game Saturday in light of all we’ve heard, in light of this awful story?

“Is it fair to the players?”

If other distractions are inevitable before The Big Game, at least the players won’t have to worry about that one.

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By Big B, November 11, 2011 at 5:40 am Link to this comment

If it comes to light that more children were raped after 1998, JoePa, and the entire Penn State administration all the way up to the board of trustees should be tried right beside Sandusky.

This is a microcausem of our nation. All these men stood to lose millions of dollars if these despicable acts came to light. So they hid them, and hoped they would go away.

Isn’t it amazing that at no time during this sordid process, that nobody told Sandusky to STOP stuffing his dick into children.

This nation has been metaphorically raping its children for almost 40 years now, I suppose it was a short step to do it literally.

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David J. Cyr's avatar

By David J. Cyr, November 11, 2011 at 5:34 am Link to this comment

People understand that the accomplices who protect pedophiles are pedophiles.

When will they also understand that those who vote for the corporate gangster government’s Republicans and Democrats are wiling accomplices — contemptible collaborators in all the crimes of the corporate-state?

Voter Consent Wastes Dissent:

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By kerryrose, November 11, 2011 at 4:39 am Link to this comment

WTF?  Unbelievable.

Paterno not turning in a child molester is ‘understandable?’  He deserved ‘due process?’

Because of his ‘understandable’ desire to do nothing about a child rapist, Sandusky was able to continue molesting children for years.

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By Wildeye, November 11, 2011 at 3:01 am Link to this comment

Due process would have been to turn the matter over to the authorities thirteen years ago. It’s not the (currently alleged) crime, it’s the cover up. For the university to retain Paterno would have been endorsing his utter lack of judgement. Paterno’s popularity simply makes his dereliction of responsibility more tragic, not forgivable.

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By drbhelthi, November 11, 2011 at 2:33 am Link to this comment

“ - so we have time to attend to the little things in life, like preventing adult
men from anally raping little children.”

Chalk up more points for the ladies.
From my experience, I would alter the wording a bit to read, “- anally
raping little boys and raping little girls at two orifices.”  A father who is able
to decline appropriate action in such cases is UNFIT.  Unfit to be a father,
and unfit to lead others.  Which, disqualifies a large percentage of our

John DeCamp covers the inside story at the national level, in his volume,
“The Franklin Cover-Up”.  His documentation explains the current level of
moral deprivation of U.S. “leadership.”  Perhaps, typical, Western World

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By Cinesnatch, November 11, 2011 at 1:07 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I get the whole examination of “quick guilty verdit in the court of public opinion”
in certain instances, but not this one. 

Could it be that the writer’s own Football worship has skewed his perspective?

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By Dr Bones, November 10, 2011 at 11:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

By all means we need to be human and allows pedophiles to take care of our children.  We need to allow bank robbers to rob banks,  bankers to cheat, steal, and commit fraud. 

It really is our lack of understanding, compassion, and intolerance that is the problem. And of course the nasty media, that works the masses into a frenzy.

I mean if some person wants to rape my eight year old, who am I to try to prevent it?

As for football, it is a dumb and incredibly boring game.  Seriously people should go ride a bike, walk, or take part in their own physical fitness program, instead of being spectators of huddles, and feild team exchanges.

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By TheMomCat, November 10, 2011 at 11:33 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am appalled that TruthDig would post an apology for child rape. Joe Paterno was mandated under PA law to report this to the police not cover it up. McQueary should be fired, too.

As a parent, we send our children to these schools trusting that they will protect them from predators like Sandusky. This is sickening.

Anyone who had knowledge of this should be fires and, if they are mandated reporters, should at the least be fired.

It also calls into question what else are they covering up.

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By Dianne Brown, November 10, 2011 at 10:56 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank goodness we’ve got Mark Heisler reminding us
all to be rational and compassionate, which of course
means remembering that poor ol’ JoePa was a really
great guy, you know? the players loved him, and all
he did was help cover up the rape of who knows how
many small children over the course of 12 years.

Seriously, people. Why the rush to judgement?

“If the actions of, and/or charges against, former
defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky were a full-
blown tragedy for all involved…”

Yes, it’s so _tragic_ when rich white men who do bad
things are belatedly forced to accept the
consequences of their moral and legal failings, the
ones their wealth and positions allowed them to skirt
for years.

Dontchall just hate when that happens?

Possibly, Heisler, it was a bit more of a tragedy for
the kids than for the wealthy perp and his enablers.
But, yeah, my heart bleeds.

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By SallyStrange, November 10, 2011 at 9:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yeah, poor ol’ misunderstood Joe! All he did was enable a child rapist for nine years—what’s the big deal?

Seriously, Truthdig, nice piece of rape apology here. You thought this was appropriate to publish because why? Sandusky’s victims haven’t been disrespected enough already?

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By Bill Jones, November 10, 2011 at 8:42 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

PA Law mandates that suspicion of child abuse be reported, not to your boss, to the police.
the fucker belongs in jail with a large tatoo’d person.

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By D.R. Zing, November 10, 2011 at 8:04 pm Link to this comment

TV is the modern pillory.

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By NABNYC, November 10, 2011 at 7:50 pm Link to this comment

The allegation is that a grown adult male, part of the football program, took a 10-year old boy into the shower and anally raped him.  If somebody told a reasonable person that story, they would immediately demand an investigation and follow up to make sure it had happened.  I’m guessing that this wasn’t the only incident of stories circulating about this man.  I don’t understand grown men refusing to protect children from rape.  There is nothing understandable about that lapse. 

I can tell you this much:  any woman who was working there and heard those stories would have gone to the police.  Women routinely protect children.  Maybe it’s because we don’t get the big jobs with the big paychecks and adoring public to worship at our feet, so we have time to attend to the little things in life, like preventing adult men from anally raping little children.

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By Blueokie, November 10, 2011 at 7:44 pm Link to this comment

Ok…... this is the same intensely mediated diversion that will destroy players
lives, with no judicial involvement, for accepting a small stipend from wealthy
enthusiasts, at a private university.  Or something as equally egregious as
trading a shirt for a tattoo.  All Paterno did was protect and facilitate a child
molester for 13 years for the sake of prestige, ego, a great deal of money, and
the illusion of institutional integrity.  After all, he did raise about 20% of the
take from one home football game for a library, and how many home games
has he had?  Yep, he was railroaded. 

The only thing missing from this trite filled paean to Paterno was thanks for
making the sun rise in the East.  If only Paterno could have made the trains run
on time.

As for Heisler, in the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, “what a maroon”.

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By Scott, November 10, 2011 at 7:33 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I was looking forward to Truthdig’s take on this scandal, and…

You’ve got to be shitting me. This writer has to have his head jammed pretty far up his backside to make this pathetic attempt at playing devil’s advocate stick. Paterno did the bare minimum and basically enabled a pedophile to keep molesting children via his own silence, a point the author even concedes. Somehow, strangely, the collective ‘us’ are overreacting to this; I’m sure the parents of any of the molested boys would sure take umbrage with that. Don’t be mean to poor Joe though.

Concerning the “fame” thing…the writer would have us believe that Paterno’s fame is an unfair reason to criticize him so harshly. Nonsense. You’re in the limelight, making an obscene amount of money and looked to as a role-model from the student body and your players, that when you fuck up this colossally from (in)actions that are morally reprehensible to anyone with a shred of human dignity, you damn well better expect that kind of backlash. Chastising the public for despising this man is absolutely insane.

The rest of the article? A couple of cherry-picked comments from web articles to paint ‘us’ as a bunch of frothing-at-the-mouth barbarians (what does that make the protesters who lashed in anger at the announcement of Paterno’s firing? Funny that there’s only a passing mention on this detail, not to be pursued at all.). A few innocuous comments from professional sources. Pointing out that he was fired by phone (big deal, us peons normally don’t even get that much, and WE certainly aren’t enabling child rapists). The Google results; stats so pointless that it baffles me that the author can be this stupid to use as a serious point…it completely ignores the fact that rival school fans have likely been posting these things for a long time prior to this travesty, that his search criteria words may not appear in succession to one another in the results (Go PATERNO! Ohio State SUCKS!), that those Google results are pathetically small, etc., so on. And the entire latter half of the article is basically fellating Paterno with praise from players/alumni who were close to him, which is relevant somehow. This article is all over the place, has little point aside from pointing out how much a better person the author is by distancing himself from the rest of ‘us’, wagging his finger in condescending judgment. The fact that 10 boys are horribly scarred for life due to this oaf’s lack of action obviously isn’t part of the writer’s concern, bearing a brief mention in the beginning before swiftly coming to the defense of Victim Joe. Get fucking real.

I’m a new Truthdig reader, love the site’s content generally, but this article is quite possibly the most idiotic thing I’ve read on the Internet at least this month. A complete whiff. A pathetic defense of a pathetic man, who I assure you is getting everything that he deserves.

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By jfar121, November 10, 2011 at 6:01 pm Link to this comment

This just in, Joe Paterno is the new pope, the Vatican

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