Reflecting on Penn State, Joe Paterno and the Pain of the Abused #Paterno

I cannot imagine how life feels like for these men (and their families) who were terribly abused nearly a decade ago by Jerry Sandusky. I’m guessing it’s a mix of emotions – perhaps satisfaction that the law is being enforced against those who violated and failed to protect. I imagine also that there is some anger and sadness from the complicated public reaction. If I understand it correctly, everyone grieves for the victims but I’m seeing a blame-shift taking place and that is terribly unfortunate.

Though I am not a Penn State Football fan, I am a sports fan and have always felt that Joe Paterno was an easy guy to admire. Through the years he’s carried an aura, he’s tough, he’s classy, I believe him to be a good man. it also seemed every season there were a set of stories where he went further than the game and challenged, disciplined and inspired his players to do the right thing. His discipline included public service, cleaning up the stadium after a game and benching star players on important games.

So I guess that’s why it surprises me that Paterno did not voluntarily resign therefore forcing his board of trustees to dismiss him. He’s already admitted that he regrets not doing more (“With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more”). I get that the authorities are not pressing charges against him and that he technically met the minimum legal action required of him but let’s be real here – he heard about a this evil act being done on his turf, told his athletic director, they told him they’d look into it and then he … went back to work. As a moral human being, he failed those boys. As a leader, he failed the great obligation that was warranted. It’s forgivable because all things are, but please, let us stop with the non-sense of coaching legacy, it’s now irrelevant to the conversation.

His supporters are saying that the trustees and the media have tarnished his long and amazing legacy but I tell you the truth, he tarnished his own legacy the day he didn’t follow up on a 10 year old boy that was being sexually abused in his shower room. Anyone can try to spin this whole legacy angle any way they want but regardless of the number of epic wins he had since then, the day he did nothing more was the day he forfeited this legacy.

Sports are microcosms of life, players and in this case, coaches, are the heroes (and sometimes villains) of the drama but we have to remember – we’re not talking about “games” here – we are talking about an aspect of our human existence. The role that sports plays in our lives is enormous and therefore these moments are of utmost significance. As spectators, we are reminded of our failures, our own moral shortcomings and perhaps now it’s appropriate that we should remember our own cover-ups. It’s amazing to me how many times sports reminds us of such things.

Now realize my anger is not just towards Paterno however – everyone who had knowledge and a voice is included. There was a culture of cover-up there in what is ironically called “Happy Valley”. They sold out those young boys to preserve their reputation, their brand, their revenue (which brings in approximately $72 million to the school and $24 mil to the Athletic Dept.).

To the Penn State family, alumni (some of them are very close to me, like my brother) and fans, realize that many are overwhelmed at the number of young boys who were abused under the Penn State flag. It’s not an attack on you or your loyalties, but many (including myself) are shocked and outraged (and that’s a healthy response under these circumstances).

To the victims of this scandal and to the many that arel still in silence, know people truly care about you and we pray that God will continue to give you the courage to stand up for what’s right, surround you with people who will support and that He would bring healing to your hearts.

To the rest of us, as these heated events continues to unfold for the next few weeks, let’s be wise in our outrage, patient with those who disagree, and humble in our prayers.


  1. Tim, you were right, your sentiments align closely with my own. I especially like your comment at the end:

    “…as these heated events continues to unfold for the next few weeks, let’s be wise in our outrage, patient with those who disagree, and humble in our prayers.”

    Thank you for sharing here and the feedback on my own post. Great site you have here. I will be definitely be back.

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