I go to Penn State, and I've heard many idiotic defenses of Joe Paterno over the last few days. I've read Facebook manifestos by PSU loyalists claiming that the media is to blame for making Paterno the headliner over Jerry Sandusky. I've heard people claim that he's being made a scapegoat, that this is just a face-saving effort and that it won't actually do anything to help the kids who were molested. I even read a terribly misguided article, "Jerry, Who?", at SB Nation's resident Penn State blog, Black Shoe Diaries, saying, "The media will drive this narrative as hard and fast as it can, and if you get in the way, watch out, because you ain't stopping it."
My Penn State brethren are grasping at straws. They don't want to discuss the actual culpability that Paterno has, so what do they do? The cling to something they can vehemently protest in its place -- they blame the media, saying the headlines are wrong, saying all the proof hasn't come out yet. On, and on, and on. Right now, Penn State defenders are behaving like a woman who's boyfriend just caught her sleeping with another man. Sure, the girlfriend could talk about how she was cheating on him the entire time, but instead, the girlfriend is much more likely to suddenly get angry that her boyfriend was spying on her. Even though in this scenario the woman is totally in the wrong, she'll still find a way to make it about something else. (It applies visa-versa, too, with women catching men. No angry letters.)
My point is that for all the wasted breath spent on bitching about the media, it amounts to being little more than a diversion tactic. This story is national news because Paterno is attached to it. The argument that any headline featuring Paterno's name over Sandusky is somehow immoral, even though Paterno is infinitely more recognizable, more well tenured, more famous, is the winningest coach in the history of college football and is embroiled in what might be the largest college football scandal of all time, is just nonsensical. And for all the malarkey about an anti-Paterno narrative being pushed, the blame-the-media viewpoint is just as much a narrative being pushed, so that any introspection can be avoided -- so that loyalists never have to get around to blaming Joe Paterno. They can keep harping on the side subject.
I'd be more willing to forgive the assertion if the same people blaming the media were also writing pieces blaming Joe Paterno, and criticizing Paterno, and writing articles about what a human rights travesty he enabled by not doing enough to keep a child molester off campus. But that isn't the case. Blaming the media has become a convenient copout, a wonderful little ploy to immediately engender sympathy. The hypocrisy isn't even realized. The same people attacking ESPN for being one-sighted don't even realize that they are being one-sighted, that they aren't even donating a second of time criticizing Paterno for something he himself has apologized for. It's pure semantics.
And don't give me this crap about "waiting until all the facts are out." How can there be enough facts that no one is wrong in making a judgment about Sandusky, but somehow, the same rules doesn't apply to Paterno? What information could anyone be holding onto that's going to exonerate Paterno? The bottom line is that after the 2002 incident, when Paterno was informed of Sandusky violating a child, he did nothing to get Sandusky off campus. He did nothing to put him in jail. He did the absolute bare minimum, and it was his lack of initiative that may have allowed future instances of children getting raped. That is a fact. So before I listen to even another complaint that the media is in the wrong, I want to hear the defense of Paterno. I want to hear an argument why it's wrong for the media to focus on him and why he doesn't deserve any criticism. Until I actually hear this expressed, I don't want to hear excuses for him. Right now, he simply doesn't deserve them.
And as for the "it will do nothing for the victims" card, that's even more insulting. That argument is so infuriating that I'm ashamed it's coming from the mouths of Penn State students. I'm ashamed that otherwise bright students can be so dumb. No, axing Paterno won't give those children their innocence back. But neither does axing Sandusky. Neither does axing Spanier. By this logic, nothing should punishable. We might as well not even have prisons if this is something people actually believe, that someone like Paterno shouldn't be held responsible for his actions simply because there isn't a time machine to undo it all. It isn't about fixing a problem; nothing can be done to Sandusky or anyone that will get those victims their childhood back. It's about doing what's right. It's about not letting Paterno slide after sitting on the Sandusky information for at least nine years and doing nothing about it, for not putting a stop to that sham of a charity organization. It's about having ethics and morals and dignity, not having blind allegiance in someone because of how good they used to be.
Like it or not, the media has every right to tarnish Joe Paterno's legacy. There are two types of people in this world: people who call the police when someone tells them a child has been molested, and people who do nothing about it. Joe Paterno was the second. He had enough ammunition to put Jerry Sandusky away for life, and for at least nine years he did nothing. He sat on that information. For at least nine years, he allowed Sandusky to walk free, even with the knowledge, even at it's very vaguest -- according to the grand jury testimony -- that Sandusky had been seen "fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy."
It's simply indefensible.
Besides, PSU loyalists need to realize that even if the media really is wrongly ignoring Sandusky to focus on Paterno, PSU loyalists are wrongly ignoring Paterno to focus on the media. Either way, the blame game is being played, and it isn't being played fairly.