It sounds silly now, but well into the 2000's, there was a strong contingent of rabid O.J. Simpson fans who really felt that he was innocent. And then the dude released a book about what it would have been like to hypothetically murder his wife, something so eye-poppingly characteristic of a killer (or at least a sociopath), it shut up all of his supporters instantly. From that day on, you could no longer sound like a reasonable, functioning member of society and still claim that he somehow hadn't killed his wife, even though he described doing it in "If I Did It."
The Freeh Report is Joe Paterno's "If I Did It."
I live in Pennsylvania and I go* to Penn State. Ever since news of the scandal broke last fall, the silent majority in this area who think what Paterno did or didn't do was shameful and worthy of termination has been overshadowed by a loud, fanatical minority that thinks Paterno did nothing wrong. And for months, that minority has had its way concocting a history that it was all the Board of Trustees' fault, that it was the media's fault for going on a witch hunt, that it was Schultz and Curley and Spanier and, well obviously, Jerry Sandusky. But never Paterno.
Never mind that in 2002, when a "visibly shaken" Mike McQueary went into Joe Paterno's office and told him that he had seen Sandusky molesting a child in the shower of the Penn State locker room, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude that Paterno knew about Sandusky's indiscretions then. Never mind a 2005 email revealed by the Wall Street Journal in which the school's standards and conduct officer complained that Paterno wanted his players to have preferential treatment over regular students when they got in trouble. Never mind the sheer improbability that Joe Paterno, the most powerful college football coach in the country, somehow had no idea what Sandusky was doing and had no say in his future, while Spanier, Schultz, Curley and the Board Trustees somehow covered it all up behind his back.
Never mind that he was a grown-ass man who should've taken responsibility for what happened on his watch, even in a mythical, hypothetical bizarro world in which he did nothing wrong. If Penn State was a daycare, and it turned out that a teacher's favorite assistant had been molesting kids for 30 years, whether the teacher knew about it or not, you can be sure that teacher would be out on his ass.
Some people are calling July 12, 2012 a tragic day in the history of Penn State, but those people are dead wrong. A tragic day was months ago, when the campus actually rioted over Paterno's firing and behaved like imbeciles in front of a nationally-televised audience. A tragic day was every day before now, when people were allowed to claim that Paterno was a victim, that he had been wrongfully fired and that he died because his job was taken from him -- never mind that he was 86 years old with interminable lung cancer, and that he deserved to be held accountable.
Today is a great day for Penn State. From this day forward, the silent majority can declare without retribution what any sensible person already knew months ago, that Joe Paterno was morally-flawed. From this day forward, the crazy Penn State people claiming that there isn't enough to tarnish his legacy, that people were "grasping at straws" to conclude there was a cover-up, have to shut the hell up and bear it. From this day forward, we no longer need things like "logic" and "common sense" to form a strong, vitriolic case against Paterno. We've got evidence, tons of it. And the people claiming we had to wait until the facts were out, well, your wish was granted today.
Here in Pennsylvania, Paterno's name had pretty much vanished prior to today. Sure, there was immense attention given to Sandusky's trial and sentencing, but with JoePa six feet under, it had almost become taboo to speak ill of him. In this state, Paterno was universally-adored to a degree outsiders probably can't appreciate, and even knowing what he did, people didn't want to talk about it. It was just impossible for people to reconcile that the great man they had known and loved, the greatest football coach in college history, was a pedophile-protector. Many just went into denial, believing in some vast conspiracy against him by the media and the evil Board of Trustees. And the ones who understood his failings went silent, too saddened by the revelations, too respectful of his death to speak ill of him.
But those days are over. I can say, unequivocally, with no room for argument, that Joe Paterno failed as a human. He failed as a man. He let kids get raped for well over a decade; he tolerated his assistant coach using Penn State as a farm system to lure in vulnerable children to molest. He even had the gall to write a dying op-ed to his players revealing nothing. He died without honor; he had no morals, no regard for children. As Rush Limbaugh so eloquently said of Kurt Cobain after his passing, Joe Paterno was nothing more than a "worthless shred of human debris."
And if Rush isn't your philosopher of choice, perhaps Edmund Burke is more apropos to you. After all, it was Burke who wrote: "When good men do nothing, they are no longer good. Many have the mistaken notion that good is merely the absence of doing that which is wrong. Not so! One is good not merely because he does no evil, but because he is actively working for what is good."
As cruel and inhumane as Jerry Sandusky was, you can't expect a monster to rationalize himself, to stop himself. A monster can't stop a monster. It was up to Paterno and Schultz and Curley and Spanier to stop him, and they all turned a blind eye and became doormats to it. Not individual doormats. The did it because that's the way Paterno wanted it. They failed to act because it was the way Paterno wanted it. Joe Paterno was the man most responsible for letting Sandusky function at Penn State for more than three decades, and for that, he no longer deserves even the slightest trace of respect.
Starting today, the silent majority can at last become the overwhelming loud majority. You can no longer speak in public and declare that Joe Paterno was a good man. He was a great coach, and he did a lot of good things. But anyone who can sleep at night knowing what he knew is lower than the lowest form of scum, less of a man than the smallest parameciums that swim in dog shit.
Starting today, we can kick the dust on the idiotic worshiping of him and usher in a new, sensible era of Penn State, one where loyalty to a school won't turn otherwise smart students into brain-washed morons, and hopefully one where the safety of kids won't be undermined by the insane wishes of a dottering, delusional old man and his warped priorities.