While watching the public memorial for Joe Paterno, a family member wondered why none of the speakers were saying anything about the Jerry Sandusky tragedy that claimed the coach's job and fouled part of his legacy. "It's not really the crowd for that," I said, not expecting anybody to bring it up during the event and definitely not expecting anybody to defend his actions.
Nike CEO Phil Knight is not a person who tends to be predictable. (Penn State's teams wear Nike.)
Knight said Paterno had never let him down, then emphasized that he included the entire term of their relationship. He ran through the details of Paterno relaying the accusation against Sandusky to a "world-class" university, apparently one capable of handling it without his help.
"There is a villain in this tragedy," Knight said. "It lies in that investigation. Not in Joe Paterno's response to it."
The crowd approved, moving Knight to declare Paterno the "real trustee at Penn State University," in reference to the board that fired him days after the grand jury report broke.
Before Knight, former players and coaches spoke of Paterno in the highest possible terms. The elephant in the room went unacknowledged, but that's just the way this kind of thing works. Most of Knight's speech fit that mold. He said he found himself without a hero after Paterno's passing.
The service has been a reminder of everything about Paterno that really was excellent. But now we're all just weighing the Sandusky stuff again, which will always remain an essential part of the story. So there you go.
@gbdawkins Future Phil Knight: "You owe me one, Penn State football. Now, wear these polka dotted space uniforms."