Along with most others who have been watching media reports about the events following the release of this document, I have been outraged by the excessive clout of the football coach at a major academic institution, by the eagerness of a university administration to support him and his staff in the burying of a history of abominable child abuse, and by the apparent indifference to both common decency and the law when it comes to the money and power involved in college football. I was appalled, too, by the student demonstrations in support of Joe Paterno, a man who clearly put the interests of college football and his own reputation ahead of those of the boys who continued to suffer his friend's abuses for an entire decade after they became known. If you're still skeptical, read that report.
I was still more appalled by the behavior of the head coach himself, appearing like a rock star at his door to acknowledge the adulation of fans, undoubtedly confirming them in their denial. His perfunctory words about praying for the victims spoke far less loudly to the crowd than his arrogant concern that his team should win their game this Saturday. This hero of the sports world, a man who, from what I hear, has been widely worshipped for years as the model of integrity in college athletics, seems lost in the delusion that he can rest on his laurels despite a long history of protecting a known sexual molester at the expense of those he would continue to abuse.
A man who lacks the integrity to do everything in his considerable power to put an end to such behavior, or who chooses to feign or perpetuate ignorance to excuse inaction, is not entitled to respect for his integrity as an athletic coach--or in any other area of his life. The very word integrity implies completeness: it's about the whole man, not just his accomplishments on the football field. We hear that Paterno is a "devout Catholic." No matter his purported piety, however, and no matter his advanced age or prior reputation, it's inexcusable that this man should have for so long protected a member of his staff, a friend, who had been observed in the act of sodomizing a ten year-old boy in the showers used by his team. I can truthfully find little compassion in my heart for such a man, or for those who come to his defense.
I would hope that the university would have the good sense and the decency to withdraw its football team from further competition this year. Unfairly, perhaps, to the athletes themselves, the team has been irreversibly tainted by the behavior of its coaching staff. There should be a price to pay, a public admission of responsibility and regret, if only in justice for those who have been so revoltingly abused.