Joe Paterno Debate Merely a National Distraction From the True Terror at Penn State


Joe Paterno Debate Merely a National Distraction From the True Terror at Penn StateThe debate needs to stop.

A horrifying story of a man named Jerry Sandusky has turned into a back-and-forth discussion over whether an 84-year-old named Joe Paterno should be fired from his figurehead job.

As if that's the important issue.

As if that will suddenly make things better.

As if that will make the graphic details shared in the 23-page grand jury report any easier to forget.

It won't, and any time wasted in an argument over whether Paterno should be fired immediately is a mere distraction to the fact that what happened was as awful as anything else in this world. We can use the word "allegedly" if you'd like, and you can argue that we must all wait for due process, but if you read those 23 bone-chilling pages, you wouldn't. You'd have seen eight men tell the same story, explain the same predatory methods, offer the same gruesome details. The hand on the left knee in the car, the creeping closer in the shower, the downstairs bedroom. You'd see these events described in detail, and you'd never, ever use the word "allegedly" and mean it.

But, allegedly, Sandusky abused all these children, and definitely, Paterno knew about it. He did not do what any decent man in the same position would have done, and unless you're desperately in love with the first 35 years of Paterno's tenure and are willing to ignore his last 10, you'd believe he should lose his job.

There shouldn't be any debate, yet that's all there is. That's the biggest problem.

Whether or not an old man retains his job as the coach of a football team won't help Victim 1 live an easier life. Nor will it help Victim 2, Victim 3, Victims 4-7 or any of the now-nearly 20 victims who have courageously stepped forward to try to move on from a trauma we can't even begin to imagine.

Paterno retiring or being forced to step down as head coach of Penn State football won't provide any comfort to the victims. Their lives are forever damaged. Joe's suggestion Tuesday night that we should pray for them was awfully nice, but they need a whole lot more than that.

What they don't need is a group of 1,000 or so fans and supporters showing up outside Paterno's house to lead chants of "Let Joe stay!" and "We love you, Joe!" They don't need to see Paterno soaking it all in and giving it right back with a "We are!" that's followed with an excited "Penn State!" from the adoring crowd.

Joe wants us to pray for the victims, but he can't do it himself. He's too busy leading chants on his front lawn. The last thing any of the victims needed was a slap in the face, but JoePa was happy to hand one out on Tuesday night.

Some would say he dished out another one on Wednesday morning when he announced that he will finish the season as coach before retiring at the end of the year. Some would say he forfeited that right eight years ago when he sat back and allowed Sandusky to live freely after learning of his despicable alleged actions.

To those people, I say this: Who cares?

I also say this: What good would it do?

The answer: None.

Paterno could "coach" on Saturday or he could be at home watching on TV. It won't make one bit of difference in this world.

So get upset, if you'd like, at the fact that Paterno will be allowed to finish the season at Penn State. Debate with friends, enemies and strangers about whether he should have been fired and whether he should still be fired. Hell, get in a fistfight if it'll make you feel better.

But all that rage is just filler. The "debates" are meaningless. The vitriol — toward each other, toward Paterno, toward PSU — accomplishes nothing.

There's no proper emotion to feel about a situation like this other than disgust, horror and sadness. There's no debate that can ever make that go away.

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