DIANA WEST: RESPECT FOR JOE PATERNO?
The Washington Times story about former FBI director Louis Freeh’s damning report on the Penn State cover-up of the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia scandal ends on a provocative note:
“We have a great deal of respect for Mr. Paterno,” Mr. Freeh said. “He has a terrific legacy, a great legacy. We’re not singling him out, but put him in the same category with four other people. But the facts are the facts. There is a whole bunch of evidence for the reasonable conclusion that he was an integral part of the active decision to conceal.”
Is it really “respect” that we have for Joe Paterno, the fired Penn State football coach, on learning from the Freeh report that he bald-faced-lied to a Grand Jury and others concerning what he knew and when he knew it about Jerry Sandusky’s predatory sexual pursuit of boys going back to 1998? “Respect” may be a nod to achievement, but it is also closely linked to good character. Those whom we respect we hold in high honor. What Freeh is acknowledging is Paterno’s formidable football record. It is true that his record of wins on the playing field remains unchanged by any revelations of any investigation. But as a legacy, as a measure of the man, it is forever altered.
What we learn from the Freeh report is that there were no lengths to which Paterno would not go in pursuit of excellence on game day in the stadium — even to the extent of turning a blind eye to boys being sexually abused off the field, in the locker room showers. How does such a character merit respect, great or otherwise? Stopping Sandusky, saving the boys — that would have been an achievement to hold in great esteem, regardless of whether such exposure in any way diminished the pomp and performance of Penn State.
Instead, Paterno leaves behind a monumental win-loss record. Now that the truth is out, it seems more like a monument to a crime.
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