The conviction of Jerry Sandusky didn’t come as a surprise to many, but the findings correlating with Joe Paterno, former head coach of the Pennsylvania State University football team, in the Freeh Report were something many silently knew but wished wasn’t true.
The Freeh report found that Paterno, along with several other high-ranking Penn State officials, helped cover for Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator under Paterno who sexually abused 45 children.
Nobody wanted to see Paterno’s clean, white Nittany Lion helmet stained with the filth of 45 confirmed counts of child sex abuse. A seven-month investigation by a former director of the F.B.I., Louis J. Freeh, deeply stained Paterno’s slate at its conclusion July 12.
Before the Sandusky hoopla came to the light, images of a frail but fiery man walking up and down the sidelines were entrenched in people’s minds. The image of Penn State was encapsulated in the owl-eyed man, whose face was sunken with wrinkles and hair peppered with many tones of gray.
The football god has fallen.
Paterno, stripped of his godly garb, is just a man. It’s such a tragedy to see the man fall such heights and not be able to defend his name, but the situation is a testament to humanity.
I’m not justifying Paterno’s actions regarding the handling of Sandusky by any means. But here is a man who did a lot of good—all of it stripped away because of his huge blunder.
And Paterno did do everything he could to step out of the way and allow the investigations to take place. Expressing sorrow and hinting at his covering of Sandusky, Paterno wished he had “done more.”
What Sandusky did was disgusting, and no one can give any amount of excuses to justify covering up for such an atrocity, but are a person’s good deeds damned and flushed away to the pits of hell because of their mistakes? Are good and bad deeds, intentions and missteps calculable and able to be adjusted on a revolving scale?
Most importantly, will there ever be any forgiveness?
Many men and women make mistakes, some insurmountable and irreconcilable to the eyes of the world. Why are some of the people who gave Paterno this godlike status now playing god themselves?
Now that the burning bush is starting to smolder and the parted waters are starting to converge, people are making their judgments on the former saint.
Artist Michael Pilato had painted a halo preceding Paterno’s death Jan. 22, 2012, on his mural in downtown State Town, Pa. On July 14, he painted over the halo in light of the Freeh report, and many people want Paterno eradicated completely from the mural.
Go ahead and continue to support the trend of throwing boulders at fallen individuals, but don’t expect anyone to refrain from the same treatment for your mistakes.
I hope all of Sandusky’s victims can find some sort of healing. Most of them have a lifetime to ensure they can rest peacefully at night.
But Paterno has no life left to make amends to the victims or the Penn State community.
No one will ever truly know if Paterno was remorseful for his actions.
Unfortunately, Paterno will not get his chance for redemption in this life. He’ll be remembered for what he didn’t do rather than for what he did.