Those of you that know me know that I came from the legal world. I try my best not to jump to conclusions and I try not to let emotions sway my decisions and I try to take the high road and do what is legal and most of all what is right. Notice that I used the word “try” a number of times and did not profess to be good at trying on all occasions. I am human and I am fallible, but I do try. This is where you Yoda fans can chime in with, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Right now I think that would apply to the faculty, administrators, coaches and those in power at Penn State University. For those that have not heard about the tragedy at Penn State involving the football coaches and those with authority of the school, I’ll give you some time to Google it or to catch up with the rest of the world. I wanted to weigh in because I felt like I needed to get this off my chest and I also wanted to start some dialogue here. I think that if we as Dads talk about these things we can learn from them and take something of tragedy and try to make something positive. Yes, there is that word “try” again. Shut up Yoda.
Penn State University is a revered institution. A college most know as a top school in the country and certainly a top school that also has a top football program. I can remember my first real knowledge of Penn State when I was young watching a hero of mine, John Cappelletti, a running back for Penn State who won the Heisman Trophy in 1973. I remember wanting to be just like him, and not quite as much as a football player, but as a man. He was a hero because of his dedication to the game and in turn, dedicating the trophy to his brother Joey who died of Leukemia.
Part of that institution was the coach of the program, Joe Patereno. Much like a priest in a church, an obvious analogy here but only to the point that he is the face of the program. Paterno is the only head coach the Penn State Nittany Lions have had in the last 46 seasons and a part of the coaching staff for 62 years. To say the least Joe Paterno has defined the program and he has been the face of Penn State for as long as I can remember, and I’m old. Today he was fired as the head coach and many would say rightly so given the current scandal. I am not accusing the coach of wrongdoing and I am not saying what he did do was not proper, I am angered by what Joe Paterno didn’t do.
Not wanting to put the cart in front of the horse and having been raised myself on the idea that all are innocent until proven guilty, I decided to research the issue further. I would suggest that if you have not read the grand jury report after their investigation, you read it now to familiarize yourself with the investigation. It is a tough read. I have read numerous briefs and have written a few myself and this is a difficult one to sit and complete in one reading. I had to read it more than once to absorb all the details and not be overcome by emotion. After I read the report the last time I decided I needed to offer my opinion.
We all need heroes. Part of the reason I have Captain Genuine as an avatar in all the social networks and on my Daddy blog is because I wanted to be a super hero to my children. I wanted to be their champion. We need heroes or champions because we need to be protected and we need to be counseled and we need to feel like someone is on our side. For the young boys and young men in this story, and in this situation, they are no different. They need a champion. They are begging for a hero.
I continue to hear in this circumstance people did what they felt was the proper protocol and that they had gone through channels and told the proper authorities and did what they could. I am not of that opinion. As a father of 4 and three of those being boys, I continue to think of the victims here. They had no hero. I’m angry because men of the stature of these should be heroes and they should be champions of young men. They should be the champion of the weak and of those that cannot stand tall for themselves. Yes, they may have done what was legal, what was expected, and what they needed to do to cover their asses as the saying goes, but stand in front of that child and explain the reverse. Explain to “Victim 1” in the grand jury report why the institution, its coaches, administrators, authorities, and those in power, needed to be protected instead of protecting him. Were the people involved so egotistical and above all else that they had to ignore the victim? No.
I hope that I am never witness to or a part of the type of scandal we are seeing unfold here. I cannot imagine how horrible those involved must feel for their part in it. I am sure that they are now wishing that maybe they had taken this more serious and that they had done more. I have heard Paterno say as much. Hindsight is a bummer. Paterno is an icon but as a father and a grandfather of 17, I am sure he is sickened now by the way he leaves the game and the university. For a man known as one of the good guys, he had a moment I am sure where he was asked to be the hero. It’s hard to choose the right path. He missed the chance. Going forward, I hope the university can gain back some of its good name and its standing. To everyone I say, when it’s time, be the hero.