I was going to refrain from saying anything about the Joe Pa debacle that has more or less brought a highly regarded state university to its knees in the last 4 months. I was going to let Joe’s death pass and read the wonderful obituaries about the man that was. I was going to read about what he accomplished on the field. And I would ignore the elephant in the room for now.
But, as I read through them, something just didn’t feel right. And I’ve learned when something doesn’t feel right, something isn’t right.
Yeah, Joe Pa accomplished great things. And while NO ONE should ever be measured by their failures alone, there are some failures that simply can’t be overlooked. And even though Joe’s was a sin of omission, he let that omission go on for nearly a decade. That we know about.
A decade of allowing continued evil to transpire when it could have been stopped.
A decade where he could have asked the powers that be what action they were taking.
A decade where he could have made a phone call expressing his concern…
A decade where he could have done something…
A decade…So much time…so much pain and suffering.
Joe won two National Championships in 1983 and 1986 with Sandusky by his side. Joe stood with him then and celebrated in the glory of that accomplishment. If we judged them together then, what choice do we have but to judge them together now? Joe didn’t do anything to mitigate or reduce that, really, even in the end. When he had a chance.
Do we have a choice then, to measure the man without Sandusky by his side now? Due to the simple fact that Joe Pa didn’t do anything to get us to believe that he felt anything for Sandusky’s victims. Even when it became painfully obvious that he needed to. Joe had an opportunity to stand up, do the right thing and not only show remorse over what he had done (or failed to do) but that he understood his actions and the actions of Sandusky and how painful those actions were and how much he felt for the innocents. But Joe did no such thing. And I have to blame Joe and the support group around him for not waking him up to what needed to happen. And if they don’t understand that now, well, maybe PSU is better off without them, too.
I think part of where Joe (and said support group) failed was due to his lack of comprehension of the vulgarity of the issue at hand. And how people react to that vulgarity wasn’t even the issue. If you somehow can justify the lack of moral outrage by anyone that looks at Joe’s entire “body of work” and says that “he was a good guy”, well, than I can’t really help you. Yeah, it was a great 60 year run Joe had. But what does that mean when you overlook or somehow try to balance a terrible wrong against volumes of good?
Yes, Joe did great things. But he also committed the worst sin of all.
Not caring when he should have.
Not being a leader when he needed to be.
And not looking back on that time with an understanding that it was bigger deal than Football, the University, and Penn State in general. And feeling the pain and suffering that the Sandusky victims still feel to this day.
Sorry, Joe Pa. I’ll recognize the accomplishments and nod my head when they’re brought up by PSU loyalists, but I can’t put you in the “Greatest” column any more.
I can only hope in the end that I am not in Joe Pa’s situation. I wouldn’t wish that type of trial on my worst enemies…That would be an impossible conundrum. To have to stand up and renounce someone that you have known and worked with for 30 years. I’m not even sure I could do it, either. And that’s why this is so hard…so difficult for a lot of people that know and respect the coach, the teacher and….the humanitarian.
And maybe in that place, the place where you want to believe in your family, friends and your co-workers, is where I can find Joe’s humanity. For not wanting to destroy a life that destroyed so many others…But at the same time, by taking charge, he could have saved the lives of so many more…
It’s confusing, to say the least. But, as an individual, I just can’t let it go. As a society, we can’t let it go. And maybe, that will be Joe’s lasting lesson. And some good can come out of all this.
I don’t know…But I wish I did.
Still Searching for Answers….