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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Defending JoePa

Paul's post about some of the quotations from the rioting/protesting Penn State students raises a separate question:

What are they protesting and why? Do students really believe that Paterno is being treated unfairly? Do they really believe that Paterno (and they) are occupying some moral high ground here? Do they understand why he was fired, why he had to be fired, and why it's different than, say, Ohio State firing its football coach over a tattoos-for-cash scandal? Are they arguing in favor of a presumption-of-innocence as to Sandusky (the real wrongdoer in all of this), in a "If Sandusky is being falsely accused, then so is Paterno?" sort of thing? (If they are, no one is saying that). Perhaps they are trying to make this sound like Duke Lacrosse again--firing the coach over allegations of wrongdoing that prove to be totally unfounded (although the evidence here is a bit stronger than there). But again, everything I've heard has been "They fired our coach and we love him," without any seeming realization of the context.

Ironically, Penn State had earlier announced plans for a "Blueout" at this weekend's game, with fans wearing blue in reference to the campaign to end child abuse. Could they have had that symbolic rally while also cheering Paterno, given what has been alleged?

Much of the commentary, especially from sports bloggers, has been to the effect of "these are stupid college kids looking for a chance to wreak havoc." Perhaps. But I would hope that even a 20-year-old understands the gravit of a situation that goes well beyond football and a football coach.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 10, 2011 at 11:22 AM in Current Affairs, Howard Wasserman | Permalink


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If Sandusky is being falsely accused, then McQueary and Paterno both lied to the Grand Jury. Strikes me that is at least as much a fireable offence.

I'm sympathetic--VERY--to the idea that if Paterno had to go, then the entire PSU staff who have been around since 2002 (including McQueary and now-coach/Sandusky disciple Tom Bradley and especially those who facilitated Sandusky's access to campus long past the university decision that he was banned) needed to be fired immediately as well. Which probably means you have to cancel the rest of the season.

But I doubt that is the PSU students's argument, either.

What will be interesting, especially if they beat Nebraska, is whether the polls continue to rank the team, at which point we will know that, er, the sportswriters who are getting moralistic now all have brown eyes, as it were.

Posted by: Ken Houghton | Nov 10, 2011 7:20:44 PM

A crowd of 18-21 year old young men engage in pointless acts of destruction. How much of a trigger do you need for that to happen, and how much thoughtful analysis goes into precipitating such an event?

Posted by: jt | Nov 10, 2011 5:22:31 PM

It may be the case that if Sandusky is being falsely accused, so is everyone else. But it's also possible that Sandusky was being falsely accused back in 2002; that university personnel (including Paterno) knew about the accusations and had reason to believe they were meritorious, but nonetheless didn't report the accusations to the authorities; and then (in the case of those also charged in the investigation) perjured themselves to the grand jury about what they were told and their failure to respond to the accusations. Their guilt stems from their own failure to act and/or their lies under oath, and is wholly independent of Sandusky's guilt or innocence on the underlying offenses.

Posted by: Tyler | Nov 10, 2011 3:27:32 PM

I am not suggesting that Sandusky is the only real wrongdoer here; I was suggesting that might be the argument being made. But Sandusky is the lynchpin here--if Sandusky is being falsely accused, then so is everyone else.

But in what way am I oversimplifying here?

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Nov 10, 2011 2:24:45 PM

Could some of it be that, so far, McQueary-- the one who saw the rape, but also did not intervene or call the police-- still has his job? This may suggest to them that some element of this is not "fair" and they take off from that. It looks like the old guy who should have gone long ago is sent packing and the young guy who still has a future is being protected.

Posted by: anonymous | Nov 10, 2011 2:14:04 PM

Thought this post by Michael Weinreb at Grantland was an interesting perspective:


Posted by: Matt Bodie | Nov 10, 2011 1:06:54 PM

"Are they arguing in favor of a presumption-of-innocence as to Sandusky (the real wrongdoer in all of this)..."

That Sandusky is alleged to be the pederast precludes anyone else from being a "real" wrongdoer? Is it that simple? The situation is indeed grave. It's also more complicated than this post suggests.

Posted by: shg | Nov 10, 2011 12:14:52 PM

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