Penn State can eventually recover from the Jerry Sandusky horror. The legacy of Joe Paterno cannot. It takes a truly delusional reading of the Freeh report to continue to exonerate him. To put it charitably, his career has an indelible asterisk.
Johnette Howard referred to the Paternos still trying to call shots with the university—attempting to construct their own version of events and what-not—as muscle memory. I think that’s also a valid analogy for what’s still going on with too much of the Penn State community.
Folks, to the extent that Happy Valley ever existed, it ceased doing so in 1998. It’s gone. The only way this gets better is with positive steps in the present.
- Take the statue down. That this conversation has continued as long as it has is itself offensive.
- Shut the football program down for a significant period of time. I said five years. Three may be enough. One isn’t.
- Establish a new, Penn State-administered charity for child abuse victims—a charity that does good, visible, extremely well-financed work. Decades hence, there’s some chance that how the charity came to exist won’t be the first thought people have. I can’t remember where I read this idea this week, but thought it was a really good one.
Despite all that’s happened, Penn State has still shown no interest in definitively declaring itself larger than Joe Paterno. That has been the most glaring symptom of the disease, and it shall be the first impetus for real healing.