POINT: Time to shut down Penn State’s “Happy Valley”

POINT: Time to shut down Penn State’s “Happy Valley”


Probably protecting himself, former Penn State University Joe Paterno gifted his home to his wife for $1 – because he knows the anvil of the law is about to crack him down.  Meanwhile, ten more victims came forward earlier this week, more victims Paterno and a whole host of others could have helped by exposing Sandusky.  Instead, he took faster action to protect his property that what he did to protect innocent kids.

It is baffling that sensible adults jumped out the gate defending Joe Paterno, joining sides with worshipping, insulated and naïve kids. Those who love PSU football, admire the program and played football – or had any remote connection to it – decided to hop on the “Joe Pa” bandwagon.

Not me.

Last weekend, Penn State played its first football game. It had to continue with its last game of the season without the “beloved” Paterno, the “winningnest” coach in college football history, disgraced and fired for failing to report the disturbing rape of a child to police.

There is happiness in PSU’s 17-14 loss to Nebraska.  Not because I revel in another’s loss, but because this particular loss was symbolic. Still, it’s not enough vindication to the victims for the abuse they suffered and will sustain for the rest of their lives.

However, the loss triggered the dismantling of an institution which bred the type of atmosphere where its members felt compelled to do anything and everything to protect it, even shield knowledge of sexual abuse and rape of minors.

The reason why most of those named in the State of Pennsylvania’s charging document against Sandusky remained quiet is because they had loyalty to that institution, putting it first over standards of decency. Football first and by any means necessary.

To those who say students and players shouldn’t suffer because they are innocent casualties to the scandal, I say: tough luck.   Such is life. Games are lost.  In all this, people still forget that we are still talking about a game. With Saturday’s loss, the Joe Pa supporters were left to deal with the reality that everyone else outside of State College understands human suffering takes priority.

If not for football worship, the Joe Pa empathizers would have fully appreciated the gravity of the allegations.  Penn State athletic program inhabitants, described as “Happy Valley” grew up idolizing Coach Joe Paterno.  So much so that they became desensitized to the situation.

Football worship clouds the ability to have the same level of outrage, disappointment and disgust over the cover up as every other normal person who learned of it had.  Those who protested seemed to have substantially little to no sympathy or compassion for the victims. If they did, passionately rioting over the dismissal of someone who was in a position to do something about it is the wrong way to go.

They were willing to make any and all excuses for Joe Pa’s personal culpability, arguing that JoePa did the bare minimum required administratively. Never mind his moral duty to call the cops. They apportion different levels of blame and assign minimum blame to Paterno compared to Assistant Coach Michael McQueary who witnessed one incident; a couple of janitors who also saw inappropriate contact; prosecutors who let Sandusky go with a slap on his wrist in 1998; and the university for being aware of the 1998 charges but not doing their part to make sure Sandusky got investigated.

Each party in this scandal is independently culpable of his own act or omission.

JoePa apologists ardently and fervently defended Joe Pa with the very limited information  they have about the one incident named in the complaint.  The investigation is still under way.  It may very well be revealed that Joe Pa knew of other incidents.

How can one really argue the case for a man who sanctioned the ongoing abuse of boys by turning a blind eye?

Now is the time for PSU’s athletic program to go on hiatus, a time to smoke out all the problems and to uncover how deep and wide the scandal is. To do anything less is permitting the continuance of a culture that encouraged the Mafia-type atmosphere that appears to exist there now, a place where others were forsaken so that a code of secrecy could flourish.

From janitor to junior coach to whomever else may have witnessed one of Sandusky’s horrific acts on young boys, they each decided that the football program was valued more – or they simply feared the repercussions. The only way to dismantle a twisted and misplaced value system is to tear the house down completely and build it anew – similar to a crack house or a brothel in a neighborhood needing revitalization.

After it is demolished, the neighborhood will look disheveled. But, it will eventually come back to life, a stronger, cleaner and brand new structure erected in its place.

The block has a chance to shine once again.

Penn State will rise again.  But, in these early stages, the last thing its occupants want to do is make excuses and appoint blame. Going on the record in defense and support of wrongdoers – without knowing all the facts – may not be the best thing to do.  PSU students might want to watch what they post on Facebook and tweet up live, perhaps considering a name change if they were caught on camera rioting for a misguided mission.  Do you really want to put it all on the line defending this guy?


    • smokey………….you're an idiot. it's just football. just a game. and who cares what the score was. the score? seriously? looks like you totally missed the point anyway. nobody is being holier-than-thou. they are being compassionate human beings…..maybe that's not something you are familiar with…….look it up. joe paterno is just a man…..that's it…..just a man….and apparently a weak one at that. and so to reiterate, it is my holier-than-thou opinion that you indeed are a misguided Idiot.

  1. How can you write that "JoePa apologists ardently and fervently defended Joe Pa with the very limited information they have about the one incident named in the complaint. " but then call for the "shutdown of Penn State's Happy Valley". Aren't you ardently and fervently arguing your foolish point based that same, very limited information? Also, the "JoePa apologists", as you call them, are not acting on very limited information. They have a 60 year career to examine when assessing the situation. Is it more ridiculous to crucify a man, a school, and a football team based on "very limited information" or to look at man's record and think that when more information emerges perhaps Paterno's actions were not as bad as they seem now based on the "very limited information"?

    • The "limited information" Ben is in reference to the information about the extent of Joe Pa's involvement and knowledge in THIS PARTICULAR SCANDAL. There are people with upstanding careers and are earnest and forthright but who also are flawed in other respects in BIG ways in other aspects of their lives. You can respect the honest and honorable aspect of Joe Pa's career but should not let that respect deter you from accepting that it is possible he knew more and chose to do less, nonetheless.

      Further, I'm fine with that. Knowing what I know, I am ready to say "shame on him" and if more comes out, it will just deepen my disappointment.

      The difference is I see the flaw in what he has already done in failing to report Sandusky to police and that is the basis of outrage. You and his supporters are giving him a pass on that not knowing if there is more information that even YOU will not excuse despite your honor and respect for him as a coach.

  2. Smokeybandit, really? Out of that article, what disturbs you is, he didn’t get the score right??? Wow, did you just prove his point about a large majority of psu students and alumni being more concerned with football and Joe? Where is the student body protest to change the laws/people that allowed the repeated rape of innocent defenseless children? Where is the thousands that go on Facebook demanding justice for these victims like they have for Joe? I noticed a good majority only mention the true victims in passing, like a side note. They will post dozens of times defending Joe, and once, maybe twice say, but don’t get me wrong I care about the kids too, really? Do you realize Joe can never return Penn state to it’s former glory, which is really what most Penn state students are worried about. The students at psu could, can you imagine how loud and strong the voice of psu students, and alumni could be if they came together to try to change what went so horribly wrong? You pay tuition, and vote, what if you used that voice to demand the laws and people involved be changed because of their failure. You protest for Joe, where was the protest outside the courthouse after sanduskys bail was set? This cult like adoration for Joe is odd, everyone involved should be investigated, including Joe. I have a question smokey, why do Joe supporters act as if Joe had no clout, was merely just a coach, a peon, and then in the next breath say, Joe is Penn state, which is it? Penn state deity or just a coach?
    What if one of the Penn state victims turns to a life of crime, not knowing how to deal with what happened to him as he grew into a man. Maybe drugs is his answer of choice, he prefers numb to remembering. One day he sees your mom, beats her, robs her, leaves her bloodied and broken, discarded like trash. Then do you care? When it’s not a faceless little boy who you have to look in the eye and say “but Joe told the AD” then do you care? When it affects you, do you finally care? Do you realize when we fail to protect our children, we destroy our future? Be more than a knucklehead flipping news vans.

  3. Penn State's football program generates $70 million per year for the school. It will have to be shut down from the outside. No one there has the stones to pull that trigger and watch that money disapear.

    Penn State, Paterno, and all the knuckleheads/meatheads supporting the program have been reduced to a punchline. Legacy? This is it – "he took faster action to protect his property that he did to protect innocent kids."

  4. Politic 365 has very responsibly published my counterpoint to Ms. Ghatt's piece. View it here: http://politic365.com/2011/11/18/counterpoint-fak….

    I have the utmost respect for Ms. Ghatt and view her as a highly intelligent individual and superb writer.

    However, I am neither an ardent supporter of Joe Pa, or a football worshiper (despite having played D1 ball). My points remain: we fail to see the level and ease at which we exhibit hypocrisy when the mob is roused. Anyone talking about Joe Pa, and not Sanduski and not McQueary and not the janitor and not the DA and not the judge that released the alleged, are more focused on dismantling the fervent spirit of support of collegiate athletics than they are focused on the horrific allegations – which IMO is as bad as covering the abuse (if that is even what happened here). Penn State's board knew what they were doing with that initial announcement of who was being fired over this, and the PSU student body acted out against it because they saw through the translucence of this blatant scapegoating. I would rather we talk about solving child abuse/molestation, but somehow we keep coming back to Joe Paterno and football.

    • Thing is, Damion, as I respect your position and your history as a fellow abuse survivor, the response is a direct reaction to the rallying around JoePa. Had people not rallied, there would be no counter response. Certainly, you cannot expect people to witness the celebratory support for JoePa and people not say anything? Further, by pointing out and replying to Joe Pa, we are not dismissing or excusing the other culpable people or entities in this story. No sir. But you see, no one is going around trying to minimize or shelter them from blame or harm.

      • Funny how our forums move. We must admit that there is some level of empathy and understanding that would have been afforded those who supported Paterno (especially the young people) had this not involved a perennial NCAA football powerhouse. Again, are we talking about a rally in support of Spanier, or in support of division 3 school coach scapegoated in a similar way? I doubt it seriously, and that is where I divert from those crying afoul against the supporters of Paterno. The trustees acted with intent as it related to steering the conversation and that is why I don't diminish the reaction on that campus to youthful ignorance or naivete. The trustees knew the stir it would cause, and they did it publicly "trying to minimize or shelter [the university and themselves] from blame or harm." The PSU trustees knew this would steer the conversation (they may have even had an inkling that there would be an uprising), that is problematic. My thing is we fell for it. And the utter imbalance in proportion to the weight of conversation about Joe Pa and his supporters relative to their involvement when compared to "the other culpable people or entities in this story," indicates to me that we are indeed "dismissing or excusing the other culpable people or entities in this story."

  5. I don't know how I came across this, but this is by far the dumbest thing posted yet about Joe Paterno and his supporters. Do you still not get it? People aren't blindly supporting JoePa. they are, as I am, supporting the system of innocence until proven guilty. What's almost as bad as what happened to these kids is what it has revealed about our country, and the fact that hundreds of years later, the media is still apt to create a Salem witch trial mentality in America. I, for one, am not going to drink the media Kool-aid, and I recommend all of those who support our country to avoid doing so as well. In due time, through the legal process, it may very well be proven that Joe is as guilty as anyone else, and I'm pretty certain many of his "supporters" will feel equally disgusted with him, and the support will die off to a few brainwashed fools. But until then, those in the media that take great pleasure in punishing before the legal process has gone about its business, shut the hell up!

    • You must have missed the part in the story where Sandusky himself admitted to taking a shower with a little boy and you must be naively assuming that Joe Paterno did not know that this was among several reasons why Sandusky – his heir apparent-was released from his job.

      You must also think there were pure innocent reasons for Paterno selling his home to his wife too, huh? That he wasn't given a warning that this is all coming to head soon and to protect his assets? That's the action of a man who has done nothing wrong, huh?

      The writing is on the wall, but you call it innocent before proven guilty. I call it a "head buried in the sand" approach to reacting to accusations against a guy you like. Carry on. I'll come looking for you when more facts bear out with a slice of humble pie in hand for you.

  6. To those who say students and players shouldn’t suffer because they are innocent casualties to the scandal, I say: tough luck.

    Then why not close down the whole school? You say they had a mafia-like atmosphere. I suppose you would have deported all Italians – if they were innocent — tough luck.

    Yea, simple answers for simple minds.

  7. While the entire nation was sickened and horrified when the news broke about the sexual abuse indictment and the coverup by Penn State, Penn State students were more concerned with rioting in the streets like a bunch of thugs. While i have no doubt that Paterno knew about each and every allegation going back to the 1998 complaint, we know from Paterno's own statements that he knew about the 2003 incident and he did not have the moral character to contact the police or to stop Sandusky from having access to Penn State grounds. Paterno also continued to have his players and coaches participate in Sandusky's charity which Sandusky used to gain access to more little boys.

    Paterno's actions and inactions are despicable. He personally enabled Sandusky to victimize more and more little boys. This is what defines Paterno as a man and nothing else he might have done. Sandusky used Penn State's football program to lure in little boys so he could sexually molest them and Paterno aided him and allowed him to continue. Paterno could have put a stop to this in one minute but he choose not to put a stop to this.

    Something is seriously lacking in Penn State's academics if thousands of students are incapable of comprehending this and instead take to the street rioting and destroying personal property. The actions of the students were likewise despicable and they have earned the disdain that people feel towards them.

    The football program was at the root of this and provided the playground for Sandusky to molest little boys. And for the sake of the football program, Sandusky's acts were covered up. Its time for Penn State to learn that protecting children is more important than football. Since Penn State appears to fail to comprehend this basic notion, shut down the football program for a few years until the administration, coaches, players and students learn that protecting children is more important than a game.

  8. […] Nittany Lions earn moment of happiness with road winYork Daily RecordPenn State running back Stephfon Green (21) runs past Ohio State defensive back Orhian Johnson (19) on his way to a 39-yard touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011, in Columbus, Ohio. …POINT: Time to shut down Penn State's “Happy Valley”Politic365 […]

  9. […] Nittany Lions earn moment of happiness with road winYork Daily RecordPenn State running back Stephfon Green (21) runs past Ohio State defensive back Orhian Johnson (19) on his way to a 39-yard touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011, in Columbus, Ohio. …POINT: Time to shut down Penn State's “Happy Valley”Politic365 […]

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