Saturday, January 14, 2012

Paterno "Didn't Know which Way to Go"

Disgraced former Penn State football head coach Joe Paterno, who made a reputation for himself as a man who not only could very successfully administer a college football program for a major university, but also made literally thousands of crucial decisions before and during high-stress football games, claims that he did not know what to do when one of his staff told him that he witnessed Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy.

What is going on here? The man made a living as a "the buck stops here" type of individual. Running a major athletic program is not for milquetoasts. A member of his staff comes to him and tells him that he witnessed something terrible, and the best move of which he can think is to go tells his boss? How did that go? - "Boss, we may have a problem, Jerry was seen possibly doing something wrong to one of the kids from his program"?

Paterno of course knew Sandusky for a long time and surely considered him a trusted friend, but how is that supposed to matter if Paterno has reason to believe that his friend committed a major crime? We are not talking about crimes or other offenses that can be considered “victimless” in any way. What was described, even if it was diluted in the initial approach, can in no way be considered something that allows any degree of discretion.

I can almost empathize with Paterno if he, in a man-to man manner, called Sandusky into his office, laid out what he had heard and asked him to remain there until a police officer arrived to give him a chance to either make his statements or to indicate that he wanted to consult with a lawyer. Paterno could even have promised Sandusky that he would do everything within his power to help restore Sandusky’s good name if the accusations turned out to be groundless.

What was Paterno afraid of ruining, Sandusky's career? He couldn't have hurt the reputation of the university more than he has by failing to take action. The possibility that a major crime has occurred requires one to fulfill his obligations as a member of his community. We of course bristle at the utter lack of empathy for the victims of pedophiles priests that Church officials showed through the years, but Paterno is given an opportunity to explain himself – and this is the best line he can come up with: “I didn’t know which way to go”.   Uhhhh, Call the Cops.

I cannot imagine that parents of children who have been determined to have become victims after Paterno was initially made aware of the allegation will not secure the services of legal counsel and seek punitive damages and criminal charges against Paterno.

We may often complain about our litigious society, but, like it or not, the threat of civil court (Tort) actions is sometimes the only thing that forces people to take the measures required of them by law

This is yet another example of the decline of morals and ethics in the West.

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