OTC: Paterno, Sandusky, McQuery and Posnanski — How Will Their Legacies Be Remembered?

“Paterno is one of those men who come along once a decade with an overwhelming feeling of responsibility for everyone and his roommate… Paterno means fatherly in Italian, and Paterno is eternally paternal. He worries. He doesn’t sleep much, so weighed down is he with the problems of young people today…”
Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, 1986
GH: This excerpt is from SI’s SOTY article on Paterno from 1986. The words made me cringe as I read them now 25 years hence. Read on.

“ ‘I worry about kids today,’ says Paterno. ‘I remember when I was a kid, you never heard about a kid committing suicide. The choices just weren’t that hard. You had it all laid out in front of you. Your church told you what to do, and your parents told you what to do, and you knew what was right and wrong. But now, kids have so many choices to make, so many people to listen to, no direction. Now you hear of kids committing suicide every day. It’s very frustrating for me.’ ”
Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, 1986
GH: Note that Paterno remebers fondly not hearing about evil. As if not hearing of it meant it did not happen. It becomes a part of his being. Read on.

“The earliest documented report of possible abuse at the hands of Sandusky is in 1995, when his now-legally adopted son was still a teenage foster child in his home. The
adoption file for Matt Sandusky, who had a different name at the time, contains
letters of concern from his mother to children and youth officials and to a Centre County judge. Matt’s biological mother, Debra Long, testified before the grand jury. …  About four months after he went to live with Jerry, Matt attempted suicide with a girl who was also
staying at Sandusky’s house.”
Sara Ganim, writer, Patriot-News
GH: Sandusky and his wife had no children of their own but adopted six foster children. Five boys and one girl.

“Jerry Sandusky insisted. He wanted the book about his life to be called
“Touched.’ ”
Elizabeth Merrill, writer, ESPN.com
GH: Sandusky was reportedly seen shopping at a Dick’s Sporting Goods store on Thursday – wearing Penn State gear. How removed from reality is this sick, evil monster? 

“McQueary is a guy who once stepped in and broke up a player-related knife fight in a campus dining hall — a fight police admit could have been very ugly. But this week, he
is getting blasted by the public for doing too little.”
Sara Ganim, writer, Patriot-News
GH: Football players are well versed in breaking up fights between other players. They are not equipped to challenge their coaches. It takes a special man to do that. McQueary is not at all special.

“I don’t know what Joe Paterno knew. I don’t know how he handled it. I don’t know if he followed up. I don’t know anything about Paterno’s role in this except for what little was said about that in the horrifying and stomach-turning grand jury findings. People have jumped to many conclusions about Paterno’s role and his negligence, and they might be right. I’ll say it again: They might be right. But they might be wrong, too. … It is
still unclear what Paterno did in this case. It will remain unclear for a while.”
Joe Posnanski, 11/10/11 Blog
GH: The Grand Jury knows what Paterno knew. Paterno knows what he knew. Posnanski has spent the last year living in Happy Valley talking to Paterno and inside the Nittany Lion mystique for his book on Paterno’s life. So why not ask Paterno, Joe? Why wonder? Be a journalist. The story is exploding right in your lap. Don’t tell us what you and we DON’T know. Tell us what Joe says he knows. Ask the questions that need to
be asked, Joe. Do your job, Joe. Your reputation and legacy as a writer might
well depend on it.

“Even though Paterno himself had told the grand jury that McQueary saw ‘something of a sexual nature, Paterno said this week that he had stopped the conversation before it got too graphic. Instead, he told McQueary he would need to speak with his superior, Athletic Director Tim Curley, and with Schultz. That meeting did not happen for 10 days.”
Sara Ganim, writer, Patriot-News
GH: Hear no evil – can’t prove I knew any evil. What a coward Paterno comes off as in this report. How can he not want to hear the details of what his defensive coordinator is doing with a 10-year-old boy in his locker room shower??? Pathetic. Revolting. Infuriating. 

“He doesn’t sleep much, so weighed down is he with the problems of young people today…”
Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, 1986
GH: This is why a fluff book on Paterno has no place in any library. These are simply words on a page that tell few truths.

“We believe in the book, and we believe in the writer. The book will reflect the sweep and complexity of the man.”
Jonathan Karp, executive vice president and publisher of Simon & Schuster, when asked if the Paterno book is still a go, New York Post
GH: It has been reported that Posnanski received an advance of $750K to write this book. It is scheduled to be available in time for Father’s Day 2012.

“What’s happened is that the book Posnanski envisioned is dead. Every writer goes into a story with a concrete idea of what that story is going to be. Every writer does this, even for 300-word blog posts, to say nothing of a full-length book. When things change, when the facts don’t fit the blueprint, writers get grumpy. All their planning, writing and plotting is for naught. Posnanski’s angry at the world and its timing for wrecking his sentimental little outline, and he’s taking it out on the media rather than the man he’s profiling.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity for a writer: to be on the ground before, during, and after a Capturing The Friedmans mess. And it’s a wonderful chance for us to have a wonderful writer like Posnanski be the one to do it. When things calm down and Pos starts his new book from scratch, hopefully he’ll realize that he has a chance to write something more important and more timeless than a mawkish Father’s Day card.”
GH: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

“According to the grand jury, then, here is how McQueary’s eyewitness account became watered down at each stage:
McQueary: anal rape.
Paterno: something of a sexual nature.
Schultz: inappropriately grabbing of the young boy’s genitals.
Curley: inappropriate conduct or horsing around.
Spanier: conduct that made someone uncomfortable.
Raykovitz: a ban on bringing kids to the locker room.”
Sara Ganim, writer, Patriot-News

“It was just devastating for a program that was above board for at least 46 years. These people have lived their lives with integrity and great character.”
Matt Millen, former PSU linebacker and board member of Sandusky’s Second Mile charity, when asked what his first thoughts were when he heard Paterno had been fired, ESPN Radio
GH: They have lived their lives with character? Integrity? Read on.

These dates spanning 13 years share two common threads that run through the
entire grand jury presentment. At each stage, boys voiced concern or pain or
alarm at the conduct of Jerry Sandusky — or adults witnessed behavior they
found troubling or alarming.”
Sara Ganim, writer, Patriot-News

“It’s like the white sweater he wore to the frat party at Brown all those years ago.  Remember that sweater? Florence gave it to him with a mother’s love, and Joe
wore it to the party because he thought that was what young men at Ivy League
schools wore to cocktail parties. What did Joe know about the Ivy League—a
mouthy Italian kid from Brooklyn trying to fool everyone with street smarts and
gritty confidence and soaring ambition? That white sweater. Oh, Joe walked into
that party, and everything stopped. Time stopped. All those rich frat boys with
their olives swimming in dry martinis, they all froze, and they looked at him,
only they didn’t see him. They saw that sweater. That’s all he was to them, a
poor Italian kid’s white sweater in a rich man’s world. And now? They still
don’t see him. They see that wins record.”
Joe Posnanski, Sports Illustrated, October 2009
GH: They see Joe Paterno now, Joe. We all see him. Ironically, we also see white – the white anger of an enabler of child abuse whose name, reputation and legacy will forever be linked to the helpless children he chose to remain silent and safe about – just when they needed him to speak the loudest.

 / Twitter / greghall24

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About Greg Hall

Software guy who has been writing my Off The Couch column in KC newspapers, publications and websites since 1994. Has been bounced from some of the finest media establishments this side of State Line Road. Dad first and everything else second...and there are a lot of everything elses.

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