Some people aren’t so happy in the Happy Valley today. The statue of Joe Paterno that stood outside Beaver Stadium as a tribute to the longest serving football coach in history has been removed. Though the statue has been stowed away, the Paterno name still hangs on the school’s central library.
When the light first shown on the crimes of Jerry Sandusky, I was one of the first to accuse Paterno and fellow Penn State management of orchestrating a cover up. I am not some big name, influential journalist of public official. So my opinion didn’t carry much weight. But I live in a place in Pennsylvania where the fact that I am a Buckeye makes me the sporting enemy of most of my neighbors and friends. Love for the Nittany Lions runs deep where I live. So you can imagine that my open defense of the Penn State administration’s decision to fire Paterno as the right decision was met with intense disagreement. (But no bar fights, I swear!)
Though I knew this was a grand cover up from the beginning (it seems Judge Freeh agrees with me), I was indecisive about whether the statue of Paterno should have remained standing. This could be partially attributed to the fact that I don’t believe I have standing to make that kind of decision – I have no love for the school or the man, though I did enjoy seeing that old guy down on the field when the Buckeyes played them and lamented when he was relegated to the box for health reasons. Even knowing the depth of Paterno’s crimes – and he DID commit a crime, mind you – I was surprised that the decision to remove his likeness came so swiftly.
Paterno did many good things for Penn State University. But it appears those good things are overshadowed by the unconscionable disservice Joe did to all the children Jerry Sandusky went on to abuse after Joe and his coworkers brushed that abuse under the Lion rug. Paterno’s shadow will not stretch across the hallowed grounds of Beaver Stadium anymore.