Saturday, November 19

Thoughts on the treatment of Paterno by TonyLion


As I look back over the events of the past month, still saddened by the treatment of Coach Paterno, I am also still dismayed by the public scorn directed at him, without so much as hearing his point of view, and the relative ease with which people have accepted his demise as coach. Keep in mind that he remains a state employee and tenured university professor. They didn't actually fire him, because legally I'm not sure they could without cause. He was simply relieved of his duties as head coach.
When I compare the Sandusky scandal with the Bernie Fine scandal at Syracuse University, I see the contrast with the way the SU administration treated Head Coach, Jim Boeheim, who like Patrerno, employed an assistant now accused of child sexual abuse, under his watch. Unlike the PSU Board of Trustees (BOT) the Syracuse administration stood by Boeheim, and essentially circled the wagons, telling the media to wait until all investigations were concluded, before they would judge Boeheim.
I cannot help but consider that this somewhat counter intuitive stance was indeed the best way to quell any further media uprising and helped bring to a screeching halt another potential media firestorm . In retrospect and by comparison, it seems to me that the PSU BOT phone call firing of Coach Paterno actually added to the media narritive and prolonged the sensational coverage of the whole scandal. Had they simply issued a statement similar to Syracuse, that while they were disturbed by the allegations, they would stand by the legendary coach and wait until all the facts were established before preceeding with monumental decisions, I believe they could have easily dissipated a lot of the media fervor.
Many of us suspect that the only reason for the rash decisions by the BOT was indeed to relieve the pressure they felt from all the cameras and spotlights descended upon State College, but it is clearly evident now that those decisions have badly backfired. They played directly into a bloodthirsty media's hands. The hasty dismissal of Paterno, right on the heels of his retirement announcement, actually took on the dimensions of an even bigger story and fanned the flames of innuendo regarding conspiracies and cover ups and spread more attention to the other assistant coaches leaving Jerry Sandusky almost an afterthought.
I will always remember dissappointment and disgust in the PSU BOT for the spineless way in which they handled themselves during this episode in PSU history. It is acid etched in stone no matter how all this turns out in the end.


Drunj Thoughts
(meta: I don’t know tonylion, might respect him as a person, may even respect his general pts of view. (beers in person will unlock the answers to these mysteries) That said, what follows may or may not be disrpectful re: this post.) (Do apolgies in advance still work?; they did in the eighties).
don’t know anymore how to say this without also sounding trite or panderingly PC, but I’m only barley sad for Joe Paterno. I’m way more (malty) sad for the children. Worldwide. I’m barley scrathcinthesurface of what i’m gonna learn, but shit is waaaaaaaaaaay skewered, powerwise, against children. Lobbies, Laws, Institutional habits/cultrures. Kids vs. Predators? Guess whose losing (YOUR A LOSER)? I promised self (Self!) I’d treat this better, but a weird night in Albuquerque, (somehow splled that write) has me spilling tthoughts this way. Statutes of Limitations, people, this is what we can attack with this new awareness this ugly (you aint’ got no alibi!) scandal has provided to us, the Penn State People Team. (don’t make me use a fooball metaphor and claim we’ gone go all four quarters’ against this blight on our, in many otherways civilized society. We gotta remove these. Childhood sexual abuse victims need and deserve ( a word I don’t use lightly) all the fucking time in the world to deal with what they’ve been through. To deal with the burgeoning courage within them to come forward and identify those who have abused them. It’s the only hope we have to keep the predators from doing it again: get them identified in the first palce.
This ‘legal tactic’ Amendola & Sandusky used today? Fuck it! Petty, small, insufficient against the Mountains of Courage the (sof ar ) 10 victims coming forward to name him and bring him to justice. Sanduskamendola got their beer msucles all swole thying to threaten these (now) men? Same shit that’s been goin on through out time. ‘We can bully them, we can challenge their willingness to ’face their accuser’ and vow to never plea. It’s shite. just like all the habits, culture, institutions and laws that allow these predators to operate. It aint’ right and it’s comin down.
So, to durnjlenlty tie these thougths back to this post, let’s be careful spending too much time on the exoneration of JoePa. Narrative, it’s organic. And communal. And it has power. And the iron is hot for awareness and change on this issue right now. JoePa, I love him, he’s gonna be fine. YOu know how I know Joe Paterno is gonna be fine? He’s a man. He hugs like Grown Men do. (Note to Sandusky: Grown Men, plural, hug each other like men, cuz there’s a man on the other side of that hug, not an adolescent boy, you misguided, lost soul, you!). He’s Eyetalian. He’s from Brooklyn. He’s a motherfucking man, and a good one, and he’s gonna be fine through this. You know the aspects of Joe Paterno that are gonna be damaged? His image, his brand, his legacy. All shit the arrogant part of Joe Paterno obvs cares/cared about, but which pale in comparison to what the man inside behind those things cares about: goodness, doing right, protecting & raising children into men & women. His heart stings, and he’s got lots of regrets, but he’s gonna fine. He’ll get through it and move on. WHatever moving on means to an old man. IGriruative or literal.
THose kids, tho, those adults, who were sexually abused as kids? By Sandusky or any number of as yet unidentified & culturally protected predator/cowards? They’re gonna have a little more work to do than Joe Pa does, before he joins the Bear. They got a lot of work ahead of them. So let’s be careful with the narrative. I know it’s hard, in this Information AGe, when Speed & Theme & PR & Brand carry so much got damn weight, but BSD is my motherfucking living room too, and (tears streming down myu drunjen face), we, WE (h/’t Derry) gotta remember those kids.
(bloody oath, just re-reading what I streamed. Hav e million edits. But wont’ make em. Obvs sobered up a bit from start to finish, but thoughts and emotes are true and raw, so there you are. They stay. as is. #bigjurnalism4realyall)
le’ts all keep learnign and, to the extent it remains possible in the culture of internet narrative, let’s do whatever we do for the kids.

I think we have similar brain mechanisms, because I was feeling you on this. I would add the caveat noted below by NJC that you can be both dedicated to helping the victims AND angry and invested in restoring the good name of Paterno. But otherwise I feel you.
One thing that not a lot of people talk about this is exactly WHAT can be done for the victims. Everyone seems to say “the focus should be on the victims” all the time, but what does that mean? I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty sure the victims don’t want “focus” insofar as focus means massive amounts of attention. It seems that most of them would like to remain anonymous to the public while pursuing some modicum of personal justice.
The focus should be on supporting the victims. Well-meaning attempts to show your sympathy might perhaps be counterproductive. Instead of taking a somber attitude about the whole thing and constantly saying things like “these kids lives are ruined” or whatever, the best thing we can do is create a climate where we’re sympathetic, but encouraging. Terrible things happened, and the effects have been and will be felt in many aspects of their life, but they are still capable of very much, perhaps even more than most because they are able to overcome massive adversity everyday and have such courage and perspective that they can bring to everything they do. So I think the attitude should be that of support and encouragement.
Also, some pseudo-intellectuals and perpetually unhappy souls (coughBellancacough) have been critical of our efforts to raise funds for sex abuse nonprofits, characterizing our efforts as an attempt to buy salvation or some other sort of horribly mixed metaphor. Don’t worry about what they think. I’m very proud of the money we have raised for RAINN and hope that as I begin to actually make money, I can continue to identify charities that do good work in this area and continue to fund them. It barely even makes me feel any better, but it’s really not about me. The bottom line is that the charity accepts that money, and uses it to improve resources for victims and information for prevention of these atrocities in the future. Like I said above, it’s very difficult to be personally involved in trying to help this problem – the focus should be on supporting the victims (unless you know a victim personally, passive support is probably better) and helping to change the climate that exists so that things like this cannot happen as frequently or easily as they seem to have in this case.
"We gon' get down. We gon' do the do. I'm going to hit these mother****ers" - Dock Ellis, May 1, 1974.
Sober Thoughts
This is a delicate line I’m trying to walk. I could never stand ppl telling me what or how to think. And we’ve seen several examples here recently of language like that which rubs ppl the wrong way (‘people, please shut up, please stop blank’). And please believe I am very wary of developing any rep as some kind of thought police douchea.
On the other hand sits the issue of collective narrative: what is BSD talking about? If I, as an individual, am interested in attempting to steer a group theme, or at least keep a certain theme alive in the conversation, what are my options? Hammer, hammer, repeat, repeat in the comments; hit the fanposts more frequently? And with this subject it’s been particularly hard. Not only is there a previously extant jokey meme (‘do it for the kids’), but there’s also this notion that most of that path’s content has already been collectively stipulated. ‘Of course we don’t condone childhood sexual abuse, duh!’ And it then proceeds to the It Goes Without Saying pile.
But this result is problematic. Like we saw in the beginning of this mess, there is the general danger inherent when a single theme gathers enough steam that it evolves into a mob mentality (pitchforks, hurry people!), especially when it is of lesser import than another theme sitting right there beside it! But more importantly because the part where ‘it goes without saying’ evolving quickly into actually not saying anything about it remains the most fundamental problem at the very core of these original crimes. It’s the piece of the childhood sexual abuse problem our society most urgently needs the solution for.
New Jack (Carlisle represent!) is right above, of course: the twin subjects are not mutually exclusive. Conversation about exonerating JoePa can certainly coexist with those which look to latch onto the current awareness of childhood sexual abuse to try to find ways to make it safer for children. I’m still trying very hard to figure out how to best to talk about some of these coexisting, sometimes inter-related, themes. I hope tony & others will forgive any threadjacks and, most importantly, any conversational rebukes I will continue to try to make super-gently, if at all.
Octa, I’ve been doing some reading on all this and have a few thoughts I’d like your advice on; I’ll send you an email when I get to the mind-to-keyboard transcription phase.
I just can't get the notion out of my head....
…that the “university” has been itching to get rid of Joe and the BoT used this horrible incident as the perfect excuse to do so.
But other things perplex me in this whole sordid affair. As I wrote before, why was an honorable, decent, and very accomplished man in Joe Paterno not given the benefit of the doubt, not only by his employer, but the media and public as well? Why all the instant hate for Joe and outright glee in his demise from most? I just have a very hard time reconciling this.
I guess I shouldn’t be overly surprised because from living in W. Pa. I can tell you that the irrational hate for Joe and to a lesser degree PSU has been at a ridiculous level for a long time (pretty much since the mid-80s, which, I think not coincidentally, coincided with the downturn of Pitt football…I think it started then with the “ok, we’re starting to suck so let’s tear down the still successful PSU program to make ourselves feel better”). So while maybe I’m not surprised, it still disappoints me. Joe certainly deserved better treatment and the benefit of the doubt. He deserved it at least as much (and I think much more so) than Boeheim (who has just been sued by the VICTIMS – Joe has not even been criticized by any of Sanduskey’s victims).
Joe got jobbed, bottom line. All involved with it should be ashamed of what they did. Face it, his reputation from his entire life’s work has been ruined. Ruined by people who are not even close to half as honorable and decent as he is. And that is sooooo messed up…and sad.

Well, because Spanier and Paterno hated each other.
There’s your key difference, and they really made no secret about it.
Firing Paterno was the last move in the power struggle that’s been going on for years up there. And that’s not to say that the entire BOT has wanted Joe gone since 2004 — that’s rather obviously not true, or he would’ve been gone much sooner. Paterno lost his most influential supporter when Bill Schreyer died in January (the Schreyers had contributed $58,000,000 to PSU). He was in the last year of his coaching contract and in obviously declining health. There was a 95% chance that he was going to retire anyway (in fact, I was told that he informed Spanier of this prior to the season began). Basically, from a leverage standpoint, the people who wanted Joe Paterno out never had a better opportunity, and that was before the Sandusky thing exploded. So we’re really talking about the difference between Joe coaching those last three or four games, or not.
Let’s be real, this could’ve been handled better by everybody involved. Everybody knew this scandal was looming and nobody took it seriously enough. In the face of a monumental sex scandal that immediately crippled the football program and university at large, Joe didn’t have the right to unilaterally declare that he was going to coach the rest of the season without first running that by the people in charge — including Spanier and the BOT. That was his huge risk, considering that he really wasn’t in a position to be dictating anything at that point due to all of the factors above. He essentially tried to back the BOT into a corner one last time, and they finally had the nerve to strike back (not in any sort of heroic way, mind you).
All of this is awful. Everybody handled it excessively poorly. I mean, name one person who come out of this looking better. Tom Bradley, and that’s probably it.

n 2004 Joe knew what he was doing
And I’m not talking about football. Four losing seasons in five years created a lot of media speculation. By Joe convincing Spanier and Curley to allow him to handle things back then, the whole issue of his “retirement” and replacement became a non story. The vacuum was soon filled by the feel good coverage of the committments of prep superstars Justin King and Derrick Williams.
When it comes to the media, if you look at it like a huge beast with an insatiable appitite, you have to realize that almost every decision you make has the potential to “feed the beast,” and reinforce some behavior you’re trying to minimize. In the Sandusky Story, emotions were runnning extremely high and journalistic reporting merged seamlessly with commentary and oped. The only way to manage that, would be to limit anything further that could be reported on, then commented on, then editorialized about (just my theory).
I tried above to get the point across that the decisions of the PSU BOT continud to feed the beast , when they, indeed the university, would have been better served to move slowley and deliberately, while placating the beast with crumbs in the form of press releases, something like:
“We’re looking into the situation and considering all alternatives,” or “A decision is forthcoming, and we will let you know as soon as practible,” or even, “The administrators and coaches involved are on leave until further notice, and due to legal ramifications we cannot comment further.”
But, dear God, firing Paterno in the middle of the night by phone? And on the same night asking for Spanier’s resignation – “Charlie Foxtrot” if I ever saw one.
Rule number one: Don’t feed the beast.
Rule Number two: Do what actually works, not what you think might work.

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