Penn State football legend Joe Paterno is dead. Many people are currently debating what his legacy should be and, in the end, I suppose it will be left to historians to sort it all out. Why? Because right now most people don't know what the hell they're talking about. It's all what ifs, shouldas, couldas and wouldas.
The masses love a sensational story, whether it turns out to be true or not, and the media not only knows that, they prey on it.
Many scribes and talking heads have said Joe Pa could and should have done more when the Jerry Sandusky situation came to his attention. He reported what he heard to his superiors at Penn State, yet many claim that wasn't enough. He should have went to the cops.
Though we seem to be inching closer to it, this country isn't Stalin's USSR or the former East Germany just yet. As much as prosecutors would like us to believe it, people are not obligated to run to the police and sing like a canary every time they hear a rumor, or get second or third hand information about something that may or may not constitute a crime, if it ever even happened in the first place.
Since the whole story went viral, Jerry Sandusky has adamantly and steadfastly insisted that he is innocent. He's already been convicted in the court of public opinion, of course, much like OJ Simpson was in his murder trial. Did Simpson or Sandusky do those terrible deeds they were accused of? I don't know. OJ's jury said he didn't. Sandusky's trial hasn't even STARTED yet, but people want to string him up.
That's the thing. As soon as an accusation was made, and the media snowball started rolling, before all the evidence could be examined and presented, and testimony heard in a court of law, the powers that be at Penn State ousted Joe Paterno. Let the heads roll, but their "image" had to be salvaged at all costs.
And, in my opinion, that's when he started to die. Yes, Joe Pa was an elderly man with lung cancer and his long term prognosis was probably not good. But giving him the boot, after all he's done for that university over many decades, for crimes that may or may not have happened -- and he certainly had nothing to do with -- likely caused him to give up his will to live. Might he have endured a few more days, weeks, months, or even years, if he hadn't been subjected to what came about? I suspect no one, including his doctors, can answer that question for sure. The "will" to live can be a very powerful force. How many of us have seen or heard of people recovering from "impossible odds", or emerging from a years long coma to once again enjoy life? It happens. Conversely, we've also seen or heard the sad stories about a parent or grandparent losing their spouse, and though otherwise seemingly healthy, gave up the will to live and perished shortly thereafter themselves. Tragically, that happens too.
I think Joe Pa more closely fell into the latter category. His work was his life, and when that was not only ripped away, but with humiliation piled on by those that can't see or don't care beyond the next column they write, or sound bytes they utter, he just gave up. Nowhere else to go.
They basically killed him.
Here's a thought --- in a year or two, or however long the whole Sandusky trial takes before a jury somewhere renders its verdict -- what happens if they come back with "not guilty"? What then?
Joe Pa will still be dead, but will the scribes and talking heads that pointed fingers at him to begin with retract their statements and/or apologize? Of course not.
They'll be busy trashing somebody else in their latest sensational story, before any facts are in, much less whether it turns out to be true or not in the end.
And THAT, is obscene.