The Penn State/Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse story is about as bad as it's going to get when it comes to a college level scandal. The Sandusky actions alone were horrendous and spoke of a monster in the form of a trusted individual that rivals some of the worst in the history of this country. When you factor in the massive coverup to save face by high level university employees, including one of the most beloved coaches of all time, then this story gains a new level of disgust when you think about what could have been prevented.
But let's look beyond Sandusky and even beyond the acts for a minute and look at the biggest undercurrent of this story; the fall of Joe Paterno from one of college football's greatest coaches to one of its most reviled.
Paterno, outside of Sandusky — and even that's questionable — took the biggest punishment out of all this and he took it to his grave. He lost his records, his statue, his status as the best, and easily the harshest part of all this, Paterno lost the one job that he lived for.
Later this month, Joe Posnanski is set to put out a biography on the life of Joe Paterno and he recently sat down with GQ magazine to discuss Paterno's reaction to being fired and the scandal behind it. Posnanski had a front row seat for all the drama as he was at Penn State during the 2011 season and was there when this mess unfolded.
In the GQ piece, he describes Paterno's reaction the day after his removal as coach:
“On Thursday, Paterno met with his coaches at his house. He sobbed uncontrollably. This was his bad day. Later, one of his former captains, Brandon Short, stopped by the house. When Brandon asked, 'How are you doing, Coach?' Paterno answered, 'I'm okay,' but the last syllable was shaky, muffled by crying, and then he broke down and said, 'I don't know what I'm going to do with myself.' Nobody knew how to handle such emotion. Joe had always seemed invulnerable. On Thursday, though, he cried continually.”
Posnanski went on to share that when the news broke of Sandusky's indictment, Paterno's son Scott was the first to recognize the seriousness of the charges because of his father's involvement and that it could cost him his job.
“Scott Paterno was the first in the family to understand that the Pennsylvania grand jury presentment that indicted Jerry Sandusky could end his father's career. This wasn't surprising; Scott tended to be the most realistic—or cynical, depending on who you asked—in the family. He had run for Congress and lost and along the way tasted the allure and nastiness of public life. He had worked as a lawyer and as a lobbyist. He would sometimes tell people, "Hey, don't kid yourself, I'm the asshole of the family." When Scott read the presentment, he called his father and said, "Dad, you have to face the possibility that you will never coach another game."
There were many victims in the fallout of this scandal and while in no way am I saying that Joe Paterno is as much a victim as the boys Jerry Sandusky abused, I am saying that he was a victim and he paid a steep price for his involvement in it.
It just goes to show that while it takes a lifetime to build a legacy, all it takes is one bad decision to tear it all down.
James LeBeau is a sports contributor for CraveOnline Sports and you can follow him on Twitter @JleBeau76 or subscribe on Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.
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