Paterno, Clinton and Gingrich: Why Personal Morals Matter
By Doug Newman
(If you are not a sports degenerate like I am, please bear with me for a few paragraphs.)
It is such a shocking and tragic story on so many levels that no one knows where to begin. Just over a week ago, Joe Paterno was the most revered figure in contemporary American sports. He led the Penn State Nittany Lions football team to a Division I record 409 victories, two national championships and six undefeated seasons. Moreover, he had been a beacon of integrity and honor in the hideously corrupt world of college sports. In his 46 years at the helm, there had been no recruiting violations, his players graduated at a very high rate and he did extensive work to enhance the academic stature of the university.
For Paterno, winning was neither everything nor the only thing. Perhaps the best portrayal of the Joe we thought we knew is this article from 1986 when Sports Illustrated named him “Sportsman of the Year.”
I had suspected for years that Paterno’s legendary career wouldn’t end well. Most likely, I thought it would come in the form of an ultimatum from his physician that he was just no longer physically equal to the demands of his job. (Paterno will be 85 in December.)
And then the dam broke: Paterno had looked the other way for years while long time assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had – according to a grand jury indictment – sexually assaulted eight young boys. Several more accusers have come forth since. We will probably never know how many boys were molested, i.e. had their lives he destroyed.
Yes, Paterno notified his bosses at Penn State, thus complying with state law. Merely complying with the law, however, is a very weak moral standard. Just because the law permits something – abortion, pornography, membership in the KKK – doesn’t make it morally right.