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Curiously Short posts

Well … I suspect you know why I have not posted a blog for a long time. It doesn’t look like anything will be clearing up any time soon either.

But there have been things I’ve wanted to write about … so, with your indulgence, I believe the blog posts for the next few weeks will be Curiously Short.

I’ll begin with this curiously short thought:

I wrote just about everything I plan to write for a while about the Penn State situation here. I know there are people who believe that I have a responsibility to write more, to have an opinion, to come out strong, I know this because many, many people have written to tell me that in no uncertain terms.

I respect their opinion. But I disagree with it. The way I see it: I have a responsibility to write the best, most insightful and most honest book I can possibly write about Joe Paterno. That’s what I signed up for. I’m not backing down from that because of this awful, evil situation. I’m also not walking away from a life and a man. When something this horrible happens, it’s hard to hear yourself think — it’s impossible for me to hear anything. I won’t add to the noise. If you want to read instant and strong opinions about Penn State and Joe Paterno, I can assure you there is no shortage of howling there.

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169 Responses to Curiously Short posts

  1. Dave V. says:

    You’re entitled to your opinion, Joe…and so am I. I’m just a random person out there, so this probably doesn’t mean much, but with this, you’ve lost me as a reader.

  2. It is a noble quest to measure the entire life of a man, and you may believe that the good that Joe Paterno has accomplished in his life and career somehow outbalances his egregious moral failings in this sordid (and very long) chapter of his life. It’s a cliche to say that every man and woman is flawed. If you’ve ever sat through the defense phase of a criminal trial, you have probably heard testimony that people who have committed terrible crimes also are capable of acts of human kindness. It’s hard not to feel sorry for them even when you know intellectually that they have done wrong.
    But here’s how the scoreboard (and for that matter, the criminal justice system) works: Certain acts and behavior are so far beyond acceptable that they erase and tarnish all that has come before. When you ignore the evidence and cling to the hope that “there must be some explanation,” you have thrown away your journalistic credibility and indicate that what you are really interested in is writing feel-good fairy tales.

  3. EdB says:

    I’m interested in the explanation. Whatever it is. I agree with those who say “let’s hear Joe Paterno’s side of the story.” Not sure it will be worth hearing at this rate, though.

    I’ll buy your book, Joe. I am a big fan of your writing. You picked a remarkable time to be at State College.

  4. Clashfan says:

    Hold it, let’s not act like it was Paterno who abused those boys. He didn’t. That was Sandusky, and in our rush to blame Paterno and others at Penn State, I think that gets lost. While it may be a cliche to say that everyone is flawed, it’s an even worse one to paint everyone and everything in black and white terms.

    I think Paterno didn’t want to believe it of his friend, a man he’d worked with closely for decades. I think it *possible* that McQueary was not explicit with Paterno, that he said something like, “It looked pretty bad, Coach.”

    I think JoePos is not trying to excuse what Paterno did, I think he is trying to understand it, to find out just exactly what he knew, and what he did and did not do. I think that is a legitimate stance for a journalist.

  5. Chris Hill says:

    Unlike the first two commenters above, I’m completely with you, Joe. In fact, when I noticed the radio silence coming from your blog, I had two thoughts. 1) I completely understand not wanting to jump into the fray, and 2) for someone who headed to Penn State to write a book, this must be very, very hard.

    Keep on keeping on. I imagine that hard as it must be, you could come out of the other end of this with a book that’s much more than you envisioned going in. I hope so.

  6. Hartzdog says:


    I completely agree with your opinion. I think the idea that everyone that has ever touched a situation needs to come out and damn, and criticize, and disavow someone when it’s learned that they did something wrong is a terrible idea. It’s obvious that terrible things happened in that football program, and the public isn’t going to forget that just because Joe Posnanski doesn’t act as an echo chamber. I wonder why people need to hear their opinions echoed back at them from everyone they listen to over and over again–have your own opinions and be confident in them even if others aren’t constantly reaffirming them for you.

    I also think it’s incredibly important–terribly important, critical to our society–that we don’t damn people as “bad people.” There are at least three reasons for this.

    One: It prevents us from seeing bad deeds. When the world is divided into “good people” and “bad people” it prevents us from seeing the bad deeds that “good people” do. I’m sure that many people didn’t want to believe that Sandusky did the terrible things he did because he was a “good person”: he was a great coach, started a charity, helped kids, etc. And “good people” don’t do terrible things to kids. Well, that’s simply not true. People that are “good” in many facets of their lives can do terrible things in certain situations, and we need to realize that fact.

    Two: It prevents us from allowing people to redeem themselves. Once we realize that there are no good people or bad people–just good acts and bad acts–it’s harder for us to believe that people who have committed bad acts can in the future stop committing bad acts and make positive contributions to society. I’m not talking specifically about people that sexually abuse kids (I’m aware that many people believe that there is a fundamental defect in such people such that they can never stop doing what they do; I’m also aware that there are studies showing that recidivism rates among such people are not higher than those who commit other crimes) but people that commit bad acts generally. As the prison population in the U.S. has skyrocketed, our general unwillingness to allow former felons to become full members of society has created a caste of people who can’t get good jobs and live in good neighborhoods. This is obviously bad for them, but bad for us as well: we’re being robbed of the talents of many potentially talented people (you think Andrew Jackson could have risen to the top after the crap he pulled as a young man in Tennessee?).

  7. Hartzdog says:

    Three: It prevents us from seeing the potential for each of us to do bad things. Every person has the potential to do terrible evil. Every person has the potential to do great good. We need to be watchful of our own selves and the decisions we make to ensure that we’re doing good, and not evil. I think when people are convinced that they are “good people,” they let themselves do worse things. This is true among such mundane things as hard working businessmen who skim a little off the top and wonderful parents and committed spouses who let themselves “slip” a little on long business trips. This is also true among such non-mundane things as soldiers who do terrible things because they think their cause is correct. When we focus on good and bad acts, and not good and bad people, it gives us more clarity.

    Finally Joe, I’ve made this same comment on your blog when talking about the steroids debate: Athletic talents does not equate to moral virtue. The fact that people do amazing things on an athletic field does not mean that they are “good people.” Some of our best athletes have had terrible moral failings. And it is important that we teach kids that just because someone is a good athlete it doesn’t mean they are going to go great things off the field, and vice versa. When we white-wash our sports, we rob ourselves of a chance to contemplate the complexities in society and in people themselves.

    Joe Paterno did great things as a football coach. Writing a book that praises those great things means that you have a high opinion of his abilities as a football coach. It doesn’t mean that you approve of every decision the man has ever made—people that can’t separate the two ideas aren’t people you want as readers anyway. I’m sure that reading about Paterno’s coaching style and abilities will be both fun and could teach us ideas and techniques that we could use in our jobs and in our relationships. Just because we learn something about Paterno the football coach doesn’t mean that we have to emulate Paterno the man.lves.

    Joe Paterno did great things as a football coach. Writing a book that praises those great things means that you have a high opinion of his abilities as a football coach. It doesn’t mean that you approve of every decision the man has ever made—people that can’t separate the two ideas aren’t people you want as readers anyway. I’m sure that reading about Paterno’s coaching style and abilities will be both fun and could teach us ideas and techniques that we could use in our jobs and in our relationships. Just because we learn something about Paterno the football coach doesn’t mean that we have to emulate Paterno the man.

  8. Tampa Mike says:

    This outlandish rush to judgement is exactly what Joe was talking about. There is very little fact out there about what JoePa did or didn’t know. A lot of people seem to be attacking him more than Sandusky, which is completely insane to me. There is this blind rage out there to yell and scream in outrage, but when you yell and scream you can’t listen.

  9. Mark Daniel says:

    Clearly we don’t have Joe Paterno’s side of the story. I believe that since Joe Paterno is a legend and is also older than dirt (and was older than dirt in 2002), he doesn’t actually do anything other than make speeches and make decisions. I think this was also the case in 2002 when he was still 75 years old. Any ancillary activity or any leg work was done by somebody else.
    So, when the grad assistant came to him in 2002, he did what he always does – he made a decision that something must be done, and he told someone else to do it. I suppose he could have followed up, but do we know for sure that he didn’t do that and was told everything was taken care of?

  10. David says:

    If you wish to reserve judgement, that is understandable. But describing those who come out with decisive statements as “howling” seems pretty unfair in the other direction.

    On, Jack McCallum has a piece in which he rues an article he wrote long ago on Jerry Sandusky. It is not a long piece, or a detailed one, but it provides some helpful insight based on McCallumn’s experience. That is what people hope for from you, Joe–not fiery speeches at the the head of a lynch mob.

  11. Clashfan says:

    Something I saw in a comment on a news story: If McQeary saw a boy being abused in the shower and did nothing to stop it, would he have said that to Paterno? I wouldn’t want to sit across from my grandpa and tell him that I’d witnessed a horrible crime, that I could have stopped, and did nothing.

    What do you really think McQeary told Paterno?

  12. Mark says:

    I haven’t seen anything anywhere that suggests that Joe went to State College for the purpose of writing about how awesome Joe Paterno is. He seems to be planning to do, you know, journalism, where you find out the facts BEFORE you write the story. So let’s not assume that going forward with the project equals a whitewash job. I don’t get why anyone who reads this regularly could even think that *might* be the case.

  13. @tampamike
    I think “rush to judgment” is a funny way to characterize the reactions to this, especially since Paterno and Penn State have had at least 13 years to make judgments about their continued connection to Sandusky, who was still a regular on the campus *last week*. Maybe if McQueary had made a rush to judgment that night, or Paterno had made a rush to judgment the next day, some of this awful episode could have been avoided.

  14. Viki says:

    As a resident of State College, I can tell you there is a LOT of noise out here right now . . .along with confusion, grief, nausea and a million other feelings/reactions. Do I think McQueary should have at least called 911? Yes. Do I think JoePa made a serious error in (as far as we know) not contacting the police? Absolutely. Should JoePoz wait for even just a little bit to get past the absolute tornado of emotion we’re all feeling out here? Yup.

    I have to tell all of you Brilliant Readers: It is very difficult to live and be here right now.

  15. @Mark

    Joe Posnanski’s entire body of work as a sportswriter suggests to me (in a rush to judgment) that he was in State College “for the purpose of writing about how awesome Joe Paterno is.” Just as he has written about how awesome Buck O’Neil was, and how awesome the Big Red Machine was. And how awesome Priest Holmes was, and Mike Sweeney and Dan Quisenberry and Duane Kuiper.

  16. Thatch85 says:

    Did the first two commenters read Joe’s post? “There will be a lot written about Penn State and Paterno and this stomach-churning story over the next while. I’ll read, but I won’t write. Not yet. In time, I will. My old friend Buck O’Neil always used to say that what you do in the dark will come to light. As a writer, it’s dark outside.”

    He’s a journalist. He’s doing his job. Save the moralizing for the perpetrator of these horrible acts, and yes, for anyone who knew and failed to do anything about it. Joe’s writing a book. If that book comes out and it glosses over the scandal, or goes out of its way to protect Paterno, then feel free to direct your anger at Posnanski. In the meantime, let him do what he does best: gather and process information and report it to us. I don’t care how long it takes him. I want justice in this case, and I’m hopeful that Posanski will do his usual good work writing about it, when the time comes. But let him do his job.

  17. Mark Daniel says:

    Harwood, I understand what you’re saying. I think Joe was probably going to write a laudatory book on Joe Paterno. But characterizing Joe’s “entire body of work” this way is wrong. I’m thinking of Tiger Woods, Ryan Howard, and Jim Rice as examples of the contrary. More recently I’m thinking Tim McCarver and Michael Young.

  18. Unknown says:

    I do not understand the appeal of football. Indeed before the awfulness of this week, my interest in Penn State Football was exclusively limited to the following:

    1) Joe Posnanski is writing a book on Paterno
    2) Joe Posnanski is writing a book on Joe Paterno.

    So when appalling revelations came in about Penn State, as the eyes of most turned to Joe Paterno, mine turned to Joe Posnanski. Over many years I have come not only to adore Joe as a writer on very silly things, but to trust him as a man. I look up to Joe, and in his more personal writings (especially about his family) I see the man I hope to become.

    And so in a time of darkness, I took petty solace in the fact that the best we have as a sports culture was in place to confront the greatest scandal in American sports history.

    Joe, you don’t have any obligation to speak. But in a story where people allowed immense evil to happen because they stopped at the limits of their obligations, I think there is real sadness that a great journalist with unparalleled ability and a special perspective on that evil chooses to remain silent. If there is ever a time and place in sport for great journalism, it is this week in Happy Valley.

    I recommend a piece by Michael Weinreb that does something akin to what I (admittedly unfairly) expected from our Joe. It is not a call for Joe Paterno’s head; it is the story of a man with a particular perspective on an appalling situation. It is human and it is painful and it brings light to the darkness of atrocity.

    I hope the book that you write, Joe, will be as light-bringing. I wish you were able to write part of it now.

  19. Mike Cecconi says:

    Paterno was involved in covering up decades of child molestation and rape, Joe. His position of power and the protection he provided to his underling not only protected the underling from the law but actively allowed the child molestation and rape to continue.

    He could’ve stopped it. He didn’t do it but he could have stopped it with a word.

    And he didn’t.

    Something as piddling and insignificant as winning little football games should gain the man no quarter or sympathy.

    And given the breadth and depth of the horrors he facilitated, nor should his age.

    He allowed rape to continue and florish. I don’t know if there’s any other details about his life that could matter compared to that.

  20. Clashfan says:

    Mike C., no one is saying that being a winning coach, or being old will or should excuse anything.

    The questions at hand are what exactly Paterno was told, both my McQueary, and by the AD. I think it’s entirely believable that Paterno did not know what McQueary witnessed. I don’t have all the facts. Neither does Joe. And neither do you.

  21. tomemos says:

    At the risk of poking the hornets’ nest, some people are being, simply, crazy in this thread. The fact that the first comment is someone vowing never to read Joe again, because Joe is reserving judgment on a case that is still less than a week old, tells you everything you need to know about how raw this still is for folks.

    There sometimes is value in condemnation, certainly–particularly when no one else is taking part. But there is sometimes value in waiting to get all the facts, too–particularly when few others are doing that. This is not a whistle-blower situation, where more people could be harmed if Joe doesn’t speak up. It would show no particular moral courage for Joe to disavow Paterno. It does show a certain amount of courage for Joe to continue his book project on him, as evidenced by the number of people who now want to add Posnanski to the people in this case who really did turn a blind eye to wrongdoing.

  22. How did this all come to light this past weekend? Do we know if it was Posnanski that forced everyone’s hands by discovering the truth and telling the police? We know that he has the access to Penn State this year. Perhaps the greatest living sports writer (IMHO) of our times is also a great investigative reporter too?

  23. Dan The Reed says:

    As a writer, I cannot fathom the weight and the burden of responsibility Joe Posnanski must feel. What a unique and terrible vantage point he has to one of the most horrible “sports” stories that’s ever happened.

    My opinion, and it’s just that, is that the only person Joe owes anything to is himself. If he decides to move forward with the book, then it must simply live up to the standards he holds for himself. If he were to walk away from the book, from sports-writing, I’d understand that too. His responsibility is to himself – to produce something he’s comfortable with.

    Yes this is an ambiguous definition that places a lot of blind faith in the author. But it is why I come to read what he has to say. I don’t always agree with it (though more often than not, I do). But I do want to hear it. I want to experience these stories thru the unique lens that Joe Posnanski sees things.

    Again it is just my opinion, but I don’t feel Joe Posnanski owes me, as a reader, anything. I do trust that he will live up to the standards he has set for himself, and that’s plenty fine by me. This (his) post indicates that he takes that responsibility seriously.

  24. Clashfan says:

    Portland Living–the DA announced grand jury indictments of Sandusky and two PSU administrators. There’s been a two-year investigation.

  25. I came here expecting insight from Joe – and from BR’s.
    Thanks Joe, thanks Clashfan, Chris H, Hartzdog, tomemos, Dan the R.
    Judgementalism and outrage rarely shed much light.
    This is dang sad, and I have little to offer, and no expectation that some sportswriter or opinionator, holding forth about someone’s moral failings will really be all that helpful.
    More than my desire for punishment for those who failed these children, is my desire for good care for them as they seek to piece together their lives.
    It is so sad.

  26. E Haines says:

    Joe, I think you’d better serve the greater good by writing about that old High School coach.

  27. adam says:

    Wow. What I gather from reading many of the comments here (and on the SI post) is that:

    a) Joe is supposed to immediately come out blasting at Paterno. Anything less and he fails as a journalist.

    b) If Joe holds back on his opinion, that somehow means his book about Paterno is still going to be glowing, or that Joe believes “there must be some explanation” to summarize what Harwood wrote.

    Did it occur to you all that when Joe does finally come out with an opinion, he might well tear Paterno a new one?

  28. Dennis Vann says:

    To all those who are condemning Paterno…what would Paterno have to do to fulfill his moral duty? If he told the athletic director, who promised an investigation by the campus police (who have primary jurisdiction over the location where the rape occurred)and told Paterno that he would not be told anything about the investigation to preserve his testimony, is that enough? If he was told by the athletic director that the allegations were unsubstantiated, is that enough? If Paterno was not specifically told by McQueary what he witnessed due to McQueary’s shock, is that enough? I think those that speak of Paterno’s moral duty should outline what the moral line is that Paterno failed to meet. I think Paterno had a duty to report the situation to his superior and follow the protocol established by his superior. If the athletic director told him that it was going to be reported to the campus police or “the proper authorities,” I do not think Paterno had a duty to report it to the police. If Paterno was told that the investigation found nothing (as Second Life was told), I do not believe he had a duty to force a prosecution by reporting it to another police agency.

    The only public facts about the situation are those in the grand jury report and those that Penn State has allowed him to release in public statements. The prosecution might not have asked him whether he followed up on the initial report because they might want to save that evidence for trial, since it would make the parties charged with failure to report and perjury look much worse to the jury. Penn State does not want Paterno to release any information that would make them civilly liable, and any information indicating a cover-up that likely happened would expose Penn State. I do not know if any of these scenarios or doubts are true. I feel, however, that information is being left out by many parties. I think the prosecution is leaving out information to enhance their prosecution of the parties that allegedly committed horrible crimes. I think Penn State is forcing Paterno to leave out information to continue their despicable pattern of avoiding blame.

    I agree that turning a blind eye to a child molester is reprehensible. I agree that willingly doing the minimum required by law with the knowledge that it would allow a monster to stay on campus is terrible. I do not know that Joe Paterno committed any of those omissions and neither do any of the reporters who have called for his immediate resignation, unless they have information that they are not sharing with the general public. Good luck with your book, Mr. Posnanski, and I hope that you are able to find all of the facts behind the situation and make your judgment from there.

  29. jkak says:

    While many questions remain to be answered with respect to the criminal prosecutions of Sandusky and the Penn State administrators who have been charged thus far, and with respect to Paterno’s potential criminal culpability, there is no question that Paterno, the great preacher of honesty and honor, failed a great moral test placed in his path.

    There is no doubt that Penn State officials knew Sandusky had engaged in at least questionable behavior with a young boy: they banned him from bringing boys into athletic facilities. Given Paterno’s position of power at that institution, it is impossible to believe that he did not give his blessing to that action.

    In 2002, Paterno was fighting with the Penn State administration over whether he would be allowed to keep coaching. The administration wanted him to retire; he refused. It is hard not to conclude that Paterno’s desire to remain coach at Penn State, his quest to be the winningest football coach in history, played some role in his handling of the Sandusky matter.

    If it is true that Paterno did not know enough details of the Sandusky situation to at least raise a question of possible criminal behavior, it is because he chose to remain ignorant rather than pursue a course that would bring those details to light. Paterno, the lover of Latin and Greek classical literature, knows extremely well the concept of moral duty: characters in the classics are defined by their responses to the types of moral dilemmas with which Paterno was faced. It is his failure to sacrifice his quest for personal glory in order to fulfill his moral duty that will render Paterno’s story a tragedy.

  30. jkak says:

    @ Dennis Vann:

    The moral duty Paterno had was to go to the police or the district attorney so that a real investigation would be conducted. His moral duty was to ensure that if Sandusky had abused a young boy, particularly in an athletic department building, Sandusky would be prosecuted and the boy given appropriate treatment.

    “Reporting” to the athletic department cannot have been intended to result in a full, impartial investigation. Paterno ran the athletic department, and as demonstrated by his success in preventing the University from forcing him to retire, probably was the most powerful person on campus. Keeping the matter within the athletic department was a cover up, and a moral failing on the part of Paterno.

  31. Dennis Vann says:

    @jkak…Which police? Should he have reported it to the campus police or the State College police? They both have concurrent jurisdiction over the campus, but the campus police had primary jurisdiction, so they probably would have handled the investigation anyways. I personally believe that the campus police would have covered it up anyways, like they helped cover up Sandusky’s actions in 1998 (Paterno was not even interviewed as part of that investigation). The reason I’m holding back on judgment is I want to know who the campus police and the athletic department were protecting. If it was Paterno, then the District Attorney should comb everything to find any criminal responsibility, the numerous honors should be taken away and Paterno should pay. If the athletic director or the president were protecting themselves, then they deserve the same. Since the athletic director has been indicted I have my views on who was being protected.

    As far as Paterno’s retirement, Paterno should have retired after 2004. He was unwilling to do so when asked. Paterno should have then been fired. The athletic director and the president had the authority to do so and knew he was destroying the program through his declining leadership. I think they could have overcome the public vitriol if they had changed the public discourse from focusing on wins and losses to focusing on his inability to take the responsibilities of the head coach. I blame Paterno for not knowing when it was time for him to take another position at Penn State with fewer responsibilities, and I think that failure had a connection with the cover-ups, but that failure is smaller than the failures he has been blamed for with what I feel is too little evidence.

  32. Ed says:

    I find it both hilarious and appalling how many people commenting here are apparently omniscient and know exactly what happened in Penn State’s athletic department, and with their VP and President, and with Joe Paterno.

    None of you know what you are talking about. NONE of you. Not a single one of you was actually there when this took place, so stop. You can’t just assume Paterno knew everything that happened and covered it up; that’s crazy conspiracy talk. But people also can’t assume that Paterno knew absolutely nothing and is completely innocent.

    I wish people would step back and actually find out the facts before rushing to judgment. Remember Mike Nifong and the Duke lacrosse team? Basically everyone blasted them and believed they had raped a girl…and it turned out she made it all up and they were innocent. It’s completely plausible that Paterno never knew what Sandusky was doing — there are tons of people who have had friends and/or relatives engaged in reprehensible behavior and never knew about it.

    I want to know exactly what McQeary told Paterno. If he was vague, then maybe Paterno did nothing wrong by going to the AD and one of the vice presidents of the university….the ball was then in their court. However, if Paterno knew some of the sordid details and chose to only go to the AD/VP and not the police, that’s a moral failing.

    Regardless, like someone else said, Sandusky is the villain here. If Paterno really knew what was going, then he’s culpable as well, but the vitriol being thrown at Paterno is over the top.

  33. rokirovka says:

    Only a fool could believe Paterno did not understand from McQueary that this was an allegation of abuse of a child by Sandusky. No matter how unspecific McQueary was, it must have been clear that it involved Sandusky, a child, and improper behavior. Enough said. Paterno failed to ensure that these allegations were reported to any authorities outside of Penn State. Those are all the facts anyone needs to know in order to condemn Paterno for a moral failing. Yes, it is the responsibility of a journalist close to the situation to make such a judgment and express it publicly.

    As late as last night, a group of Penn State supporters were still so blinded to the truth of the situation that they stood outside Paterno’s house and allowed him to lead them in a cheer of “We Are Penn State!” I see a similar blindness in the comments of some of Posnanski’s defenders here. It is denial, and it is sad.

    But almost everyone knows down deep that withholding an opinion on Paterno right now is wrong. That’s why almost every comment on this blog this morning is on the Paterno post, and only 2 people could bring themselves to follow Posnanski in setting the Paterno story aside to move on and comment on the Frazier post.

  34. Clashfan says:

    Rokirova, well, no, not enough said, actually. We do not know all the facts. It *is* important to know how much Paterno knew about what McQeary saw (and what about McQueary’s role in this, huh? He actually SAW it take place and did nothing). If McQueary was vague about what he saw, then Paterno is less culpable.

    Remember that campus police *are* sworn officers; they have jurisdiction on campus. If Paterno was told that they investigated and came up with zilch, then what was Paterno supposed to do?

    Right now, I am not comfortable with students rallying at Paterno’s house in support. But I’m also not comfortable with blindly castigating him, either.

  35. Unknown says:

    “As my grand jury testimony stated, I was informed in 2002 by an assistant coach that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of our locker room facility. It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the grand jury report. Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators.”

    That is a direct quote from Joe Paterno’s statement. Paterno knew “something inappropriate” was going on with Sandusky yet apparently did nothing but report to his superiors (if such a thing exists for a major college football coach). Paterno also said “I did what I was supposed to with the one charge brought to my attention.” No, Paterno did what he was MINIMALLY required to do. He did not do what one is SUPPOSED to do, which is protect the child that is in danger. That is done through an actual police investigation, not a “campus police” investigation. I don’t know much about the Penn State campus police, but I’m guessing their biggest concerns are underage drinking and parking violations.

    How did Paterno hear what McQueary had to say and, as McQueary’s supervisor, come to the conclusion that McQueary shouldn’t go to the Pennsylvania police? This question is completely based on the information at hand (a quote from Joe Paterno), and I don’t think there is a possible answer that doesn’t point to Paterno as being partly culpable in the alleged horrors at Penn State.

  36. steve says:

    I would like to think Paterno simply didn’t believe McQueary, or believed there was somehow an innocent explanation. In hindsight it is easy for us to imagine it should have been obvious McQueary was telling you the truth. Imagine, though, Paterno’s positon…someone he didn’t know all that well (McQueary) coming to him with an accusation that must have seemed horrible and grotesque against someone Paterno knew intimately and had worked with for decades (Sandusky). Wouldn’t the natural reaction be disbelief? If your neighbor comes to you and tells you he saw one of your best friends and colleagues of 20 years doing something so awful, is your initial reaction to trust the neighbor? Would you think twice before immediately going to the authorities and surely destroying your friend’s reputation whether he was guilty or not? And Sandusky was obviously very good at fooling people; who knows what sort of convincing lie he was able to persaude Paterno to believe if Paterno confronted him about it?

    I also tend to think the powers of denial are amazing; humans have a strong tendency to avoid believing and confronting what is awful and unspeakable and forces us into terrible positions. All sorts of subconscious forces were pushing at Joe to just tell himself it couldn’t be so. Paterno at a minimum displayed human weakness and a lack of judgment, and with awful consequences. That might or might not be enough to take his job away from him. And I concede this is just the most innocent explanation; it is possible that Paterno knew the truth and made a conscious decision to go along with the cover up and lack of action. None of us can know. But I have to say I’m a little skpetical of those who are righteously condemning Paterno as if they know for sure they would have known exactly what to do if they were in his shoes.

  37. Joe Posnanski is being sensible and many of the commenters, in their alleged certainty, are not.

  38. Mr. Redeye says:

    Just tell the truth as you see it, Joe. That’s all we ask. But know that you’re in a unique position, and also that it’s more important now than it was a few months ago to do so.

  39. brhalbleib says:

    I suggest everyone actually read the grand jury report and make a time line, because if you do, and then also take JoePa’s words in that report for the truth, I think you can plausibly understand why JoePa didn’t elect himself judge, jury and executioner of Sandusky.

    Relevantly, Sandusky had gotten in trouble for previous inappropriate behavior with boys before. But specifically the one incident that was investigated in the late 90s by the authorities involved, at its worst, naked bear hugs in the shower. While that is gross and, also, clearly only the initial stages of where Sandusky went with his victims, in the one case that was investigated previously, it was as far as it went.

    Fast forward to 2002. If McQueary in fact was a bit vague about what he saw and didn’t come out and say he saw a rape, wouldn’t it be possible for JoePa to assume the conduct was what Sandusky got in trouble for before, which is a far cry from rape. If so, it is quite possible that he thought that telling his superiors about it was enough.

    As for what JoePa should have known, given his long standing relationship with the accused, it is very dangerous to start damning him on what he should have known. For one thing, obviously there is someone in this case with a longer and more intimate relationship with Sandusky than JoePa. Should we be crucifying her? If there is anyone who “should” have known what Sandusky was/is it would the person who shared his bed for 30+ years.

  40. tomemos says:

    rokirovka: “But almost everyone knows down deep that withholding an opinion on Paterno right now is wrong.”


  41. Anthony says:

    You know what would help us understand exactly who was at fault for what? A well-investigated revelation of every fact possible. You know what would make that impossible? Speaking before all the facts are known and passing it off as a job done.

    Joe Posnanski is a writer. He reports what he learns in story form. He cannot do his job when he is in the process of still learning the story. If you need Joe Posnanski to come out and tell you that what happened here was wrong on a number of levels, your moral compass is screwed beyond repair. So what do you so deeply need him to come out with guns blazing for? Emotional gratification? That’s you being self-centered, not Posnanski’s fault.

    Let the man do his job. Let him gather facts, talk to people, synthesize, and then tell the story. If the story is awful and skewed and glosses over any part of Joe Paterno’s life, THEN bring out your verbal arsenal. Until then, let Joe do what he is very good at.

    And for crying out loud, try to put yourself in his shoes. The man embedded himself in a campus to tell a story of a legendarily-good man and had the whole picture, frame and all, blown to hell. Give him a week or six to figure out what just happened.

  42. I have my opinions. From what has been disclosed, past and present, I think PSU runs a criminal football program based on the number of violent crimes committed by players since 2002, exclusive of Sandusky.

    But I also believe that there is no fairer man to digest and eventually put into context and perspective the entire legacy of Joe Paterno than Joe Posnanski.

    It is only dark outside for a true truth-seeker at this moment who is charged with writing the history of this. That is a monumental burden for a man with a conscience.

    There is nothing in Joe Poz’ post or his past for that matter, to suggest that anyone should think anything to the contrary.

  43. Gene Oberto says:

    I am, like many of the commentators that I have read, very disheartened by the post on Paterno.

    I have always admired your ability to tell a story. You have a talent that few possess. So, knowing you were involved with State College when this perverse scandal broke, I turned to you to put some insight and, maybe, be able to help us understand the culture that would not only allow this to happen, but allow it to continue.

    To hide behind the premise that because you are writing a book on a person directly involved in the scandal, you will refrain from reporting on the incident so you can “write the best, most insightful and most honest book I can possibly write about Joe Paterno” is just wrong.

    My question to you, Joe, is how has Paterno earned that respect? When it came to light that he did nothing after his reporting the incident to his superiors, proves how hypocritical he has become in the all important quest to protect his image and his legacy. Your protection of him now just feeds that ego.

    It has been apparent to everyone outside of the PSU bubble, the Coach has overstayed his welcome by a long shot, and his distorted opinion of himself as some benevolent father figure helping his “boys” has been overtaken by his ego to be the “winningest” of all time. Paterno will now be remembered for the disgrace of what he didn’t do rather than the decades of what he did.

    Even now, this employee of the State of Pennsylvania dictates when he will end his, now, ruined career. If a janitor in a satellite office of a state building had been part of such a scandal like Mr. Paterno, he would have been let go on the spot.
    Yet, the Coach still draws a paycheck.

    There’s two things I wonder about your stance? What does your employer think about one of its reporters on the scene of this national scandal saying sorry, but I’m not going to write anything about this because of my book?

    What kind of culture would not only foster a Pilate-like washing of hands by the man in charge of program, but would have an assistant coach not walk into that shower and save that boy? Why would you choose a book over helping to shine a light on that chamber of horrors?

  44. NickT says:

    “I would like to think Paterno simply didn’t believe McQueary, or believed there was somehow an innocent explanation.”

    This does not, in any way, make Paterno a more sympathetic figure in this case. If a “distraught” employee comes to you with claims of seeing inappropriate behavior with a child*, you go to the police, regardless of how well you think you know the accused. Also, McQueary was a Penn State QB before he was a coach, so I’m guessing Paterno knew him pretty well, too.
    *The only assumption I’m making from Paterno’s statements is that McQueary’s claims in 2002 included the fact that a child was involved; I think that’s a reasonable assumption.

    “And Sandusky was obviously very good at fooling people; who knows what sort of convincing lie he was able to persaude Paterno to believe if Paterno confronted him about it?”

    This is why you go to the professionals and don’t rely on your own feelings about the situation.

    “But I have to say I’m a little skpetical of those who are righteously condemning Paterno as if they know for sure they would have known exactly what to do if they were in his shoes.”

    I’m not saying it would have been easy to be in Paterno’s position, but that isn’t an excuse. People are required to act correctly in certain situations, and if they can’t, then they are punished (e.g., leaving the scene of an accident happens all the time, unfortunately).

    “I think you can plausibly understand why JoePa didn’t elect himself judge, jury and executioner of Sandusky.”

    The whole point is that Paterno should have gotten the police involved so he didn’t have to be the judge of the situation.

    “If McQueary in fact was a bit vague about what he saw and didn’t come out and say he saw a rape, wouldn’t it be possible for JoePa to assume the conduct was what Sandusky got in trouble for before, which is a far cry from rape.”

    This is terrible. I have not read the grand jury report, but if Paterno actually knew about the “naked bear hugs in the shower” from before, then his actions are even worse. If an assistant coach tells you he saw something “inappropriate” late one night, and the accused has a history of “naked bear hugs in the shower” with children, then it is NOT OKAY to just tell your “superiors.” Even assuming nothing else happened, that is more than enough to call the police.

    “Should we be crucifying her? If there is anyone who “should” have known what Sandusky was/is it would the person who shared his bed for 30+ years.”

    If it comes out that she also was told of an eye-witness account, then absolutely she should be held to the same standard.

    By the way, I think Posnanski is taking the right approach to wait and get the story right. I have strong thoughts about this situation, but I understand there is still a possibility (however small) that even Sandusky is innocent, and Joe needs to have the whole story.

    With the information I’ve already seen, though, I have a hard time even imagining a situation where nothing happened.

  45. This is one of those situations where a book about the biographer’s experiences writing the biography might well make for a better (and more pleasant) read than the biography. So which Brilliant Reader wants to relocate to State College and write that book?

  46. Brian Smith says:

    I don’t condemn someone because they are not cut out to be a certain type of writer. Joe Posnanski is a romantic in every way possible. It’s what lends a sense of history and whimsy to everything he touches.

    There’s nothing to romanticise in this case. The definitive narrative of this story won’t be written by Joe. And that’s okay.

  47. ChuckkJay says:

    I have long thought that Joe Pos is one of the greatest writers around, and certainly one of my favorites. His [developing, not final] on the Penn State/Paterno story doesn’t change that for me, at all. I don’t understand all the malice directed at JoePos. If he came out and stoutly defended Joe Paterno and said Paterno did nothing wrong, that may be different. But to simply say “I’m going to hold off on an opinion just now” doesn’t seem to be a failing.

    What I don’t understand is all the people who say “we’re not sure what Paterno knew/we’re not sure what McQueary said to him.” I dispute this, vigorously. The Grand Jury indictment reads that Paterno testified that McQueary told him he had seen Sandusky “fondling or doing something of a sexual nature” to the naked 10 year old boy. This was Paterno’s DIRECT TESTIMONY, UNDER OATH.

    There are only two possibilities here. Either 1)the indictment is incorrect, and Paterno did not enter that testimony, or 2) Paterno failed the young boy by not following up. And telling his Athletic Director doesn’t constitute following up. Calling the cops does.

    I’ve also read that Scott Paterno stated in an interview that “Joe never asked Sandusky about the allegation.” Again – this could be simply untrue, perhaps Paterno’s son was wrong, or misquoted. But, if true, then that’s perhaps the most damning thing I’ve heard about Paterno’s action yet. NEVER ASKED HIM? Paterno knew enough to justify calling his AD, but never asked Sandusky himself? These actions or lack of action simply do not reconcile with the public image of Joe Paterno. They just don’t.

  48. Sandy says:

    Joe Pos is a gifted writer. But he’s not all things. He’s not a criminal reporter or an investigative reporter. He writes brilliant stories that focus on the world of sports. This revelation out of PSU is not a sports story. I believe that if he walks away now and puts this assignment on hold until this is all settled, that he will look back on this experience less troubled than trying to gut this out. There are plenty of other stories out there waiting to be told.

  49. Clashfan says:

    OK, I’ve done a little more reading, and realized I’ve made an unwarranted assumption. I had thought that the campus police were involved on some level–at least their administrative head was brought in. According to the Sporting News timeline of events, this is not the case. Unless the AD flat-out lied to Paterno about this, Paterno failed.

    So did a lot of other people, not the least of whom is Mike McQueary. That kid saw McQueary, and saw that McQueary saw what was happening, and saw McQueary walk away. How does that feel, Mike?

  50. Grulg says:

    Paterno blew it when he had a chance to do the right thing in 2002. He did just the minimum to cover his ass and that was it. Like several of those Catholic Bishops you hear about in related molestation scandels. You have serial rapists being protected by their superiors and moved around like a piece on the board, instead of being tossed ASAP into a deep dark abyss where they belong.

    Paterno may have been the picture of class etc on the gridiron all these years, but this shows a frightening lack of knowing when do Do the Right Thing(TM). Paterno is like a king there at Penn State. He could have done something and they would have listened to him. But he didn’t and so they didn’t. End of story.

    Joe Pos: enjoy writing your book. I think I’d have to hose it off w/ flourine before I’d dare pick it up myself, thank you.

  51. Aaron says:


    Thank you for being level-headed!

  52. sreed24 says:

    I think there is a reasonable argument to be made that Paterno’s inaction rises to the level of disgracing himself and that he should be forced out immediately. But man, I hate the vibe I get from several of the posts that anyone who feels any differently, or even asserts that position less definitively, is somehow unclean, less moral, less worthy. Translating someone’s disagreement with you into their moral inferiority is absolutely the mark of immaturity.

  53. Lou W says:

    Scred24, I understand what you are saying, and I think you put it fairly, but I disagree. From my reading on the case, and even given the most charitable interpretation possible, we know that Paterno knew at least these two things.

    1) That his long-time defensive coordinator retired from football, at the young age of 55, after being accused of inappropriate actions towards a child.
    2) That that same individual was seen, by a highly credible source, with a small boy, alone, in a shower, and that the witness was highly disturbed by what he saw (even if he avoided any sexual descriptions at all).

    I don’t think the most passionate Paterno supporter can argue that he must have known at least those two things. Knowing that he knew those two things, in 2002, and did not ensure that a rapid and through investigation took place, that he did not even take action to identify the child, is sufficient, in my opinion, to make a moral judgement. And yes, I believe that anyone who would agree that Paterno must have known those facts and would still be willing to argue that he may not be guilty of a severe moral transgression, is in fact, someone whose moral judgement I do question.

  54. Gadfly says:

    Especially with Paterno now being fired, Joe … I don’t see how you can’t write something further soon. Maybe not tomorrow. But … within the next week or so?

    Considering that your SI blog wonders not a whit at whether Sandusky didn’t have a dark motive for the adoptions or the childhood charity, and that it doesn’t wonder about how most of Paterno’s “superiors” at Penn State were his flunkies, I think you owe regular readers more.

    And, to the degree I can claim to know anything about your ethos via your blog — I think you owe yourself more.

  55. I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole……………good luck with the book, i bought the last one, but i don’t really care about college sports so i won’t get this one.

  56. Joe, you aren’t being level headed you are abdicating your responsibility. If you want to know the smart people over at Baseball Think Factory think of this go over and take a look. In an unprecedented event the reaction there is unambiguous and it all goes against your cowardice here.

    There is a time for reflection and there is a time for courage and now is the time for the courageous to speak.

  57. Alejo says:

    I have noticed, when you are powerful people want you to be innocent, even despite glaring evidence to the contrary.

    It’s darkly funny that no one thinks about the children. Everyone seems to be suffering for Paterno.

    I wont buy the book.

  58. Dave says:

    People here who believe Joe Pos is obligated to say something now — when he is in the midst of trying to write what will now be the most important book of his career, in that it will be a first-hand account of what’s going on in State College right now — have no idea what they’re talking about.

    I GUARANTEE Joe Pos will tell us what he things about all this.

    I GUARANTEE he will not pull punches because of his respect for Joe Paterno.

    I GUARANTEE it will be thought provoking, honest, and more than likely the best perspective we’ll see from a sportswriter on the subject.

    And people are accusing him of being a coward? For not adding to the noise? You really need one more person to confirm to you that yeah, JoePa should have done more and firing him was the only option? If that’s the case, than you never respected Joe Pos to begin with. Too bad for you.

  59. tomemos says:

    Captain Obvious: “In an unprecedented event the reaction there is unambiguous and it all goes against your cowardice here.”

    What “cowardice”? What are you accusing Joe of being afraid of? I have to suggest, after reading what you write next, that you simply don’t know what the word means:

    “There is a time for reflection and there is a time for courage and now is the time for the courageous to speak.”

    So “courage” is the opposite of “reflection.” If you’re not diving in, both guns blazing, it’s not courage, it’s just being lily-livered!

    Taking the time to reflect often requires great courage. To take a loaded example (as if this weren’t one), the people who urged reflection in the wake of 9/11 were clearly being more “courageous”–not to say more correct–than those who just added to the chorus of grief and outrage. The same goes for a *journalist* who is conducting *journalism* and will not abandon that in order to moralize.

  60. John S. says:

    I have to agree with Dave V here – I’ve always greatly enjoyed your writing, but I won’t continue to pay attention to anyone who is hellbent on chronicling/glorifying a man who sheltered and abetted a monster because “SPORTS!!”. Enjoy your book sales.

  61. Alejo says:

    You know, I’ve been thinking about this whole affair and, it seems to me, it’s actually very easy to be a serial child rapist.

    All a prospective pedophile needs is a position of power in something that most people consider dogma; e.g religion or the local college football team. Once he has got in, people with go out of their way to shelter, hide and abet him in order to protect the church, the football program, etc.

    I mean, even THE POPE protected pedophiles at the cost of destroying the church he is overseeing. What did we expect from Paterno? I mean, he is just human, right?

  62. prophet says:

    I’ve never met Joe Posnanski. I’ve met Joe Paterno once (shook his hand after a football game in a random encounter).

    Right now, there’s plenty of outrage and vitriol on display, and I don’t feel the need to add to it, or to have one of my favorite writers add to it, especially when it will now form a prominent part, if not the dominant part, of a forthcoming book. (I don’t believe for a minute that Joe Posnanski would whitewash Paterno or omit these events from that book, as others suggest.)

    Oh, hell, I’ll pile on. Rick Reilly notes a Boston University study that estimates the odds of American boys being abused at 1 in 6 (girls at 1 in 4):

    If that’s anywhere close to true, and the commenters here also represent a close-to-census-slice of America … the odds are pretty high that at least one of the commenters on this post has known an abused child and their abuser. Did we call 911? or write it off as something that couldn’t have been what we saw?

    I hope we called the police.

  63. Chris M says:

    @Prophet: I work in law enforcement, and I feel pretty confident in saying that 99% of the moral crusaders posting here and calling in to talk radio and everywhere else would not have done any more than Joe Pa did. The fact of the matter is that it’s really, really easy to look at a situation that you’re not involved in and say “he should have done more.” It’s a lot different when you are involved.

    I don’t really know what people expect Joe Pa to have done. He gets second hand information that a man he has been friends with for 50 years was doing something inappropriate with a child(and we don’t know exactly ‘what’ he was told Sandusky was doing). He goes to his supervisors and reports it. One of those supervisors is the man in charge of the campus police department.

    You people really think that if you were given second hand information that a long-time friend of yours was doing something, you’d instantly go to the police? Give me a break. I think Paterno did more than most of you would have done, had you been in the same situation.

    Oh, trust me, I believe that you THINK you would have done more. But you wouldn’t have. I have enough experience with these matters to know. Most people just don’t want to get involved, especially when the perpetrator is someone they are close with.

    In the chain of blame, Joe Pa belongs somewhere below the men he reported to, who belong below the parents of these children (who allowed their children to sleep over a grown adults house), who belong below Mike McQueary (who witnessed the crime in progress and did nothing to stop it and did no more than Joe Pa in terms of reporting it). And all of these people rank as far below Jerry Sandusky as Mario Mendoza ranks below Babe Ruth as a hitter. Let’s not forget that. Sandusky is the monster here,

  64. Mark Daniel says:

    Here’s what I don’t get. McQueary witnessed a horrific thing in 2002. It was Sandusky and a 10 year old boy. The grand jury report is detailed on what he saw.
    So McQueary did what he did, you can question whether what he did was appropriate or not, but he did something at least.

    Well, on Mike & Mike they had a clip of Paul Posluszny, PSU player from 2003-2006, saying that Sandusky was around the program a lot when he was there, and that if a player wanted or needed to do charity work, they could always go to Sandusky and the Second Mile program.

    But McQueary was working for Penn State at this time also! And he still works there, even though Sandusky was on campus quite a bit still. Why did McQueary find this acceptable? Posluszny was a freshman in 2003, one year after the shower incident that McQueary saw, yet Sandusky is wandering around the football facilities even though the eyewitness to his horrific actions is on PSU staff?

  65. chris says:

    The blogger usually has well thought out, rationed posts. I can only imagine what kind of response such a post would receive right now.

  66. sreed24 says:

    The degree of our righteous outrage is clearly a measure of our virtue. I’m the most virtuous because I think Paterno should not only have been fired but thrown in jail and all his wins vacated. If I was in Paterno’s shoes I would have beaten the perversion out of Sandusky then handed his battered body to the police. And since Posnanski (I feel dirty even typing his name) is insufficiently outraged, he’s clearly an awful person whose words aren’t worthy to be read by my virtuous eyes.

    (Just in case anyone is irony-impaired, the above is inteneded to be satirical)

  67. Michael says:

    That “people are complicated” is certainly true. That you personally stand to profit from this story–is there any doubt that this horror show will contribute to sales of your book?–colors my reaction to your reserving judgement stance. Perhaps now is the time to declare that any profits you receive from this book will be donated to one of the many good organizations that help children (and adults who were abused as children) recover from sexual abuse.

  68. Grulg says:

    Well Joe you have plenty of time to interview Joe P now. Now what to interview him about…anything come to mind-?

  69. tomemos says:

    “I have to agree with Dave V here – I’ve always greatly enjoyed your writing, but I won’t continue to pay attention to anyone who is hellbent on chronicling/glorifying a man who sheltered and abetted a monster because “SPORTS!!”. Enjoy your book sales.”

    This is so self-righteous, and unjust to boot. Joe said, “I have a responsibility to write the best, most insightful and most honest book I can possibly write about Joe Paterno.” He didn’t say he would be glorifying or flattering him. Do you have a reason not to take him at his word?

    That’s what really disturbs me about the tenor of this conversation: the assumption is that, if you’re not immediately attacking Paterno, you must be on his side. Reflection is for the weak. This is maybe an insight into why our political discourse is so fracked in this country.

  70. adam says:

    “I have to agree with Dave V here – I’ve always greatly enjoyed your writing, but I won’t continue to pay attention to anyone who is hellbent on chronicling/glorifying a man who sheltered and abetted a monster because “SPORTS!!”. Enjoy your book sales.”

    ARE YOU F***ING KIDDING??? Get off your high horse and take some reading comprehension classes. Good god.

  71. Tony says:

    I love Pos. Easily my favorite sportswriter. But I’m genuinely distraught reading those quotes (even if they’re not 100% transcribed perfectly and out of context).

  72. spencersteel says:

    Paterno hanged himself with his own statement, so the notion that there is “more investigation” that needs to be done is ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous as the idea that the most powerful man within a 100-mile radius of State College fulfilled his moral obligation by reporting to the AD what McQueary told him.

    Careful, Joe. You went to Happy Valley to write a book on an 84-year-old hero and icon. Evidence has come to light showing this man deserved to be neither, as he punted when there was evidence of child molestation going on under his nose. Paterno’s career is over. How you choose to handle this situation will go a long way towards defining yours. I for one have no interest in reading about the career and good deeds of Joe Paterno, not in light of this scandal, and his admission that he did nothing.

  73. adam says:

    One thing I am curious about is how Penn State justifies firing Paterno but not McQueary.

  74. JG in MO says:

    Joe, I’ve been thinking a lot about your dilemma, the time you’ve invested in Paterno, your legacy and reputation. I’ve tried to put myself in your shoes. Do you write the Grand Story you must have originally planned, with an epilogue? Do you turn it into an dramatic arc that somehow all leads to its (in hindsight) obvious conclusion? Or do you simply abandon the project?

    If your considerable wisdom happens to lead you to the same conclusion I reach, then you have my sympathy for the time you invested in State College, time which may lead to a few articles but won’t lead to a book. You won’t be the first who had to let go of a substantial investment, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

    Good luck with your decision.

  75. Mark Daniel says:

    My guess is the story of Paterno’s greatness must now turn into a tragedy. A Shakespearean tragedy, with a rise to glory followed by character flaws combined with a confluence of events that brought the man down. There’s no denying that the man has been brought down, what is not known is why and how, and whether there is some kind of universal message in this whole mess.

  76. Tybalt says:

    Well I have to say, I thought Joe made the right decision not to write about the Penn State situation. To give himself time to think, and to reflect. To give himself time to be insightful and honest.

    I took him at his word.

    Then he went in front of a group of Penn State students today, and ranted and raved about the rush to judgment against Joe Paterno, blaming everyone else including the media, even Twitter! But absolving Paterno himself of all responsibility.

    This pains me, but Joe: you’re a liar. And a very, very bad one. Go to blazes.

  77. Tybalt says:

    Also, though, I have to say that what happens to Joe Paterno is, in the context of all this, a really, really unimportant thing. I don’t wish injustice on anyone anytime, but it’s simply not that important right now.

  78. CJ says:

    I absolutely admire JoePos for his superb skills at writing.

    I definitely hope JoePos has more information that the rest of us, given that he [allegedly. I can’t be certain if this is accurately quoted] stated in a Penn State class today:
    “I think [Paterno] is a scapegoat. I definitely think that…I think he tried to do the right thing, and the right thing didn’t happen.”

    I really, really would like to know what data JoePos has to conclude that Paterno tried to do the right thing.

  79. CJ says:

    @Chris M in law enforcement: “Oh, trust me, I believe that you THINK you would have done more. But you wouldn’t have. I have enough experience with these matters to know.”

    This is a supremely judgmental and arrogant statement. You cannot possibly have ANY idea what any of these people would have done, unless you know them personally. Your experience has led you to draw general conclusions about people, but applying those conclusions to individuals you’ve never met is egregious. It’s called stereotyping. Get a clue – statements like these reveal your ignorance.

    I don’t care what you say. I am QUITE CERTAIN that if someone told me they’d seen someone raping a 10 year old boy, I’d call the cops. I will grant you this: If it were someone extremely close to me, the only variance I could possibly see making is going directly to that person and convince him to turn himself in, but if he refused I’d call 911 right in front of him.

  80. Anon21 says:

    Joe, as a big fan of your work, I’m begging you: don’t go to bat for Paterno here. Just don’t. As you said yourself, you’re a father. You should understand who are the real victims here, and who are the powerful men who are ending long, storied, and personally enriching careers on less than ideal terms. Any emotional pain that Paterno or his supporters are feeling today pales in comparison to the anguish that Sandusky’s victims have to deal with every day of their lives.

    You’re a good man, Joe. Don’t contribute to the erasure of these victims’ experiences and pain by losing sight of what’s actually important here. Maybe leave town, go spend some time with your family, and try to get a little perspective on these events before wasting any more breath defending Paterno.

  81. tomemos says:

    Well, there’s no question that Joe has to at least comment on the Deadspin story (saying that he defended Paterno in a PSU class): whether it’s accurate, what he said, what he meant, why he said it. It would be hypocritical for Joe to decline to comment on his blog, and then to make public statements about it. If you’re commenting on it, you’re commenting on it.

    If the statements in the Deadspin article are accurate, I too am disappointed in Posnanski. I’ve been defending him here on the grounds that he was refusing to rush to judgment. If he was just rushing to judgment the other way, that hardly speaks well to his integrity.

  82. Grulg says:

    Just read those Deadspin quotes. Joe Pos you’re a slug. Period. I’ve seen your crony Bill James drag out and verbally shoot Hornsby and Dick Allen for far far less, and those were decades old stories he still rages about now. You have someone serially molesting a bunch of 11 year olds, he gets caught, the one guy on campus who could have brought a stop to it right then and there drops the ball-and you’re acting like this has interfered w/ your precious book. You’re kidding me.

  83. EdB says:

    I don’t much care about Joe Paterno. Hard to add to anything anyone else has said here and in a million other places.

    But I DO care about what Joe Poznanski may (or may not) have said to a class at Penn State today. If Joe says — in the post we’re all commenting on — that he wants to wait and take some perspective, great. Totally entitled to do that. But if he then goes out and criticizes people for their opinion on it… well, it would then appear he has chosen a position. I want to give Joe the benefit of the doubt — he certainly deserves it — but if he wants to defend Joe Paterno, then make the case. And then people will have a whole new round of opinions.

  84. I think the worry of the detractors here, is that you will try to protect him Joe. Your fans know what type of slant you will take on Paterno, if all your other material is any indicator.

    They know that its important to you to establish meaningful relationships with your writing subjects based on mutual respect and that you are fiercely loyal when your heroes let you into their inner circle.

    They know that your intentions at the beginning of this project were to write a: Creative, funny, eloquent, clever, polished with a bow, make you think, piece.

    That clearly isnt possible anymore. People want the truth, and there you are, in the eye of the storm, more informed than anybody, more prepared than anybody, closer than anybody and more capable than anybody.

    What are you going to do Joe?
    What on earth are you going to do with this mess?

    Take your time, get it right, we’ll be waiting.

  85. joe:

    i would love to read your thoughts on this horrific story, now or later. as much as i am disappointed in not being able to read your views today, i fully respect your decision to exercise your freedom to express yourself in the manner, with the timing, that you see fit.

    regardless of my agreement or disagreement with anything you have to say or write.

    the myth of the detached, 100% objective and unbiased reporter/journalist/historian is a terrible fallacy in our current culture. human beings are not unbiased, and should stop pretending to be when they work as or act as a journalist. human beings are by definition emotional, judgmental beings, as well as rational, intellectual beings. pretending we are otherwise is just stupid.

    an honest, open willingness to understand and fully disclose one’s own biases and emotions is the true standard.

    please, joe, write now or later as you see fit. i will be reading. i have a feeling some of what you think and have to say i will vehemently disagree and object to, on the content and even the merits. that is the damn point.

  86. TFranc says:

    Joe, like many of your detractors here I am outraged by all that has happened, and really cannot abide this nonsense you appear to be saying in the deadspin article. Nevertheless, before all this I could not have cared one lick about Paterno, Penn State, or football, and would likely not have bothered with your book. But since so many here say they refuse to touch the forthcoming book I am seriously intrigued and will absolutely buy it now. I will even venture to say that many more people will read the book after what has happened than would have before (even considering all these “outraged” Brilliant Readers who now vow to no longer be so).

  87. TFranc says:

    And CJ, I don’t think Chris’ statement you cite is not meant to be personal but statistical. It really sounds like a point about the likelihood of people in given sample (for example the folks here) will do the right thing in this case. It is a fallacy to assume that it is directed at specific individuals when it is really a probabilistic statement about reality.

  88. Chris says:

    I’m only disappointed that Joe has somehow turned this into a story about his freaking book. His initial SI columns reads like a “poor me, my books is ruined” post.

    There is no gray area here. This isn’t some recruiting violation that resulted in his firing. Paterno did the absolute bare minimum when a case of child molestation was brought to his attention.

    A reader above mentioned something about it maybe not being “full blown rape” as if somehow just a little touching isn’t bad. Paterno was informed that Sandusky was seen doing something inappropriate of a sexual nature with a child. That is not vague.

    I agree with those who say the situation is difficult and that lots of us would do the same thing Joe did. But we are all normal people. Joe Paterno is a public figure tasked with leading generations of young men and acting as a father figure. That was his legacy. Should he then not be held to a higher standard than everyone else?

    His duty as a human being was to protect that child. No different than any of us in his position and if we only chose to do the bare minimum then it would be just as much of a moral failure. Just because its a tough situation doesn’t mean there isn’t a proper response.

  89. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking the time for everything to sort out. But, it’s also clear that Joe’s entire book will need to be rewritten as far as what Paterno really represents now. It’s no longer a feel good little tale. How much was just an act? It’s no coincidence that Sandusky retired shortly after the first reported incident in ’98. If anyone thinks Paterno wasn’t aware at that point of Sandusky’s “issues”, then they are delusional. Then, after the 2002 incident, Paterno defenders would have to believe that somehow McQueary wasn’t fully truthful with Joe about what he saw. That’s not plausible, and even still, enough was wrong on the surface to put Sandusky away for a long time. Joe looked the other way, and hoped an old friend would stop, yet he allowed him an office on campus, and access to create his personal rape-atorium. And boys lives got ruined.

  90. Just want to add, I think one of Joe’s assertions is that the 24-hour media cycle is so crushing, swift and all-encompassing that it’s fairly impossible to provide real perspective until some time has passed, and that’s what he’s choosing to do. I don’t think a lot is going to change, but can understand why he doesn’t want to pile on right now. However, he is in a unique position to provide a little more insight since he’s been on the scene for awhile, but this was probably so far out there for him, that he’s got no clue what to really say at this point.

  91. Mike Cecconi says:

    Yeah, if those Deadspin quotes are true…

    That’s really really disturbing.

    The evidence stands that Paterno did as little as possible to stop a child molester, so as to protect his own image and that of his underlings.

    The attempts to compare a man being rightfully brought down for that kind of level of gross misdeed to the mismanagement of Katrina is…

    Well. I hope no one actually made that comparison.

    People are coming to bury him? I mean, these are crimes that deserve that. Yes. Yes absolutely.

  92. jkak says:

    Yesterday Joe Poz wrote: “When something this horrible happens, it’s hard to hear yourself think — it’s impossible for me to hear anything. I won’t add to the noise. If you want to read instant and strong opinions about Penn State and Joe Paterno, I can assure you there is no shortage of howling there.”

    I posted my comments on the Paterno situation; in my view, based on Paterno’s own statements there is no doubt that he failed to discharge his moral duty to assure that there was at least a full and impartial investigation of the Sandusky matter. My position was not a rush to judgment because all of the evidence necessary to support my judgment came from Paterno’s own mouth. But I also fully respected Joe Poz’s right to allow himself appropriate time before he commented, particularly in view of the bond that he necessarily has developed with Paterno.

    If the Deadspin post is accurate, about 24 hours later the noise had subsided enough for Joe Poz to pronounce Paterno a “scapegoat”.

    What has changed? Did I miss Paterno withdrawing his statement to the grand jury that he had knowledge of a disturbing incident of a sexual nature involving Sandusky and a young boy in a shower in a Penn State athletic facility, four years after Sandusky had “retired” because of another inappropriate encounter with a young boy, with which Paterno had to have been aware? Did I miss Paterno coming forward and saying that he actually did report the incident to the state police and the district attorney, but that they did not believe him and did nothing to pursue an investigation? The fact that Paterno was not the only person who failed does not excuse him, nor does the fact that the trustees have taken action against him for his own conduct make him a scapegoat for the univesity.

    Given your book project, Joe Poz, I did not expect objectivity from you on short notice, and your inability to gain the distance necessary to write about this matter was fully understandable. But did you really say the statements Deadspin attributes to you?

    You said in yesterday’s post: “I’m also not walking away from a life and a man.” But part of your project, I assume, was to uncover the life and the man, unless the book was written before you moved to “Happy Valley” this summer. For you to insist that Paterno is a scapegoat in view of his own words shows that you are less interested in the life and the man than you are in the myth.

  93. rokirovka says:

    For the record, here is a longer version of the alleged statements by Posnanski this morning, published on

    “The rush to judgment here has been extraordinarily. The lesson to learn might be that we screwed this thing up.” -Joe Posnanski
    “You’re going to have to guess. I think that’s tragic for journalists, that we’re going to have to guess.” -Joe Posnanski
    “The colossal judgmental tone, the hanging jury, in a sense, that can warp your opinion on things.” -@YahooForde on role of Twitter.
    “I’ve never been involved in a story that moves as fast as this one.” -Posnanski.
    “Everybody is trying to top one another. ‘No, I’m more against child molestation than you are.'” Posnanski taking shots at the media.
    “A lot of people came here to bury Joe. As a writer, I’m mad with that, as someone who’s come to know the Paternos, I’m heartbroken.”
    “I think this happens because of Twitter, because of quick judgment, because of 24 hour news cycles…this doesn’t happen 20 years ago.”
    Posnanski, on reporters who have done a good job covering this story: “There are not many.”
    Posnanski: “I’ve never seen anything handled worse. Maybe how New Orleans, post-Katrina….Paterno was always dangled by this university.”
    For those tuning in, Posnanski and Forde are speaking to #JoePaClass today. Most important class of my college career.
    Posnanski:”It’s already shameful. It’ll be ten times more shameful to think that they fired him with a personal messenger sent to his home.”
    JoePos “When was the last time anyone said the name Sandusky? Where are the Sandusky headlines?” Stresses that presentment is only one side.
    “Other than unbelievable statement about the unconditional support-they should’ve fired him when he turned it in-who else’s said anything?”
    “I think [Paterno] is a scapegoat. I definitely think that…I think he tried to do the right thing, and the right thing didn’t happen.”
    “The only thing people remember about Woody Hayes is that he hit a player. I don’t want that to happen to Joe. He didn’t hit a player.”
    .@yahooforde: “McQueary is the one I can’t figure out at all. I can’t believe he’s going to coach on Saturday.”
    Forde: Spanier should’ve been fired 5 minutes after he released that statement. That was the worst statement I’ve ever seen. Reprehensible.
    “If this happened at the University of Miami, no matter how bad it was, it wouldn’t have elevated to this level.” –Posnanski
    “I think Joe is legally allowed to talk now. I think he was being kept quiet by the university.” Looking for good setting to tell his story.
    Posnanski: “We’re only hearing one side of the story, and it’s not an impartial story…very, ver hard to say ‘lets wait this out.'”
    Unless attributed to Forde, all quotes are from Posnanski.
    To clarify Miami quote, for those curious, Pos said squeaky clean reputation of Joe/PSU made this an even bigger deal.
    And to everyone vilifying Posnanski, @YahooForde was saying basically the same thing. Just not as quotable.

  94. Dan Shea says:

    It strikes me that one of the reasons people like reading what Joe writes is because of the human qualities embodied in his work. If his writing is genuine, Joe seems like a decent and thoughtful guy, the kind of guy you’d want as a friend.

    Now Joe’s friend and subject, JoePa, is accused of not doing enough when child molestation came to his notice. And Joe is not joining in the criticism as a journalist, and calling for some time and perspective. I don’t know why people are posting that Joe’s stance is because of his book. What he has written sounds true: he says he at least needs time to think clearly about it.

    I have a tough time faulting him for that, when it springs from the same character that draws me to his writing in the first place.

  95. Mike Cecconi says:

    If nothing else, I think it’s more than fair to say that if you’re a journalist, you shouldn’t become so close with the people you’re covering.

  96. Self righteousness makes brilliant readers not so brilliant. . .

  97. Chris says:

    @Dan Shea

    But that’s just it. With his comments in this class he is rushing to take a stance. It just so happens to be the opposite of most other media members as well as the general public. Apparently by time and perspective he meant a day or 2.

  98. adam says:

    Before the twitter comments came out, I supported Joe because I agree it can take some perspective to form a good opinion, especially when he is so personally immersed.

    The twitter comments are a little different because it sounds as if Joe *is* forming an opinion. An opinion I don’t agree with, but that’s ok, I’m not going to stop reading him because of it.

    One final note of caution: Joe’s SI column of “I’m going to wait and see” was misinterpreted by many as “hellbent on chronicling/glorifying a man who sheltered and abetted a monster.” It is very possible the student who made those twitter posts was interpreting things through that same lens.

  99. Broken Yogi says:

    I can’t help but suspect that Joe is holding back his opinions not just out of misplaced respect for Paterno as a man, but in order to continue to get his cooperation in the telling of Paterno’s story. This is part of the corruption of the sports media that enabled this kind of abuse to go on. Journalists who want access to those in power tend to kiss up and even participate in the coverup to continue their access to these people, so they can write books about them and keep the money-train flowing. It’s pretty sickening, and both Joe’s should be ashamed of themselves for perpetuating this self-serving system.

  100. Anthony and Chris M give the best advice here.

  101. Seth says:

    Dave V. (first poster): The ironic, and sad, thing is that people like you enable monsters like Sandusky. You like the world to be simple- bad people are bad, and those who don’t immediately say so, regardless of how much information is or is not out there- are failures or enablers or something. That Paterno informed someone immediately, that he knew the chief of a sworn police force was aware of things, that Paterno might have been told the matter was investigated, are simply dismissed out of hand because this is a BAD GUY. I’m not saying that the full story will make Paterno look good. But Posnanski waiting to see what story, on balance, the facts tell is not cowardice or treachery.

    The simplistic view of things- get on the bandwagon or you’re dead to me- has another side. People think of “good” people as all good, and dismiss contrary evidence. Reading the grand jury report indicates that there were dozens, if not hundreds of people who saw Sandusky interact with kids, who could have or should have known what was happening. Fine, not all were informed of abuse by a witness, but come on: the guy is bringing boys to his hotel room on road trips.

    Yet, in their eyes, Sandusky was a “good” guy. He was a leader, a coach, he founded a charity recognized as a “point of light” by the President of the United States. The indications that this great man abused children just didn’t fit with the story, and people ignored them.

    Make no mistake, there are some genuinely slimy types out there who actively cover things up. It looks like the two indicted university officials could be some. Maybe, when all is said and done, the facts will show Joe Paterno was one as well. But the vast majority of enablers are, and always will be, ordinary decent people who just can’t imagine that someone they know or respect- someone who seems good- could do such horrible things.

    In the end, Sandusky was brought down by someone who said “This looks bad to me, and I’m going to discard my assumptions and look into this.” That’s the kind of thinking Posnanski’s words indicate: He’s going to take a long hard look, and make up his own mind. That’s the kind of open mind the world needs.

  102. Broken Yogi says:

    Look, if Joe had ferretted out the information in the grand jury report himself, over time, then it would make sense for him to carefully weigh all the facts. But that time is past. The investigations have revealed shocking facts that just can’t be spun away. Joe hs no real excuse for not confronting those facts in real time, other than that he wants continued access to Paterno, and doesn’t want that endangered. Or, just as likely, he’s so into Paterno that he can’t face these overwhelming set of facts.

    The bigger problem here is the whole industrial culture of sports in this country, of which Joe has been a huge beneficiary. It has made heroes and demi-Gods of adults who play and coach children’s games. The incredible and sobering irony of this scandal is that it was precisely the children here who were sacrificed and abused for the sake of the adults playing at children’s games. Joe is one of those “guilty parties” in the larger sense, like everyone who glorifies these immature people obsessed with games to the point that they forget what it is all about – kids.

    It’s of course sickening, and Joe, like a lot of us, is going to have to question his whole participation in this, but likely won’t. Unless he has a real “come to Jesus” moment, he’s not likely to be the guy to tell the whole sordid tale of what this represents for sports in our culture, and how it came about. Paterno’s career is actually a good reference point for that, and this should be taken as a warning for all of us about worshiping false idols.

  103. Alejo says:

    Mike Cecconi is right: it is wrong for a journalist to become close to his subjects.

    Tom Boswell seems to have stricken the right tone though:

  104. Unknown says:

    In case Joe declines to post it here, here is a link to his latest piece on Paterno

    Personally, I agree with virtually none of it. I believe the Grand Jury indictment provides overwhelming evidence that Joe Paterno failed, in his most important test of principle, to live “a profoundly decent life.” But I’m glad, Joe, that you gave us your perspective.

  105. Mike Cecconi says:

    If he, through inaction or minimal action, allowed children to be raped… then he didn’t lead a profoundly decent life at all.

    He led the surface image of a profoundly decent life and let awful things happen to maintain that image.

    Which is a lot worse than looking a little scuzzy but ultimately doing the right thing, which would be the actual measure of a decent man.

    It looks like this whole thing is turning into an object lesson on letting yourself get too close to a subject as a journalist.

    You’re a hell of a writer, Joe, and I especially love your writing on baseball. But you’ve made the mistake that you accuse a lot of baseball writers of making except on something a lot grander than the value of batting average or grit:

    You married yourself to the myth. The myth of JoePa.

    The reality is he facilitated unspeakably monstrous things and his past image as Grampa Claus shouldn’t get him one hair’s worth of credit.

    No credit given for lies. Even beautiful sweet lies.

    There were monsters underneath.

  106. The interesting thing for me in reading the Posnanski piece is that I am very sympathetic to the general argument he is making, that we should judge people in terms of the narrative of their whole life. Posnanski has inadvertantly stumbled on a variation of Alasdair MacIntyre’s virtue ethics. However because he stumbled upon it instead of thinking about it in a coherent way he has fallen into the trap that virtue ethics presents–virtue as a concept is only possible within the confines of an institution because the kinds of distinctions necessary for notions of excellence and decency are necessarily social. Yet at the same time these kinds of institutions have a tendency towards insularity precisely because their notions of excellence and decency are defined against the outside world. This insularity prevents the larger (ultimately teleological) perspective necessary to separate genuine virtue from perversions. And this is exactly what has happened in this case. And so Posnanski is deeply wrong precisely because he is sort of right. Which is why a genuine conception of virtue needs to be conceived in relation to things that transcend the institution that defines that virtue.

    I think a lot of people will find Posnanski’s article compelling and that is because the account of a narrative of a whole life is compelling. However he is wading outside of his depth here and in the wading he is defending the indefensible.

    It’s pretty sad that Joe has destroyed his reputation here. He was a God amongst the basedball fans at BTF but I’m pretty sure there is no way he can come back from this.

    Some times being deeply wrong is a moral failing.

  107. Michael says:

    Why shouldn’t Paterno be defined by this terrible lapse of moral judgment, even if his life is more complex? Sandusky’s victims live with what was perpetrated against them every day, are defined by it even if they would prefer not to be, MUST live with this because the adults who were supposed to protect them failed.

  108. Anthony says:

    I’ve never seen such a profound example of how aimless and irrational rage is. Even justified rage. Sandusky is (apparently) a monster who deserves anything that comes to him and much more. It’s horrifying. Repulsive. Terrifying. Awful. Truly terrible. It makes us so disgusted and angry, we apply seemingly equal emotion to a man who did not do those things, but heard about them and didn’t stop them. Perhaps we should be equally as mad, perhaps not. I’m not totally clear on what Joe Paterno knew, but it was enough to know that he should have done “more” whatever “more” means. And yet our rage is still hungry. So now, we consume a journalist, a writer, who is in the midst of finishing a very long process that demands as many facts as possible. We condemn him for not launching onto his keyboard with vigor and anger. As if his immediate condemnation, not of Sandusky, but of Paterno, would somehow assuage our pain and disgust.

    Chew up this writer if you’d like. Spit on his writing grave. You’ll not feel better. It doesn’t change the fact that silence one out for so long or that, even worse, Sandusky victimized innocence and ruined lives. There is no amount of verbal lashing that can make you feel better. Crucify third or fourth-order “offenders” (if that’s what Posnanski has now become in your mind) all you’d like. Disparage person and after person.

    It won’t make it go away. It’s horror. It’s brokenness. It’s terrible. This is unspeakbly awful.

  109. Dave V. says:

    Seth, you write to me “Dave V. (first poster): The ironic, and sad, thing is that people like you enable monsters like Sandusky”…well, actually, NO. You could not be more wrong and I can’t believe the irony in what you say.

    It was and is people like Joe Paterno and many other high-ups in the Penn State community that enabled the monster that is Sandusky.

    I’m not ending my readership of new Posnanski material just because I disagreed with him one time here. Heck, I disagree with much of what he has had to post about steroids here on his blog. Rest assured, I’m fully capable of continuing to read someone who I don’t agree with 100% of the time.

    However, I am not interested in a writer who voluntarily posts on a subject to say…he is not going to post any type of opinion or questions at all and won’t write about the topic for some time. And that “this is where my thoughts trail off… I’m writing a book about Joe Paterno. I need time.” God forbid that this situation interferes with your precious book. That statement is disgusting to me. Do you really think that if you posted an opinion or posed some honest questions that you would be banned from writing a book that isn’t due to come out until Father’s Day 2013? Writing something now doesn’t mean you can’t write something later. Unless you’re afraid of burning bridges and losing Penn State access? Which still doesn’t prevent the book writing but I digress…

    Time wasn’t given to the victims of Sandusky. And writing another article is of course not going to take away the pain and hurt of the victims. Nobody said it would. But if you actually consider yourself an honest person, Joe, how can you just leave things as you left them? You aren’t capable of at least asking questions about things?

    Basically, I feel that Posnanski has lost his journalistic credibility. That’s why I won’t read his stuff anymore. And if you want to argue that he isn’t a hardcore investigative journalist, well, congrats on that “argument” but the point remains, I’ve lost faith in Joe to see things clearly. And that was BEFORE the quotes attributed to Posnanski in the Deadspin article earlier today…so much for not having an opinion I guess.

  110. Having read Posnanski’s explanation of his position and comparing it to the grand jury report the only conclusion is that Posnanski is either lying or delusional. Pick your poison.

    For instance, Posnanski says this:

    “Beyond this two things, though, I said I wasn’t going to write about this because I feel like there’s still a lot of darkness around. I don’t know what Joe Paterno knew. I don’t know how he handled it. I don’t know if he followed up. I don’t know anything about Paterno’s role in this except for what little was said about that in the horrifying and stomach-turning grand jury findings. People have jumped to many conclusions about Paterno’s role and his negligence, and they might be right. I’ll say it again: They might be right. But they might be wrong, too. And I’m writing a book about the man. I can’t live in that world of maybes.”

    The problem is that this is completely wrong and contradicted by facts already in evidence, facts that Posnanski has to know about. People aren’t condemning Paterno because they’ve only heard one side of the story they are condemning him because they’ve heard his side of the story in his testimony. There are no facts in dispute here. The only question is how much worse this is going to be. It is impossible for it to get better.

  111. Mike Cecconi says:

    I’ll give Pos this… I don’t think he’s desperately achingly embarrassingly reaching to try and pretend there’s a benefit of the doubt left for Paterno for any kind of cynical reasons.

    I don’t think Pos is lying to himself about these things to maintain access or to sell books or anything. I don’t think that’s what this is about.

    I think this is about letting a research subject be a Myth and become a friend and losing any and all ability to be objective.

  112. Editor says:

    Pardon me, but I can’t believe some of these ignorant comments (^9:37). They sound like Nancy Grace, full of fury and just as ridiculously self-righteous. How easy it is for people to rant about things they know nothing about. How about letting the facts of this dismal case fall as they may, which they surely will in time? The guilty will be identified and punished, make no mistake. Moral and criminal wrongdoing will be exposed for all to see, as it should be.

    But why in the world would anybody hate on Joe, who is allowing us to witness his gut-wrenching reaction to something that, after spending two years writing about Paterno, must surely have hit him like an atom bomb – as it did everyone else on the planet. I have no doubt whatever that when Joe has had time to assimilate all of this and finally puts his thoughts into words, we will have a definitive, persuasive, factual, beautifully-written and FAIR commentary – it’s what we expect from him and why I read him. Anybody who thinks he can’t write honestly about Paterno doesn’t want to hear the truth.

    Just my two-cents.

  113. @Mike C: I wish I could agree, as I think about as highly of Joe Poz as I do of any contemporary writer or public figure. But it seems to me that the book is a central issue here–not in terms of hoping to make money or anything like that, but just in defining Joe’s reactions. Hell, the second SI blog post is almost entirely driven by the “gut-wrenching” sense of the book’s future, and even though Joe repeatedly claims that he knows that’s nothing compared to the victims of these crimes, he keeps coming back to the book and how this is making him feel about it.

    I worked on a scholarly book project for a couple years and ended up having to discard it as it just didn’t go the ways I wanted it to, so I know what that feels like. It sucks. My mom works with very at risk kids, including many who have suffered from sexual abuse, and I’ve had the chance to meet many of them. The thought that _anybody_, much less Joe Poz, could bring up the feelings of a book project in turmoil at a time like this, well, I don’t know what else to say.


  114. Mark Daniel says:

    I find it hard to believe that McQueary saw Sandusky actually sodomizing a 10 year old boy and also told Paterno and Curley and Schultz this very thing, and nothing came of it. The events that follow don’t jibe with this. In particular, why did McQueary stay on staff at Penn State? Why did he seem to not mind Sandusky bopping around the program all the time, as numerous reports have mentioned? Did McQueary’s father, who was told the same thing as Paterno, Curley and Schultz, also just forget about what his son told him? And why did officials at the Second Mile, who were apprised of the situation by Curley and Schultz, also do absolutely nothing?

    I find it hard to believe that it was such a massive cover up, which included the initial accuser and the accuser’s father.

    My first instinct was that everybody understimated what was going on. But if McQueary actually saw what he says he saw, and reported it the way he told the grand jury, then there’s no other conclusion that Paterno, Curley, Schultz, McQueary, officials at the 2nd Mile, and McQueary’s father were all involved in a massive cover up, and for God knows what reason.

  115. klug says:

    As a journalist (as opposed to a Paterno apologist)Joe Posnanski needs to think about what we do know, not what we do not. Starting by asking WHY Joe Paterno acted in the way he admits he did. Do not start from the premise that he is overall “profoundly decent” (because of his contributions to the library or some such rubbish).

  116. pappymax says:

    I think the narrative will become…the victims and people with knowledge of the crimes could not come forward because of their fear of soiling the Paterno legacy. Paterno story line will continue, but he will shift from subject to object. More attention and character development paid to others, with Paterno’s biography becoming less interesting.

  117. I see that Posnanski is being praised for defending Paterno against these attacks. This praise of Posnanski, in the context of this case, is absolutely sickening.

    The idea that it is a good thing to stand up forgrown man who has presented himself as a moral authority for the last 50 years, but that grown man didn’t need to show the courage to stand up for a defenseless 10 year old rape victim? I don’t get it.

    I also don’t understand the criticism of “self-righteous” commentators. Times like this call for righteousness.

  118. Chris says:

    Wow, I don’t think this new article did anything but make him look worse.

    Sure he throws out the obligatory “child molestation is wrong” and “Paterno should have done more” at the beginning, but then spends the rest of the article defending both his book and/or Paterno.

    That article pretty much counters his initial 2 points.

  119. amo says:

    for several years now, I have called you the best sportswriter in America and recommended your blog to everyone I know who loves sports.

    After the past few days, I’m not sure I’ll ever want to read another column that you write.

    Shame on those who rush to judgement? Shame on those who did not come forward and speak out for him? No, shame on Joe Paterno, and shame on everybody who willfully ignores the most basic fact, which is indisputable (besides all the efforts going on to say it is not):

    Joe Paterno knew at least one child was raped (what exactly he was told about the rape is irrelevant, he knew it happened), and he chose not to do anything consequential to stop it. In fact, he did not care the molester was around the program (and his charity for young boys, for that matter) for several years after that. That’s all you need to know. He effectively protected a child rapist and thus may have made it possible others were raped. Everything else, like most of your column, is crap.

  120. tomemos says:

    What’s Joe’s rationale, I wonder, for not posting his most recent piece on Paterno here? Does he not want the BRs to comment on it? It’s good enough for those apes at, and yet…

    Anyway, three quick points about the new piece on Paterno:

    1) Joe badly misuses the term “scapegoat,” to the point that I wonder whether he knows what it means. Joe Paterno is losing his job; so is PSU’s president. Other people are being put on trial. If the responsibility is being spread around to multiple people, that’s not what a “scapegoat” is. It’s true that JoePa is getting more negative attention by virtue of being famous, but it’s also true that none of the other players in this incident have crowds of people rallying in their support.

    2) Speaking of that, it’s weird that Posnanski talks about the firestorm of criticism without also talking about the crowds of people showing up to support Paterno and even committing violence. This gives a very distorted picture of the state of affairs, as if Paterno has no supporters (rather than, say, a horde of them).

    3) I’m disappointed that Posnanski decides to play the “hermetic” card: “I’m not checking Twitter so I don’t know what’s being said about me.” Thus, he doesn’t have to account for some things he’s alleged to have said that are genuinely shocking: the bit about Katrina, e.g. In a post that’s partially about courage and speaking up, this strikes me as a cowardly option.

    Earlier I defended Joe’s decision to stay mum, but once you open your mouth you’ve opened your mouth. Joe seems to want to be able to speak out, but only on his own terms—very disappointing.

  121. sreed24 says:

    Seth-Your post was one of the truest and most insightful things I’ve ever read on the internet. It falls on deaf ears of course…Dave V doesn’t get it and never will. Several people have written eloquently about the absurdity of the self-righteousness here and yet it persists, so I won’t bother with trying again, but I did want to express my appreciation.

  122. Mike Cecconi says:

    If a man covering up for a serial rapist at “best” to protect his old friend and most likely to protect his own image as “profoundly decent” isn’t a situation for righteousness, I don’t know what is.

    We’re not talking about a kid trading a jersey for a tattoo, for God’s sake, we’re talking about the serial rape of children.

    And people trying to say that one of the men who covered it up should be given the benefit of the doubt because his name’s on a couple libraries.

    Where else could you possibly manifest righteousness?

  123. sreed24 says:

    Mike-Self righteousness never is worth manifesting. It is unwholesome and useless. It’s the enemy of empathy, learning and moral reflection. I’m sure no one here would ever do what Sandusky did, but I bet we’ve all allowed a focus on our own gratification to cause pain to others. I’m sure no one here has done what Paterno did, but I’m sure we’ve all at one time or another failed to do the right thing when the consequences would be difficult. And if you feel Posnanski is being wrongheaded, how about instead of acting like his words are now unworthy of your virtuous eyes, reflect upon a time that you allowed your emotions to compromise your judgement and objectivity? And yes, I suppose I am being a bit self-righteous in this post, but nothing wrong with a little irony now and then.

  124. tomemos says:

    Sreed, is your contention that Posnanski is showing “learning and moral reflection” in his public comments and writings about this case? I would disagree. His whole case, in fact, seems to be, “Paterno has been a good person and helped people in the past, so that means that we should hold off on judging him now—in fact, for those who were helped by him *not* to speak up in his defense is shameful.” Posnanski, in other words, is disdaining to “learn” from what’s alleged; he won’t consider revising the impression of Paterno that he’s already built up. (It would be one thing if he were just waiting until all the facts were known, but his comments in the class at PSU make it perfectly clear—”scapegoat,” especially—that he’s made up his mind.)

  125. Mark Daniel says:

    I think what Posnanski is doing is lamenting the rush to judgment everybody seems to be making on Joe Paterno. Mike C above suggests that Paterno covered up for a serial rapist. There is nothing to indicate that Paterno knew Sandusky was a serial rapist. There is at least the slight chance that Paterno didn’t fully grasp the seriousness of what McQueary told him. Or, in his old age, he didn’t understand what the young whippersnapper was saying. Or, he thought it was an egregious problem and should be investigated, but he’s been told over and over by the PSU administration that his job is not to go to the police, it’s to handle things, legal and otherwise, in house as a first step. The fact is that nobody knows what was going through Joe Paterno’s mind (and ears) during his meeting with McQueary.
    The end result of the meeting was that Paterno met with Curley and Schultz, and then McQueary also met with Curley and Schultz, and nothing was done. Curley and Schultz then claim they told the Second Mile Foundation, and they didn’t do anything either.
    Paterno never followed up on it, which may be an overt moral failure, or it may be a more innocent (but no less damaging) consequence of trusting his superiors. It’s also possible that Paterno was complicit in a cover up for a rapist. The fact is that we don’t know which of many possibilities is true.

    Regardless, Paterno should have been fired, he should be criticized, but I’m not sure he deserves to be labeled an evil facilitator of serial rapists. Not yet, anyway.

  126. Mark says:

    I must confess to a little self righteous anger myself. Yep, the RAPE of a child in the football complex of a prestigious university is a bit unsettling for me, I admit. And the fact that no one in authority could of cared less about it, yeah, that stirs the blood a bit.

    And the best sportswriter in America is calling Joe Paterno a “scapegoat” in all of this. A scapegoat. So poor Joe Paterno is being made to bear the blame for others and is suffering in their place.

    Ok, who is he being a scapegoat for? The university president? Fired. The AD and campus police chief? They may be going to jail. The students who rioted ON HIS BEHALF the other night? Someone please tell me who he is being made a scapegoat for. Hell, HE WAS INVOLVED! Are you telling me he is taking the fall for someone else? Is that what Joe Pos means by scapegoat?

    So yes, though some of you posters may frown upon it, I am righteously angry. Unfortunately, it is too late for anger now, too late to save those children. Too late.

  127. LoCoDe says:

    you blew it Joe. Your comments to the Penn State class were a joke.

    You have way too much of a financial stake in this to be ever considered as a reasonable voice in this situation. So just stfu already.

  128. LoCoDe says:

    I also don’t believe that firing Paterno was disgusting, or terrible, or any of that. They gave him a chance to resign immediately, and he threw that right back in their faces by telling them that he’d retire at the end of the season. If there was ever a time for any person to resign, this was it. But no, the arrogance of the man still wouldn’t believe that he’d done something wrong.

    Seems like NOW was pretty much dead on the mark about Paterno being guilty of downplaying sexual assualt in 2006.

  129. Sreed, please take this in the way that it is intended. It is because of people like you that things like this happen. Fuck your empathy. Justice doesn’t come from empathy it comes from righteous anger.

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  131. I’m a long-time reader of Joe Posnanski and I believe he is a wonderful writer and an honorable person. I also agree with his contention that there is a self-righteous mob aspect to some of the rhetoric being flung around.

    However, I’m having a very difficult time wrapping my brain around him calling Paterno a scapegoat. This scandal permeates to the core of Penn State football and Joe Paterno IS Penn State football. Paterno did NOT try to do the right thing, simply because Paterno can do whatever he wants when it comes to Penn State football, and if he truly wanted to do the right thing, he would have done it. It’s that simple.

    To be angry at the Penn State trustees is laughable at this point. Fixating on their lack of a phone call, now THAT’S scapegoating. Comparing the administration’s behavior to Katrina over the past 6 days is an abomination when you place those 6 days alongside the many years that Sandusky should have already been behind bars.

  132. Gadfly says:

    Joe, having read your longer SI blog, you’re sad, sad indeed.

    Joe, you Just.Don’t.Get.It. Starting with the fact that Paterno is NOT a “scapegoat.” He’s an abettor of criminal activity, the rape of juveniles. Read the stories about the kids. If Joe could have prevented ONE incident, ONE case of a child who’s PSYCHE “is in tatters” and didn’t ….

    I hope your book gets boycotted and tanks.

  133. sreed24 says:

    Captain Obvious-At the risk of disagreeing with such a great moral philosopher as yourself, righteous anger produces anything but justice. Anger gives us vigilantism, the occasional lynch mob, maybe the occasional hastily passed ill-conceived law…then it moves on. Everyone competing right now to condemn everyone at Penn State more furiously than the person before them will have moved on to the next thing soon enough. Justice, and more importantly the hard work of making this less likely to happen in the future, will come from sober, clear minded people who were too busy thinking seriously to waste their time basking in the satisfying but utterly worthless endeavor of thinking about how morally superior they are to those who were insufficently outraged. This thing happens because of people like me? No it doesn’t, and that is truly outrageous statement that brings you great discredit. If you had any manners you would apologize, but I won’t hold my breath.

  134. The funny thing is that I actually am a professional moral philosopher. It is my professional opinion that without anger there can be no justice. This is not to say that anger=justice but that justice springs from anger (as does, for instance, courage).

    For the a similar reason retribution must be part of just punishment.

    Those people who try and stamp anger out of public life are the enemies of justice. They don’t want justice they want peace but peace and justice aren’t at all the same thing.

  135. I think Joe Posnanski might be in over his head with this one. I’ve read his work for some time- he’s intelligent, observant… above all else, there’s a certain sweetness to his writing. The Quisenberry tree, Buck O’Neill, Duane Kuiper, etc… It’s like reading a heartwarming Hallmark card. This scandal is disgusting, and involves the moral failure of several people- including Joe Paterno. I’m not sure Posnanski, with his “Awww, isn’t that nice?” worldview (not to mention a notebook full of charming JoePa anecdotes to put in his book) is equipped to handle it. I hope I’m wrong.

  136. Vidor says:

    Posnanski at SI, abridged: I like JoePa, JoePa is nice, isn’t it too bad that people are saying bad things about JoePa, more people should say nice things about JoePa.

    His agent needs to drag him away from all keyboards. Being an apologist for the coverup of serial rape is bad.

  137. Dave V. says:

    Sreed24 – you literally say you are outraged that Captain Obvious said things like this happen because of people like you…and yet you earlier wrote “Seth-Your post was one of the truest and most insightful things I’ve ever read on the internet. It falls on deaf ears of course…Dave V doesn’t get it and never will.”. And Seth wrote “Dave V. (first poster): The ironic, and sad, thing is that people like you enable monsters like Sandusky.”.

    So you’re perfectly happy to agree with those who write that other commenters on this board enable someone like Sandusky. But when someone says the same thing about you…outrage!

    You’re such a “sober, clear-minded person who is so busy thinking seriously” (using your own terms) that all that hard thinking seems to have made you the most self-righteous person (in the worst way possible) who has written in this comments section.

  138. sreed24 says:

    Dave V-That’s a fair point…while I generally agreed with Seth’s post, I think it would have better not personalized towards you. It was really the final three paragraphs that struck a chord with me. I didn’t really intend my praise of his post to be piling on you, and should have been more specific about what I was praising. So I do apologize for that. I can understand you being offended, though I don’t think calling me the most self-righteous person posting is accurate; the competition is just too fierce. I also didn’t in my post, and don’t in general, claim to always be sober or clear-minded myself. I aspire to those virtues, often without success.

  139. I just read that too, Vidor. Jason Whitlock wrote a piece that absolutely slams Joe Posnanski, and I’m sorry to say that I agree with Whitlock. I liked Posnanski in the past, but this is the last time I’ll read his blog or support him in any way.

  140. Alejo says:

    Suddenly a lot of people seem to be better journalists than this blogger

    Please compare the inquisitive, deductive tone of this piece to the infamous “scapegoat” lecture:

  141. Mark Daniel says:

    I don’t understand what is so offensive to many of you here about Joe’s SI post. Seriously some of you need your heads examined. He simply said he won’t come out and blast Paterno as an evil man who aids and abets serial pedophile rapists. He’s allowing for the possibility that Paterno’s egregious actions (and Joe acknowledges that they were egregious) were not founded in evil and bad intentions, but were borne out of naivete, old age, or whatever else allows people to remain silent or not do enough when they are confronted with similar things.
    He also allows for the possibility that Paterno could be an evil man who aids and abets serial pedophile rapists, but he’s not willing to rant and rave about that now. But if it turns out to be true, he will blast Paterno.

    As for Whitlock’s piece, it’s ridiculous. Joe Posnanski is a journalist. But I don’t think he’s an investigative journalist with secret sources and Deep Throat types embedded in the bowels of Penn State University. I don’t think his purpose in writing the Paterno book was to check police reports and use his sources at the FBI and Homeland Security to try and find out all the “goods” on Paterno. He was writing a book on Paterno much like his book on Buck O’Neill. Again, I don’t see what’s wrong with this.
    If he was writing a book on Jim Tressel or John Calipari, maybe checking police reports and FBI sources would be appropriate, but for Joe Paterno that seemed unnecessary.

    The facts are that Paterno was given information about a disturbing event. He went to his superiors. When his superiors ended up doing very little, this seemed okay with Paterno (as well as many others). We don’t know why this seemed okay. It was either an overt coverup to save Penn State’s reputation, or it was an egregious error in judgement that was more innocent in nature. We don’t know which it was right now. I don’t know. You don’t know. Jason Whitlock doesn’t know. The evidence points in the direction of a coverup, I believe. But to Joe’s point, it’s not conclusive when it comes to Joe Paterno’s role.

  142. adam says:

    Slightly off topic, but here’s a good article that describes events before and after 2002, (far back as 1995) that could have led to an indictment against Sandusky. Nothing really happened until 2008. There were a lot of moral failings and likely an inept local police investigation along the way.

    Still think JoePos is entitled to a “wait and see” stance before closing the book on Paterno. Disagree that Paterno is a scapegoat – his moral failings are pretty clear here. But he’s not the only one. And of course the real monster is Sandusky.

  143. tomemos says:

    Mark Daniel, are you talking about the second SI piece? You’ve read that, right? I ask because a lot of what you say seems to apply to the first one more than the second.

    But assuming that you are defending Joe’s second SI piece…since you know so much more than everyone else–enough to diagnose us as lunatics, in fact–perhaps you’re the one who can finally explain to us how Paterno is a “scapegoat”? You understand why that’s such a big deal, right? If Paterno is a scapegoat, that means the blame for the whole incident is put unfairly on his shoulders, while others are getting off scot-free. If that’s what Posnanski believes, he should explain why. The SI piece doesn’t–the “very definition of scapegoat” that he offers is, um, not the very definition of scapegoat.

    Beyond that, what you are saying is different from what Pos is saying in the SI piece that you’re defending. You’re saying, “Paterno definitely did something egregious, we just don’t know why,” and you offer some possible reasons other than a moral failing (age, etc.). Joe, on the other hand, doesn’t mention any of those reasons, because he’s insistent that we *don’t know* what Paterno did or didn’t do in the first place, and therefore we don’t know if he did something egregious. That’s a way stronger defense of Paterno (despite Joe’s “I’m not defending Paterno”) than you’re offering.

    Finally, note that Pos’s plea for us all to wait and see, to find out what the facts are before speaking out—doesn’t apply to “those people whose lives were fundamentally inspired and galvanized by Joe Paterno.” THEY need to speak up, says Joe! THEY have a moral responsibility NOT to wait for all the facts to come in before judging Paterno as a GOOD GUY, before telling us all, in plain language, “Joe Paterno is a good man” (Posnanski’s words). If those people who owe JoePa a favor *don’t* speak up and defend him before all the facts are known, “shame on them.” Does that seem consistent with Joe’s “let’s reserve judgment” stance?

  144. marshall says:


    You came away from Joe’s 2nd SI piece with a different message than I did. I think Posnanski recognizes that Paterno did something egregious–that’s why he thinks he should have been fired (albeit, in a more dignified way). What I took to be Posnanski’s point was that while Paterno’s legacy is tainted, we should still remember all the good he has done over his decades-long career.

    I don’t think Posnanski is saying people should come out and defend Paterno’s action/nonaction in this scandal. I think he wants people to come out with reminders that Paterno has done good things, and we should remember those things. In particular, Posnanski is asking for “character witnesses” to come forward to combat the assertion that Paterno cared only for his legacy. I think that is very different from asking people to come forward to argue that Paterno did not do something terribly wrong.

    I think Posnanski was very clear that Paterno’s role in the scandal will not be glossed over in his book.

  145. marshall says:

    I think Posnanski’s basic position is that a life is complicated, and good people can do very bad things. Joe mentions the hundreds of people who recount stories of the good things Paterno has done to help them. Given the tremendous good Paterno has done, Joe thinks it is wrong that Paterno’s role in the scandal has resulted in him being “painted as an inhuman monster.”

    A couple thoughts: First, I don’t agree with Joe’s position that Paterno is generally being painted as a monster. Maybe we’re just reading different things, but most of what I’m seeing is basically, “Joe Paterno, who has done so much good throughout his life, egregiously failed when it mattered most.” Indeed, I think it is because people recognize that Paterno was fundamentally good that his inaction is so shocking and unsettling.

    Second, at what point is it acceptable to forget all the good done by someone and “paint them as an inhuman monster?” For example, suppose it were more clear (and it seems pretty clear already) that Paterno knowingly covered up the abuse…should people still come out and defend the man separate from his actions in the scandal? Or, should people remember the good things because there is still ambiguity about how severe the bad things are?

  146. Mark says:

    You realize of course that now that Paterno has hired a lawyer, he certainly will not be giving Joe Pos any information on this scandal. Wouldn’t that be legal suicide? And lack of this information would certainly have an effect on the final book, would it not?

    Perhaps a BR lawyer can comment on this. Thanks.

  147. @Mark (and in general): The sooner Posnanski realizes that this will never be a book–definitely never the book he had started to write–to my mind definitely never a biography period–and thus, again imho, definitely never the kind of book Pos would want to write–the simpler a lot of this will become, it seems to me.

    Simpler for Pos to write in places like this, I mean. Obviously most of this horrific scandal will never be simple.


  148. tomemos says:

    Marshall, you raise good points, and maybe I’m reading Joe uncharitably. (Although, not to sound like a broken record, but it would be really helpful to get clarification on what Joe meant by “scapegoat.”)

    I agree with you also that Joe’s feelings that Paterno is being portrayed as a monster seem unfounded. First, at the very least, I’d like links to these people who are casting Paterno as a monster. Without knowing what Joe is responding to, it’s hard to avoid the impression that Joe is taking substantive, if harsh or even scathing, criticism of Paterno as “Paterno is a monster!” Second, as I mentioned above, it hardly seems balanced to talk about those who are vilifying Paterno without even mention those who are rioting in his name.

    Finally, I think your comments get at something important–the broader conversation would be more productive if it focused on “what did Paterno do and not do” rather than “what kind of person is Paterno.” That means, yes, that people who are eager to label Paterno as this or that are not moving things forward. But neither is Joe helping when he insists that we focus on what a decent guy Paterno is, how many people he helped, how many buildings he dedicated, etc. Those things have literally nothing to do with the issue, and it’s inconsistent for Joe to simultaneously say “Let’s find out what happened” and “Let’s consider the high quality of Paterno’s character.”

  149. Broken Yogi says:

    There’s a big difference between being righteous, and being self-righteous. Being righteous means trying to set something right, while self-righteousness is merely an egotistical stance aimed at promoting one’s own self-image (and that of their tribe). I don’t find the posters here to be self-righteous in their criticism of JoePa or JoePoz. They are merely trying to correct situation that has gone terribly wrong. On the other hand, I have found Joepoz and JoePa’s many defenders to be guilty of self-righteousness, rather than actually being righteous.

  150. To the Paterno defenders; you have to make a decision. Either Paterno was indeed the all-knowing benevolent God king of State College the media sold us. We have been told forvever that in his 60+ years on campus he knew everything about his players, that PSU was like a family. We are to believe now he had no idea his 2nd in command and former heir apparent was a monster. That he had no idea about the reports in 1998, 2000 and 2002. And that Sandusky’s sudden and complete departure from coaching in 1998 had nothing to do with any of this. Sundusky never interviewed for another job despite being an acknowledged defensive genius. If you read the 1982 SI piece about Sandusky, Paterno cannot say enough good things about this predator.

    Further we would have to believe Paterno knew nothing of the 1998 investigation and the 30-page report issued by the PSU campus police, with Sandusky offering an apology and promising not to shower with boys(and also not to assassinate presidents, drive drunk nor garrot puppies) . And that between McQueary in 2002 and the janitorial staff in 2000, Paterno still had no idea. When the DA dissappeared in 2005, Paterno was no more interested.

    Or the other possibility is that Paterno has been a doddering figurehead fool for the better part of 2 decades. And the sportswriters who held him up as the dean of doing things right cannot accept that the story they sold, Paterno’s greatness, was nonsense.In fact he depended on Sandusky and other underlings to keep the facade in place. And that he’s worse than the Bobby Bowdens and Barry Switzers he abhored.

    Both cannot be true. And while the former is awful the later only slightly less awful. Paterno liked getting his ring and…other body parts kissed either way. Paterno was lauded so much he almost certainly started to believe he could do no wrong. And when sportwriters cannot bring themselves to see plainly either way Paterno for years enabled a monsterous pedophile, Paterno had good reason to think he could coach for as long as he wanted, that he really was PSU.

    To the proprietor-either pack up the plantation and acknowledge the original idea has been overtaken by these events, or break some shoe leather and tell us who, what, when, where and why. That’s the story. Who are these kids. What are their stories. What the hell happened at PSU to allow this. And how does a monster like this get this far. If you aren’t prepared to do that, go write about something else.

  151. Anthony says:

    Who is defending Paterno? I know Posnanski isn’t defending his inaction. He said he deserved to be fired. He was very explicit about that. Why can he not say that AND believe that Paterno is getting a raw deal as he seems to be getting the treatment Sandusky deserves? And is it not true that Paterno’s failings don’t undo all the good that he did do? Does saying that mean you’re unabashed Paterno “defender?” I don’t see how that can be true. It’s a statement of facts. Joe Paterno did many, many good things for many people. He did integrous, honest, self-sacrificial things for many people. And Joe Paterno has done bad, bad, bad things. He has been selfish, manipulative, tyrannical, and, in this case, did very little to help children who were being abused.

    You know what that makes Joe Paterno? A deeply flawed human being. One we may not like very much right now. One I have no real compassion for right now because he has deserved to be fired, if not in the way they handled it. He does not deserve to be the central object of everyone’s rage, Sandusky does. But he DOES deserve to be the object of everyone’s disappointment and people’s disappointment-fueled anger.

    And why isn’t Posnanski allowed to say all of this? Why can’t, for two seconds, we consider the possibility that he is a human who is dealing with shock, disappointment, anger, sadness, etc.? And because of that, he may say things, or not say things, the way that he would like to five years from now, looking retroactively? And if it’s possible, POSSIBLE, that he is human, why can’t people give him a break to let him sort everything out?

    Basically, what I’m wondering is, why does everyone seem to care so damn much about what Joe Posnanski, a journalist, says about this? Do you need him to validate your rage? Do you think he is the moral judge of Joe Paterno? Do you need the catharsis of his words to make you feel worse/better about Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky? Joe Posnanski is a man. Only a man. You know what Joe Paterno did was wrong. I know it. Joe Posnanski knows it. So why do you NEED him to say it just the way you want in the time that you want? Maybe he processes things differently than you. Maybe he has already learned so much (good and bad) that he is trying to put all the pieces together so that he can sort how how he feels about it all? Do you know if that’s it? Do you think he’s not allowed to process feelings and information in his own way?

    Personally, I say give the man some space. Make your moral judgments as loudly as you want. And let the guy go through his own process and come out with what he finally thinks about it all. Once we know that, THEN people can react and jump down his throat. Until then, I don’t see why we can’t all be content to be disgusted by Jerry Sandusky and angry at the inaction of Joe Paterno.

  152. tomemos says:

    “Who is defending Paterno?”

    Joe Posnanski, at a classroom at PSU. He called Paterno the scapegoat in this incident and said that he tried to do the right thing. That he admits that Paterno should have done more and should have been fired doesn’t take away the statements he made saying that Paterno is getting more than his share of blame and that Paterno tried to do the right thing—two things that Posnanski can’t know, and that are inconsistent with his “let’s see what facts come out” attitude. Yes, Posnanski is defending Paterno.

    “And is it not true that Paterno’s failings don’t undo all the good that he did do?”

    Who is saying that they do? The good things that Paterno did are *completely irrelevant* to this case. If Paterno was known to be a real jerk who never gave a penny to charity and never had a positive influence on anyone, would his inaction be less bad? If he was such a jerk but *did* call the police, would that “undo” all the times before when he didn’t help people? The two parts of his life have nothing to do with each other.

    “…Paterno is getting a raw deal as he seems to be getting the treatment Sandusky deserves”

    Think very, very hard about whether you want to let that stand, because you are not exactly making yourself a sympathetic figure with a statement like that.

    The reason there’s less to say about Sandusky is that his actions are open-and-shut, both morally and legally, whereas the case of Paterno and the other higher-ups is not. You say at another point that we should be “content to be disgusted by Jerry Sandusky,” but there’s no reason that should make us “content” when people with power, and *without* the kind of sickness that makes you prey on children, allowed Sandusky to do what he did.

    “Basically, what I’m wondering is, why does everyone seem to care so damn much about what Joe Posnanski, a journalist, says about this?”

    A columnist, a commentator, makes his living and reputation by people caring what he has to say. That’s his stock in trade. So if Posnanski doesn’t want us to care about what he has to say about this—which I don’t think is true—then that would entail not caring about what he had to say about anything.

    “Personally, I say give the man some space. … And let the guy go through his own process and come out with what he finally thinks about it all. Once we know that, THEN people can react and jump down his throat.”

    If you look above, you will find plenty of people, including myself, who were happy to let Joe take all the time he needed to come to conclusions and write his book, and who defended him against his early critics. But that ship sailed when Joe spoke out in a PSU classroom defending—yes, defending—Paterno. Joe can’t simultaneously say that we’re “rushing to judgment” while claiming that Paterno has obviously been treated unfairly (the worst since Katrina, apparently).

  153. Anthony says:

    If all of Paterno’s evil does not cancel out his good deeds, then why are people getting mad at Joe Posnanski for saying that he has lived a life of good deeds? What I got from what he wrote is that the picture is complex. Evaluate the man based on all the facts. That’s what I got. And, using that thought, in Posnanski’s mind, Joe Paterno is still, on the whole a good man. To me, that doesn’t seem to be a “defense of Paterno.” Maybe that qualifies as one and the same to you. To me, I think he’s a man. A very flawed man who has done a lot of good. I think my estimation of human character is likely more pessimistic than Posnanski’s so he might phrase it by saying, “On the whole, Paterno is a good man who made some very, very bad decisions.” I would say something more harsh

    I’ll address your question regarding whether or not I “want that statement to stand” by first saying that you quoted half a statement that was in a series of hypotheticals. So, for the purpose of your polemic, you’ve made an effective decision but not one very representative of what I was saying. I don’t see how it’s impossible construe media treatment of Joe Paterno as unfair, in the LITERAL sense of the word. Is it in proportion to all the crimes committed? No, it’s not. Is it even fair in the sense that it is equal to the media outrage against Jerry Sandusky? No it’s not. Just because it’s more controversial (I take it that that’s your meaning when you say it is not as “open and shut”), does not mean it merits more outrage. Or even equal outrage. To me, there is a pyramid of moral failure here. Joe Paterno is fairly high up that pyramid, but he’s not at the pinnacle.

    I think, obviously, that there should be anger directed at Joe Paterno. I think that anger, in the case of Paterno, is and should be exacerbated by disappointment considering what we THOUGHT we knew of the man. But do I think that Joe Paterno should be anointed as the vessel for all our wrath? No. Sandusky deserves that. And everyone else that has been complicit has morally (and in some cases legally) failed. I’m not saying we should like them or think lightly of that. I’m just saying it’s not equal to the crime that Sandusky committed. Would you get that impression from reading the press? I don’t know that you would.

    You make a fair point on Posnanski making a living by asking people to care about what he says. I just guess that I only cared about what he said about areas in which he is an expert: sports, persons involved in sports, and the stories that involve the two. This appears to fall in those categories, but I never cared what Joe had to say about ethics. He’s not an ethics expert or a morality expert. So I guess I just never really expected that of him. Maybe he created that expectation in others and, if he did, he has to live with that.

    I don’t understand the comments regarding Katrina. I put those under the category of “saying things that you’ll later regret.” Maybe because, like you said, he created an expectation of authority or at least people caring what he said, that is reason enough to damn him in the moment. Personally, I never gave him that benefit of the doubt. I expect people to say stupid stuff when their emotions run high. I assume that that’s what is happening here. I don’t condone what he said. I think it’s wrong to solely claim that Joe Paterno is a scapegoat, though the university has basically deflected from themselves by letting him get hit instead of owning their own responsibility. To me, Joe’s comments were more about the media than Joe Paterno.

    Obviously, I think that’s a bad idea at this point. He set himself up as a leader, he failed as a leader and as a human, and he deserved to lose his job and our respect. If Joe Posnanski thinks otherwise, then I’ll disagree with Joe, but I won’t be all that mad or disappointed. To me, he’s just a sportswriter. Not a moral authority.

  154. Anthony says:

    To clarify, what I think is a bad idea is truly “defending Joe Paterno.” Saying it’s complicated as a whole? Ok, I can live with that. Reminding us that this hurts and outrages us because Joe Paterno seemed to be a good man and has done so many selfless things? We probably should be reminded of that. To keep defending Joe Paterno after reflection and time? I think that would be a bad idea, considering the context. We probably should just be judging the actions of the man. And right now, the (in)actions of the man are very bad.

    Again, though, I thought Joe’s unwise comments were provoked in the context of critiquing the media. Which should probably always be happening.

  155. tomemos says:

    If you agree that Posnanski’s PSU comments were unwise, then we’re not in serious disagreement. Although I think that the piece Joe followed up with—in which he reiterated the “scapegoat” claim and said of people who won’t speak up for Paterno, “Shame on them”—was pretty problematic as well. I won’t quibble over the word “defend.”

    I’m not trying to be obtuse when I say: I don’t know who is mad at Joe for saying Paterno has also lived a life of good deeds. Do you mind pointing them out? That’s part of the problem here: the vagueness about who exactly is being responded to. For my part, I’m not mad at Joe for saying that; I’m mad at him (if that’s the right word) for his Penn State comments and his claim that people are *obligated* to talk about Paterno’s good deeds.

    As for whether Paterno is “on the whole” a good man…that’s a distraction. The parents of the kids who Paterno could have saved don’t care how many libraries he built. So, okay, I guess I’m annoyed with Joe for bringing in bromides like that which encourage people to be equivocal over a matter that should not be equivocal. I don’t think people in power should be encouraged to think, “Well, I’m a good person, and if I slip up once or twice, who doesn’t?” (I’ll also note that Joe’s self-righteousness on this matter–“shame on them”–adds to my annoyance.)

    I do think the “Paterno is getting Sandusky’s treatment” line is, well, kind of offensive. Barring new revelations, Paterno is not going to jail. Sandusky is. Paterno’s “treatment” is losing his job in disgrace (justified) and getting a lot written about him in the media. That is not where the important “treatment” happens. When the stakes are kids getting abused and people going to jail, getting bad things written about you doesn’t move me to sympathy. (This is another place where knowing what was written that’s so unfair would be very helpful—right now I just don’t agree that Paterno is “the vessel for all our wrath,” but I’m willing to look at evidence.)

    And anyway, of course people are writing more about him—he’s a prominent public figure. As I said above, Paterno may be getting a lot of headlines but he’s also the only one in this case who has crowds of students rallying (and rioting) in his defense, and prominent sportswriters like Joe Posnanski reminding everyone of all the good he’s done. Being more prominent has its advantages and disadvantages.

    And obviously Sandusky is vastly more horrible, but there just isn’t a lot you can say about Sandusky. He has desires and a lack of conscience which we can’t fathom and are not likely to ever feel. Posnanski, Curley, Spanier, and Schultz were people in power who didn’t act, not for deranged or perverse reasons, but out of shortsightedness, cowardice, or some ordinary human quality like that. I agree that that means that we shouldn’t call them “monsters”—we should apply their lessons to ourselves—but neither should we shift the spotlight to the person who truly is a monster, because what can we learn from him?

    Finally, if you look over Posnanski’s writings in the past you’ll see that he frequently addresses ethical issues in sports—steroids, sportsmanship, the treatment of college athletes. That said, I accepted it when his position was, “I’m going to see what facts come in.” When he opens up and critiques the media, though—well, he’s the media too. I don’t think that most of the critiques leveled at him have been out of line; same goes for Paterno.

  156. Anthony says:

    I absolutely think Joe’s PSU comments were unwise. I think they were emotional, over-the-top words borne out of anger at his colleagues more than anything. They just don’t bother me that much because I see them as just that: emotional words spoken hastily.

    I actually agree with you that Paterno’s status as a “good man” (whether true or false) is ancillary. It’s not at issue here. That’s why I don’t get why people in these comments are so mad that Joe said this. Well, that’s how I read their outrage. It seems like that’s what they’re mad at. Good… bad… it doesn’t matter. He blew this royally. None of his past deeds change that.

    I see what you mean when you say Paterno is not getting Sandusky’s treatment. As I’ve said, I think most of the things at issue in Joe’s comments have been media issues. Therefore the “treatment” I’m speaking of is media vitriol. Of course, outside media, Joe Paterno is getting just what he deserved and not much more. Sandusky will get the real consequences. And that’s right. I just don’t get the equality in column inches. Unless it’s just because people can say, “Sandusky will go to jail for a long time. The only justice we can enact on Paterno is to write a lot about him.” Ok… I see the emotional logic of that.

    If people’s anger at this writer is because he is not using this as an exemplary opportunity to discuss the importance of speaking out on behalf of those who have no voice, then I endorse the frustration. THAT makes sense to me. I think that is a more clearly-voiced complaint and a legitimate one.

    It just seemed that things here were taking this tone that Joe is not hard enough on child abuse . I just thought it all very weird. And I have no problem laying a rational, clear, even emotional critique of all the median (even Joe). I just think it should be more thoughtful and well-developed (as you’ve done) than the standard, “You’re scum, Joe. I’ll never read another word you write.”

    Also, I think all of this serves as a good reminder that your expectations for other people to be moral compasses and infallible will inevitably set you up for disappointment and anger.

  157. Hey Joe, I was reading Peter King on and I cut myself short to head over to your site. A writer I can get behind. Write what you’re supposed to write Joe, because when you say it, it ain’t “noise.”

  158. tomemos says:


    Good talking to you. I agree with what you write here–your last point is particularly incisive. And I also agree that the “I’m dropping you, Joe” move is pretty immature, and is an attempt by reader to put him- or herself at the center of attention.

  159. Anthony says:


    Agreed. Nice to have a reasonable discussion. You gave good explanations and brought angles to light I hadn’t considered. Much appreciated.

  160. Clashfan says:

    Tomemos, my impression of Posnanski’s ‘scapegoat’ comment is this:

    Posnanski believes that Penn State let Paterno take the media heat for days, and then fired him. Posnanski thinks that either Paterno should have been allowed to take the media heat and then retire at the end of the season, OR he should have been fired the day after the indictment was made public.

    This is only my belief about Posnanski’s take, and obviously may be flawed. It’s also not necessarily what I believe.

  161. Mark says:

    Was Paterno’s firing handled wretchedly? Sure. Was Joe Pos justified in being angry about that? Yeah, you can make that argument.

    But look at the context. Penn State has criminally bungled this entire situation from day 1. Did anyone expect them to get this part (Paterno’s firing)done smoothly?

    When you look at what those poor children suffered, the fact that Paterno was fired by a phone call is trivial, less than trivial, in comparison.

  162. sreed24 says:

    I think Posnanski’s comments were unwise as well, but I mostly give him a pass because of the context. It’s much easier for us, with our more neutral and outside perspective, to see the situation objectively and recognize that Paterno’s lack of action merited most of (save some over the top vitriol from the press) the consequences he received. Much more difficult to have that perspective, I think, if we had just come to know and genuinely care about Paterno and had just spent the last few days literally watching him be shattered before our eyes. I can only imagine what kind of visceral impact it must have on Pos to see Paterno slowly coming to grips with this. Also, while from a distance we might still think of Paterno as an authority figure who casts a large shadow, I suspect that up close his age and the frailty and vulnerability that comes with it looms much larger. Pos, for better or worse, is a pretty soft-hearted soul, and I can certainly imagine that watching his eighty-four year old friend lose most of what he loved over the course of a few days left him quite unable to really have a neutral perspective.

    One could argue that Pos abdicated his responsibility as a journalist by becoming close enough to Paterno to not be able to be objective, but I disagree. If Pos were a college football beat reporter, maybe, but I don’t think every sportswriter is obligated to remain distant enough from every sports figure to maintain objectivity if an emotionally charged story comes up.

    At this point, think of Posnanski as essentially Paterno’s friend and neighbor who happens to be a journalist. If some public figure is discovered to have had a moral failing, it’s interesting to know their friend’s take on it, but you don’t expect their friend to be objective, and in my opinion it’s not fair to condemn the friend for having a more forgiving view than the facts really warrant.

  163. “I liked Posnanski in the past, but this is the last time I’ll read his blog or support him in any way.”

    Newcastle: You’re really going to disregard an entire man’s past and future because of what his opinions might be about what a man may or may not have done about what another man may or may not have done?

  164. Mark says:

    If anyone’s still reading these comments, I’d just like to point out that the allegation against Sandusky in 2002 was the THIRD such allegation involving children and improper sexual conduct. It’s not as if this was an isolated incident: 1998, accused of showering with children (Sandusky confirmed this Monday evening); 2000, janitor alleges to have seen Sandusky performing oral sex on a child; 2002, Sandusky is alleged to have sodomized a boy in a shower.

    I’m all for giving a guy the benefit of the doubt, but damn, THREE such allegations and STILL nothing was done? JoePa and anyone in a position of power at Penn State should be ashamed.

  165. Mike Cecconi says:

    What it comes down to, more than anything, is that in the light of this… how many accusations there were over how much time, how much of the system seems to have been rigged to sweep it under the rug… you can’t have the myth that Paterno was a benevolent inspiring Grandpa Claus alongside the truth that in that town Paterno was clearly the most powerful man and HAD to have known.

    Paterno was the old-school college coach as benevolent dictator of a city entire and that was the grand myth of him.

    Now that we have to accept that the benevolence was not a part of his dictatorship, the whole house of cards folds.

    And that kills the myth Pos wanted to hold onto about Paterno and probably the book to and… that’s probably hard to get your head around.

    But in the face of the fact that Paterno was covering for a serial rapist of children, you have to. You just have to.

    This ain’t no foolin’ around no more.

  166. John S. says:

    “And I also agree that the “I’m dropping you, Joe” move is pretty immature, and is an attempt by reader to put him- or herself at the center of attention.”

    Just speaking for myself I posted my comment here to communicate my sentiments to Joe. Perhaps I would have been better served with e-mail.

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