Reconciling Joe Paterno

I’ve been too busy with work and life to add anything meaningful to the Joe Paterno story.

I’m sure the Penn State faithful are mourning JoePa much the same way Alabama fans mourned – and in some ways still mourn, the passing of Paul Bryant.  But while Bryant’s death left Bama fans to mourn with one eye on the past and one eye on who would be the next big winner, Paterno left behind a much messier situation than who would be his successor.

Penn State fans were left to mourn a leader who’s actions apparently fell short – at least at times – versus the mantra he espoused.  They have a lot of things to reconcile and talks about this:

Joe Paterno is dead, and I’m still unable to reconcile anything.

How could a man accused of instilling no influence to prevent the worst kind of harm be called the most important influence in the lives of players who didn’t even like the guy?

How could a man who cared so very much about Adam Taliaferro and his tragic tale not be seen showing the same public support for child abuse victims in 2002, or at the very least after the Grand Jury report in 2008?

How could a man who suspended former running back Austin Scott the week before his (subsequently dropped) sexual assault charges not banish Sandusky from football buildings after official accusations were made?

How could a man unwilling or unable to ask Mike McQueary for more details also be investigative enough to make a pattern out of unannounced trips to his players’ classes to keep track of attendance?

How could a man be so defiantly resilient in the face of his institutional superiors in 2004, yet not have taken control of the Sandusky situation in 2002?

How could a man so well-versed and clearly in love with the classics not see a real life sickening tale staring him in the face, the lead role cast by a man he’d knowing of for decades?

There aren’t answers to any of those questions, by the way. Admitting that is not helping resolve my understanding of what just happened.

It’s frustrating. What’s more so is that there are perfectly reasonable questions — what exactly did everyone know, what exactly did everyone do, why the hell was Sandusky in the weight room this fall? — that we aren’t likely to have answers to and therefore aren’t likely to be able to judge and project upon. Or maybe the specifics don’t actually matter. Prohibition was supposed to cure all social ills rather promptly in 1919. A mandate for full information about how the institution of Penn State failed might end with just as much futility.

Either way, we’re now living in a Paternoless world where the events just are, because of the conditions that caused them. I’m concerned by the very real possibility that this is going to have to be good enough.