“There is a case for telling the truth; there is a case for avoiding the scandal; but there is no possible defense for the man who tells the scandal, but does not tell the truth.” G.K. Chesterton
A few years ago a man I respected greatly became the center of a media frenzy that ended his storied career as a coach and respected mentor. The popular narrative at the time was that he had participated in a cover-up and sheltered a sexual predator. It was an idea based in speculation rather than actual fact, there wasn’t even a semblance of due process before he was fired (literally in the dark of night) and yet with sanctimonious glee many presumed his guilt. It was disturbing to watch for a person actually concerned with justice.
The man, Joe Vincent Paterno, had coached football at Penn State from 1966 to 2011 and during the time had amassed 409 victories. But his biggest contribution was not on something recorded in the Sunday morning paper. What earned him a spot in the hearts of many who cared very little about football was his character and concern for bigger things. He was loyal to the concept of student-athlete, was a trailblazer for civil rights once standing up to an opponent that requested some of his players not participate because of their skin color and practically built the university library through his donations.
Obviously none of the accolades one can list about him would excuse Paterno if he were truly guilty of what many had surmised. But it is a record that should call us to question the narrative as presented and keep us from joining in a rush to judgment. Well, the push back has begun and the facts seem to support a less damning verdict. It is for that reason the NCAA has relented on the punitive measures they took against Paterno and that punished athletes who had nothing whatsoever to do with anything criminal or morally reprehensible.
Still, there are some blowhard moralizers who still refuse to ‘get it’ and insist on painting a whole community as willfully ignorant for not sharing in their own surmising and their own selective memory. Among them sticking to the presumptuous early narrative is Keith Olbermann who blasted those who celebrate the restoration of a legacy that includes 409 wins. His persistent to neglect fact in his prosecution of Paterno and Penn State fans the subject of an ‘open letter’ response…
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