I’m afflicted by waves of nausea. I don’t feel feverish, and I’m certain it’s not the flu. Rather, I am sickened by the overwhelming number of social media posts hailing Joe Paterno since the announcement of his death today. Sports fans are posting “RIP Joe Pa,” and similar sentiments all over Twitter, Facebook and other social networks.
Those sentiments just go to prove how sports-obsessed this country is, even to the detriment of our children. I’ll concede that Paterno was an outstanding coach. He had a long, successful career leading the Penn State football team and program. I’m certain that he positively influenced the lives of thousands of young men during his career. But he was far from perfect, and he was not worthy of idolatry. What sickens me is that now that Paterno is dead, sports fans want to be his cheerleader, ignoring the evidence that he allowed his assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, to continue molesting young boys, even after Paterno received reports of such abuse. That’s beyond a mere “mistake.”
The American sports industry and its fans love to have something to cheer about. In this case, they will even cheer for a man who knew that Sandusky was abusing boys and provided the playground for that abuse. Considering that Paterno knew about the abuse and allowed it to continue, allowed Sandusky to keep an office on the Penn State campus, and allowed Sandusky to come and go as he pleased on campus, I consider Paterno an accomplice.
Oh, sports fans claim that Paterno did what he was supposed to by reporting the incident to his superiors. Sure — he did what he was legally obligated to do. He did the bare minimum in order to protect himself and his football program. Because, ultimately, what mattered most to Paterno wasn’t the security of youths. It was the security of his career and his football program. Paterno had the opportunity to become a true hero by reporting the abuse to law enforcement. He failed to do so.
And all of that is disgusting. What is equally, perhaps even more, revolting is that millions of sports fans are blindly mourning Paterno’s death, ignoring the evidence, willing to sweep it under the rug in order to have something to cheer about. No, Paterno didn’t diddle young boys. But is it any better that he allowed and enabled it?
I wrote a post on Facebook this morning about how Paterno’s death demonstrates how sports-obsessed this country is. Several of my friends expressed their agreement. It actually sparked a lively discussion when one friend’s comments only proved my point. He’s a sports fan, and littered his comments with “RIP Joe Pa,” professing Paterno’s innocence and calling me and others ignorant about the case because we dislike sports.
I’m far from ignorant about the case. I have followed it closely. I have read the full grand jury report (which will also turn your stomach), and I have read articles from various news sources. I’d venture to guess that’s more than the average sports fan has done.
What I’m noticing in these pro-Paterno posts is that sports fans are content to ignore the fact that as a direct result of Paterno’s inaction potentially dozens of young boys were molested. Their lives are forever impacted by Paterno’s decision to save himself and his program rather than them.
And that is the sad, disgraceful state of our country. Americans are so involved with sports and idolizing athletes that they fail to consider the negative effects on our society. We’ll pay millions of dollars for a new stadium to host the College World Series for 10 days a year, but we have impoverished children who don’t eat and subpar schools. College and especially professional sports are rife with immorality (to put it gently), yet millions of Americans cast a blind eye toward infidelity, doping, rape and sexual abuse, societal problems and more in order to have something to cheer about every weekend.
That should be enough to nauseate anyone.