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Paterno held onto power way too long

Joe Paterno, Sue Paterno
You can't fault Sue Paterno (right) for fighting to clear the family name.
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Jason Whitlock

Jason Whitlock writes about the sports world from every angle, including those other writers can't imagine or muster courage to address. His columns are humorous, thought-provoking, agenda-free, honest and unpredictable. E-mail him, follow his Twitter or become a fan of Jason Whitlock on Facebook.

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Someone tell the Paternos there is a price for holding onto power too long. Tell their little adopted son Franco “Fredo” Harris, too. Tell Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett. And tell the Penn State board of trustees before it gets riled up and rejects the conclusions reached in the Freeh Report.

Joe Paterno played the game of thrones for 46 years. Only idiots and his namesakes thought he’d never lose. First power corrupts and then it evaporates. That’s the way of the world for as long as we’ve recorded history.

You can’t blame the Paternos for wanting their “good” name back. It was the American Express card they never left at home. It was bequeathed to them by Joe. It opened every conceivable door, from a recruit’s home in the backwoods to the gates of the White House. To be born a Paterno or carry the name by marriage was better than being raised a Kennedy.

Paterno was a fable of biblical proportions.

Nope. You can’t fault the Paternos for paying a bunch of lawyers a million dollars to refute the Freeh Report. You can’t fault Sue and Jay Paterno for their media propaganda tour aimed at raising reasonable doubts about Joe’s knowledge of Jerry Sandusky’s depravity. But just because you can’t find fault with their motives does not mean you have to grant them their demands. On Monday, my colleague Greg Couch pointed out the case against JoePa doesn’t rise or fall on reasonable doubt. It hinges on common sense.

Beyond the false dichotomy the Paternos set up is the fact that we don’t owe them their good name because Joe earned it and passed when it expired. If they want to rebuild the Paterno name and make it anew, America provides them that opportunity in abundance. It is their sense of entitlement that makes them reluctant to deal with their new reality, a world in which the Paterno name closes some doors, opens others and forces them to wait in line with the rest of us at a few.

The Paternos are common folk and don’t like it. Penn Staters can no longer flout the Paterno name as proof of their superior integrity and don’t like it.

This is the price of holding onto power too long.

NO LONGER THERE

The halo that sat above Joe Paterno's head on a State College mural was painted over in July 2012 by the artist.

Joe Paterno should’ve surrendered his power at age 70, shortly before the police officially investigated Sandusky the first time. Paterno certainly should’ve stepped down at age 75, around the time Mike McQueary told Paterno he saw Sandusky naked with a child inside a Penn State locker-room shower.

Yeah, that sounds like 20-20 hindsight. It is.

But here is what the Paternos want us to believe: Joe Paterno was too old, too feeble, too naive, too distracted, too saintly to know what to make of allegations that one of his longtime employees might have raped a child inside the Penn State locker room. The Paternos want us to believe the best Old Joe could do is kick the allegations upstairs to the bosses that feared him.

The argument they’re making is Joe Paterno was no longer qualified for the job he held. He was an old king holding on to power for the benefit of others — first and foremost his family. If he’d raised a son (Jay) competent enough to take the throne, he would’ve surrendered it. If he’d raised children with the kind of character extolled in the Paterno fable, they would’ve talked their father into retirement.

Instead. they held onto their power for 46 years. Their rule did not end until after their father (temporarily) passed Eddie Robinson on the all-time wins list.

Of the many things that bothered me about the Paterno biography written by Joe Posnanski, one stood out. Posnanski allegedly embedded himself inside State College and the Penn State football program for two years, but he somehow managed not to write a single word documenting what Paterno did with his last two football teams during practices and games. What and how Paterno instructed his coaches and players is a mystery.

There are three explanations: 1. Posnanski didn’t see it because he wasn’t granted access; 2. What Posnanski witnessed was too embarrassing to write for a hagiography; 3. Posnanski chose to leave it out because he had too much other good information.

If you read the book, you know No. 3 is not an option. The first two are both conceivable, quite likely and proof the Paternos began the fight for their “good” name long before JoePa was dethroned.

The Paterno biography relied heavily on the perspective of Guido D’Elia, a Paterno insider Posnanski described as a “Penn State marketing guru.” Guido was Paterno’s personal sports information director. Posnanski quoted him extensively throughout the “biography.”

My belief is the Paternos (and Guido) knew exactly what the Sandusky investigation would mean to the Paterno name, and they found someone to write a book, a law firm to file a report and a producer to make a movie so that the Paterno name could be restored to its former glory.

In this Game of Thrones, Guido D’Elia is Littlefinger and he believes “gold wins wars, not soldiers.”

Tagged: Penn State

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