A Faustian pact that hid sexual abuse to protect a brand
OPINION:Football coach Joe Paterno concealed abuse to protect a cash cow and his reputation
WAS IT right to take down former American football coach Joe Paterno’s statue outside the University of Pennsylvania’s stadium, as though he were Saddam Hussein?
Since the publication earlier this month of the scorching report by former FBI director Louis Freeh, which found Paterno and three other top Penn State administrators concealed sex abuse claims against retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, plenty of people had weighed in on the best thing to do with that triumphant seven-foot statue of the late coach, which symbolised nearly half a century of pride in football at the university.
Should it be torn down? Melted down? Moved away from Beaver Stadium? Turned to look the other way, as Paterno did?
The sculptor, Angelo Di Maria, got into the fray, counselling patience. “Put a cover on it,” he said, and “let’s see how everyone feels in six months” or a year.
After a plane flew over the campus several days last week trailing a banner that said: “Take the statue down or we will”, some students set up camp to guard the monument from vandals.
Don Van Natta jnr, a senior writer for ESPN, wrote on Friday that the university’s trustees, worried that the National Collegiate Athletic Association might give the death penalty to the Penn State football programme for its “loss of institutional control”, banning it for a year or more, had a “spirited” conference call on Thursday night, debating what to do with the statue.
“People want to kick Joe’s bones,” one board member complained to Van Natta. “It’s outrageous.” Trustees however said Penn State’s new president, Rodney Erickson, would decide.
Yesterday, the statue was taken down and put in storage. If I were the decider, I’d have left it up. But I’d have put up a darkly alluring statue behind Paterno, whispering in his ear: Mephistopheles.
Jerry Sandusky is a sexual sociopath. When you looked into his eyes during his trial, as young men who had been raped by him as trusting boys cried and cringed on the stand, there was no emotion there, no shame.
Paterno is the tragic figure in the case, the man who went to church and taught his players “success with honour” but who succumbed to supporting depravity. His name was derived from the Latin word for father, and JoePa was the beloved paterfamilias of Penn State. How did he crack his moral compass?
It’s the story of Faust, a morality play that unspools daily in politics, banking, sports and the Catholic Church. It has taken many artistic forms, from puppet theatre to the Marlowe and Goethe plays to opera to a musical that was also a sports morality tale, “Damn Yankees”, about a middle-aged real estate agent who sells his soul to be a slugger named “Shoeless Joe” Hardy for the Washington Senators.