The Joe Paterno Era is over

Posted by Jeff Rice on November 10, 2011 

Brain ... spinning ... must ... get ... sleep ... but ... can't ... stop ... writing ...

Just had to get a few more thoughts down before Thursday and Tom Bradley and succession stories and Paterno fallout begin. I'll try to list them as bullet points.

-- No matter how you look at things, the board of trustees had a tremendously difficult decision to make. If it decided to allow Paterno to coach the remainder of the season, the media circus would have continued up to and through the bowl game. As it is now, the Nebraska game will still be a madhouse but the Ohio State and Wisconsin games might actually resemble normal football games. And the sooner the decisions were made on Paterno and Spanier, the better. It's hard to imagine decisions on Curley and McQueary will be far behind.

-- My initial instinct was to downplay the "riots" downtown. It typically doesn't take much to get Penn State students into Beaver Canyon, and I think we need to find a more suitable word than the cover-all term "riot" which implies more violence than what typically ensues. However, a TV news truck did get tipped over and there were reports of students having to be hospitalized. Look -- the images of the students downtown will not be what this night is remembered for, ESPN cameras or not. America is not going to judge Penn State as a school based on the actions of a couple thousand students in the moments after an iconic coach was fired and if it does, well, America needs to be smacked upside the head. What will be remembered is what the board did and why. That said, there are ways to express your opinions, however passionate they may be, that don't involve chucking rocks or climbing light poles. Stay classy, Penn State.

-- Did anyone else catch Paterno saying that "maybe" he was out to TV cameras outside his house after he had been fired? Did I take that out of context? Was it a slip of the tongue? Or does Paterno really think he has a chance to be reinstated? He used to say that he didn't need a contract to coach; the board of trustees proved he didn't need a contract to be terminated.

-- Finally (and it's 2 a.m. and I'm really about to pass out here), I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness tonight. I felt sad for those students and alumni and fans who really did and always will look at Joe Paterno as a hero. My father is one of them. I felt bad for Paterno's players. You could hear the strain in their voices talking to them today after they'd learned Paterno had resigned, before he'd been fired. And I felt bad for Paterno himself. It's not the way he wanted to go; it's not the way anyone would want to go. But then I started thinking about the victims and their families. I would imagine what they would give to feel this kind of sadness instead of the horror, the shame and mental anguish they've been carting around for years and will probably carry their whole lives. If Sandusky did commit those crimes and he does go to prison, you wonder how much vindication, how much solace, that will bring them. And that's when I realized that it was important that someone other than Sandusky -- several others, in fact -- be penalized for this. Penn State -- all of us, really -- needed a wake-up call. Evil cannot go unchecked. We must watch for it and stomp it out before it has a chance to grow. Maybe all of this is part of that wake-up call.

The ride isn't over, folks. It's only getting started. Strap in and hold on tight.

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