Powerful column about Paterno: Visiting Sandusky’s home; adjusting view on legendary coach

This column by David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News ran on July 1. Thanks to a tweet from SportsbyBrooks, I saw it the other day.

This is a powerful and important column that deserves wide-spread attention. Jones writes about his reaction to the CNN report of an email that could implicate Joe Paterno in failing to stop Jerry Sandusky from his unthinkable crimes.

In covering the man and his football program for 21 seasons, the single most dominant thread is this: his ambition and drive. He would allow nothing and no one to disparage the institution he had built without some form of retribution. And he had complete power over his domain.
He could be a vindictive man. At times, he was pointlessly petty and nasty.
Just like the rest of us. Except that in the case of a man who had accumulated such power, the consequences of his actions could take on much greater impact.

Jones writes of hearing about possible allegations involving Sandusky in Aug. 2011. Eventually, he went to Sandusky’s home to try to track down the coach.

I drove to State College on Sept. 16, knocked on his door in a rainstorm and was met by his wife, Dottie.
I asked if Jerry was home. No, said Dottie cordially, he wasn’t. I fished out a business card and handed it to her and said he might remember me as a reporter from when he was a coach more than a decade before and please would she have him call me. She pleasantly said she would.
And then, I mentioned police. Had police questioned him about anything lately? The question was that benign. I wanted to test her reaction.
It was not quizzical. Not: “Police? What do you mean, police?”
Instead, it was immediate and forceful. Dottie Sandusky narrowed her eyes and said to me: “If you have any other questions, you can ask the people at The Second Mile. And I do not appreciate you coming to my house.” She slammed the door in my face.

Then I knew. What I had heard about Sandusky had been heard by others. Police were very likely involved, even if no charges had been filed. And that lent credence to everything else I had been told.

Jones concludes his column, cautioning people to expect to hear the worse about Paterno in an upcoming Penn State investigation. He writes:

We don’t know the totality of what the Freeh investigation will uncover. I would just ask those who cannot get their minds around the concept of Joe Paterno acting in self-interest — acting to preserve his institution rather than individuals — to prepare themselves to have their bedtime story disrupted. You don’t get to be as powerful as this man was by sitting idly by and allowing others to call shots.
Such power breeds fame, and vice versa. Soon, we bestow the mantle of greatness on men who do not warrant it, as often as we ignore the anonymously noble, those truly worthy of our praise.
How many times do we instill intrinsic goodness in those we don’t even know? Have the Roman Catholic priest scandals in Boston and Philadelphia taught us nothing?
It does not have to be a lesson of bitter disillusionment, only one of caution. Trust those few you personally know.
The vast majority of you have never known these men at Penn State. You only knew of their station atop your chosen club buttressed by the trappings of their fame.
The most famous of them all was the head football coach. His fame did not make him a saint.

The column elicited 262 responses on his site. Reaction was split. Here are some samples.

Critical thinkers?….What’s there to think?…Joe Pa lied and covered things up……But you are right about one thing….The brain washed penn state fans will never believe it.


We do agree that he could have done more. We choose to support him because he has done great things for hundreds of thousands of people. He has been an inspiration in so many other areas. He made a big mistake. We all do from time to time. This is not black and white. He is not a bad person based on one mistake. Even if it was a huge one


Sorry, Joe Paterno was one of the greatest men that Penn State ever had working for it, if not THE greatest.  It was a sad day when he was fired, and the board over reacted.  People can put him down all they want, but he was a very special person to anybody who ever went to Penn State.  He turned boys into men on that team, and was an inspirational figure for the entire university and community.  He will be missed greatly, and nobody could fill the gap that was created by the board when he was fired.

He reported this incident to not one, but two different people at the university.  One of these people was the HEAD of campus police at the time.  So essentially he DID report this to the police, so many people fail to grasp this.  It was the university, Spanier, the state attorney generals office at the time, and the Centre county DA at the time, that dropped the ball.  Not Joe Paterno.  Please read up on the entire situation before throwing guilt around, there is a reason he was cleared of any legal wrong doing from the beginning of this whole thing.


He may have turned boys into men “on that team” but he apparently failed some even younger boys who needed his help like none of the football players ever needed his help.


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