Notice I said in awe - not respectful, in admiration, or supportive of him, for he is worthy of none of those accolades. I am in awe of Paterno’s chutzpah. Oh, for sure he ran a great team, developed it with hard fought persistence, dedication and leadership. If ones life’s worth were measured by sport or success in his life’s passion, Paterno would be a national hero.
But when it came down to real life, the last play on the goal line of an sterling career, he failed and failed miserably. He chose between a game and children’s wellbeing. He chose between complacency and indignation. He chose between right and wrong. He chose poorly. When it really mattered Paterno fumbled, and fumbled beyond forgiveness.
His termination by Penn State was right and proper, and that would have been the end of it save any legal actions that might befall him as a result of his inaction. I’d have had nothing to comment upon, no further ax to grind with him. But then he said this:
"As you know, the kids that were the victims, I think we ought to say a prayer for them,"
And there, in that one sentence is the very heart of the grotesqueness of religion, the very core of what I have raged about, fought against, and endeavored to put a face on for these many years all summed up nice and tidy by a disgraced coach.
PRAYER?? Say a PRAYER for the child victims? You self righteous sanctimonious jerk... some of those kids are victims partially because you failed as a man. You relinquished your responsibility as a human being. Your hubris and self interest over shadowed those victims interest. But, now, NOW you’ll implore us to mumble words to a nonexistent thing in the sky as though that will fix things? As though those kids’ lives will be repaired by words to a deity when your own misbehavior, self-serving actions, or apathy was a causal factor for their pain?
No Joe, the only thing that can help these kids now is years of therapy by trained child psychologists. Your call to prayer to millions of your fans and followers won’t do a damn thing for those kids, it never has and it never will. Thanks anyway. And as a Hail Mary play to repair your image- forget it, that’s been tried by fools, frauds, and tyrants for eons. It’s the hall mark of disgraced religionists to drop back into supernatural mode and punt, the better to distract from their failed humanity and inability to carry it across the line.
Sorry Joe, no supernatural platitudinous hackneyed “let us pray” is going to erase your penalty, remove the shame, shift blame, salve things over, or heal wounds. You dropped the ball big time. Invoking your imaginary god and supernaturalism may have worked for your half time locker room pep talks...it doesn’t work in the real world, it only makes it worse.
(Thanks to Rachel H. for the inspiration for this article)