Joe Paterno's Apology

I've seen a number of posts dealing with Paterno on Facebook today. I'll admit my knowledge of the subject is a bit sketchy--coming mostly from a few minutes of Dan Patrick's radio program the past few days. From what I understand, 10 years ago a member of the football program was caught fondling a young child in the Penn State locker room by a graduate assistant. The assistant in turn notified Joe Paterno, who notified administration. No one, to my knowledge, ever notified the police.

I have a very hard time processing that last sentence.

Given what I have heard on sports radio, so does most of America.

Today, Joe Paterno released a statement:

I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case. I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief.

I have come to work every day for the last 61 years with one clear goal in mind: To serve the best interests of this university and the young men who have been entrusted to my care. I have the same goal today.

That’s why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can.

This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.

My goals now are to keep my commitments to my players and staff and finish the season with dignity and determination. And then I will spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to help this University

What bothers me about this statement, the first public statement by Paterno in the aftermath of this story, is its political maneuverings. While an apology, it is also an attempt to bargain with Penn State's Board of Trustees, who themselves have scheduled a meeting on Friday to determine Paterno's future. Regardless of whether I believe Paterno should coach the remainder of the season, I do not think he should use an apologetic statement as a forum for implicitly pleading his case.

My RSA proposal this year centers around public apologies, specifically apologies by athletes. In short form: my argument is that many public apologies fail when the speaker attempts to implicitly argue their innocence rather than completely accept fault for their actions.

In Paterno's apology, as in the apology of so many athletes testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, there is an argument. Albeit an argument of a different level of stasis, but an argument all the same. In each case there is a self-centered exertion to control and limit judgement. I don't want an argument here. I want sincerity. I want submission. Say you are sorry, more than sorry, and leave it to the mob to decide your fate. My guess (and, my hope) is that, outside of the Penn State faithful, the majority of sports fans will dissect and dismiss this "apology." Though it is not nearly as inadequate to this situation as his "response" was to a horrific situation nearly a decade ago.


Quentin Vieregge said...

I agree with you; this apology seems disingenuous. I don't blame Paterno for immediately not calling the police; after all he wasn't the one of saw it. But after a few days, he should have followed up, when it was clear no one (the assistant who saw it or his superiors) were doing anything about it. It's also important to realize that there was more than one hint. I read a couple articles that indicated there were numerous hints. It seems everyone has failed here.

My only fear is that now we will have hysteria. People can be idiotic and stupid and mean, and there will be people--like the Salem Witch Trials or some people in the last ten after 9/11--who now begin to accuse, prosecute, and convict completely innocent people of abuse. Why? Paranoia, cynicism, other motives. This is what humans do.

Insignificant Wrangler said...

Reading the actual Grand Jury testimony is infuriating. The graduate assistant uses the terms "anal rape." It then becomes a telephone game through which "anal rape" becomes "horseplay." It is impossible, of course, to know with certainty where this disconnect took place. The Grand Jury finds the Graduate Assistant credible and pretty much torches the administration.

Insignificant Wrangler said...

See in particular page 7.