I was watching ESPN this morning after the Freeh Report came out, blasting Penn State officials, including Joe Paterno. Matt Millen came on to discuss Paterno, whom he played for in college and clearly admired and maybe even loved.
Millen said all the bad things people say about Paterno do not reflect the man he — Millen — knew. Millen said the university president dropped the ball by not going to the authorities. It seemed to me Millen was trying to lessen Paterno’s responsibility.
I disagree. If the school president didn’t notify the police, Paterno should have. He was a powerful man who prided himself on doing the right thing. But he did not do the right thing and he never helped any of Jerry Sandusky’s victims.
I keep coming back to Millen’s idea — the Paterno he’s hearing about now is not the Paterno he knew.
Well, maybe there was another side to Paterno no one, not even his family knew. Maybe only Joe knew that side and that side wanted to avoid bad publicity for his football program and he would skirt the law to do that.
I think of how Paterno died, so quickly after all this came out. I’m speculating here. But it almost feels like he willed his own death. He knew some awful truths would emerge about what he did and did not do and he knew his image would be ruined forever — he knew his responsibility in the mess. And he could not face it. He died.
I admit that’s a grim scenario. What happened at PSU was grim.