On Sunday, July 22, 2012, Penn State University removed the statue that the university had erected in Joe Paterno's honor at Beaver Stadium. In removing the statue, the university has made an emphatic statement:
- Penn State University no longer wishes to commemorate its disgraced football coach
If Jerry Sandusky was a monster, then Joe Paterno was his Dr. Frankenstein. Not only did Joe Paterno help to create the monster, but after adorning the fiend in a Penn State uniform, Paterno callously unleashed that dreadful beast on his unwitting, innocent victims.
Why would Paterno aid and abet such a reprehensible monster? The answer to that mystery lies in the comments of a janitor who, in the fall of 2000, witnessed Jerry Sandusky assault a young boy in the Lasch Building at Penn State University. When asked why he did not report the incident to the proper authorities, the janitor replied that doing so would have been pointless because "football runs this University." In other words, the janitor was convinced that, had he reported the incident to the police, "the University would have closed ranks to protect the football program at all costs." Further, the janitor believed that, as payment for his good citizenship, he would have been terminated, "I know Paterno has so much power, if he wanted to get rid of someone, I would have been gone" (Freeh Report, 2012, p. 65).
This is what comes of worshiping false gods. In such a cult of personality, egomaniacs like Joe Paterno get the idea that they can do no wrong. Jerry Sandusky helped Joe Paterno win football games and, since that was the most valuable currency at Penn State University during the long, blighted era of the Joe Paterno Cult, Joe Paterno did everything in his power to excuse--and in some cases even reward!--Jerry Sandusky for his crimes.
By removing the Joe Paterno statue, Penn State has taken the first crucial step toward dismantling the nefarious influences of its Joe Paterno Cult. So long as the statue remained, Penn State would never have been able overcome the taint of its slavish reverence for a false and tragically-flawed god.
No matter how many games they might win, football teams should never be treated like the highest priority at any university. Treating football as if it is the top priority at any university literally flips logic on its head--or, in the case of the Joe Paterno Cult, turns justice inside out. Only in such a deeply corrupt culture would it be possible to excuse football "heroes" for unspeakable attacks on innocent, helpless kids.
The true purpose of a university is to nurture the next generation of enlightened leaders. Penn State is a great university and its best years can still lie in the future, but only if it remains committed to getting its priorities straight--and chucks its Joe Paterno statue on the rubbish heap.