New ESPN Documentary Examines Joe Paterno’s Legacy

What makes Joe Paterno's legacy?

What makes Joe Paterno’s legacy?
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“We have never covered things up around here. We just don’t have a problem.”

Earlier this week, ESPN announced a breakout story about Todd Hodne, a Penn State soccer player who raped and assaulted several female students during his time on the soccer team. The Hodne rapes occurred in 1978 and 1979, and he was arrested and charged.

The above quote is from 45 years ago Penn State head coach Joe Paterno in a 1980 Sports Illustrated production.

It provides an interesting look at Paterno’s views on team issues. Known as a strict disciplinarian, removed Hodne from the team roster after a series of legal problems, including petty theft. According to the ESPN section, the show never acknowledged Hodne’s heinous crimes against women.

Of course, three decades later, the Jerry Sandusky scandal would rock Penn State and the entire nation as it was revealed that Paterno’s close friend and defense coordinator sexually abused teenage boys. underage for many years – and it is believed that Paterno had some idea of ​​what was going on based on old emails and testimony from colleagues in court. The long-beloved head coach whose name is synonymous with Penn State football and all it stands for will be fired for his lack of action in the Sandusky affair. He died the next year. His statue has been removed from the grounds. NCAA goes down hard.

However, to this day, many people believe that Paterno’s good outweighs the bad. They believe that to win many football matches and be a good football coach is what must define Joe Paterno’s legacy. This exact thinking is evidenced in ESPN’s teaser for their upcoming E60 episode titled “The Paterno Legacy”. In the nearly three-minute trailer, we hear his son and several former players come to Paterno’s defense, arguing that his legacy shouldn’t be defined by a decade-long scandal. the last century of his career.

Mark Dyerson, PSU’s Center for the Study of Sports in Society, makes a nuanced observation: “We don’t do heritage well when there are dark sides to legacy.”

Who says what defines a legacy? Certainly, for the boys abused by Sandusky and their loved ones, Paterno’s legacy is defined by inaction, even if it’s not a fully calculated cover-up. For Hodne’s various victims, Paterno’s legacy is determined by refuting what they’ve been throughnever admit the harm that one of the players have correctly identified them.

For the players and his family, of course Paterno’s legacy will be different. They love him. But their positive experiences with him don’t have the authority to undo what he did or didn’t do, when things got complicated and difficult. It is much easier to love family and impart wisdom to players than to turn away from an old friend and co-worker.staff and reports of sexual abuse have the potential to tear the fabric of your program. His legacy can and should include the games he won and the lives he changed, but how do we define it other than how we act in difficult moments? hardest in life, show us the difficulties decision Which requires a moral choice?

Paterno has never been to prison. There was no unjust punishment, although some fans believe his dismissal and the NCAA’s sanctions on the school are what it is. But what exists is the removal of the glorification of a flawed man. In disallowing Paterno to be transformed into a god in memory, the Sandusky sexual assault scandal survivors speak out and are not forgotten – a fate that doesn’t include many of the victims of these crimes. famous public figure.

And while a fully deserved nuanced discussion exists around this, the ESPN trailer leaves a bad taste in the mouth, especially in the glare of recently published work. here on Hodne. As an attorney for one Sandusky victim points out, Paterno could have avoided this shortcoming if he had taken further action when he first discovered Sandusky’s abuse by reporting it to the police, or even if he We restricted Sandusky’s continued participation in the Nittany Lions program in the 2000s, when several assaults occurred in the Penn State locker room.

But there is a staunch resistance to placing any responsibility for Paterno’s show misconduct on the man himself. Even reporter Bob Costas says in the trailer that the Sandusky scandal “shouldn’t ultimately define” his legacy. That quote is odd, because it feels like he’s saying, “we could talk about this right now, but when we look back at Paterno a couple of decades from now, we don’t. should remember this.” What defines a legacy? Is the definition what will remain for decades to come? And if this definition doesn’t include the last decade of his career, does that simply count as luck?

Perhaps a decade has passed since the ordeal, but we shouldn’t be ready to erase that and move on. To remember a great career as well. For the players and his family to have fond memories of him, and even to protect him, is understandable. But for ESPN to give the platform a say “yes, Sandusky’s content sucks, but…” just a decade removed from Sandusky’s Crimes revealed to the public appear to be another disappointing case when survivors’ stories are minimized or erased to protect a celebrity. Image detox is unnecessary, and can do more harm than good on its own terms. Rarely has there been a continuing abuse of power as Sandusky presents himself as completely independent of an institutionalized agreement to look the other way.

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