Rick Reilly is a wordsmith, not unlike a blacksmith or a carpenter. His words and his writing are so crafted, so pristine, and so (often) perfect, that you can forgive him if his opinion crosses yours or his tongue is too venomous for your tastes. Because, he’s just that good.
And so, when he went off on Joe Paterno on ESPN’s home page, we listened. Turns out, there’s gold in his hills, and venom, too.
“What a fool I was.” That’s the first line.
Reilly continues, and we can’t say we disagree with any of his findings. And, certainly, the fact that Paterno was so snake-like in his coverup and with his lies is even more insulting when we realize that he was so revered, so respected, and so trusted.
Reilly is mad, because a man who he idolized and probably looked up to was nothing he thought he was.
“What a stooge I was.
“I talked about Paterno’s “true legacy” in all of this. Here’s his true legacy: Paterno let a child molester go when he could’ve stopped him. He let him go and then lied to cover his sinister tracks. He let a rapist go to save his own recruiting successes and fundraising pitches and big-fish-small-pond hide.
“Here’s a legacy for you. Paterno’s cowardice and ego and fears allowed Sandusky to molest at least eight more boys in the years after that 1998 incident — Victims 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9 and 10. Just to recap: By not acting, a grown man failed to protect eight boys from years of molestation, abuse and self-loathing, all to save his program the embarrassment. The mother of Victim 1 is “filled with hatred toward Joe Paterno,” the victim’s lawyer says. “She just hates him, and reviles him.” Can you blame her?“
Reilly gives a pretty good summary of the Freeh Report, if you’re unaware of its content, so there’s more to reading this than to just froth your hatred for Paterno. He also tells a couple of stories about his relationship with Paterno, as a writer, which is what Reilly does. One such story is that he got a call from a Penn State professor who accused him of participating in hagiography, which is the study of saints, when Reilly was writing a story about Paterno for Sports Illustrated‘s Sportsman of the Year in 1986. Reilly dismissed him as a “jealous egghead,” he says.
But, at the end of the day, nobody should have been fooled by Paterno in the last eight months. Before, yes, but not then. After the case was opened, the writing was on the wall and the blood was in the hallway.
Paterno was like the guy who bangs another chick in his wife’s bed and then says, “It’s not what it looks like” when someone walks in, but we all know how foolish that line really is. In this case, we actually fell for it.
Not that we weren’t led down the wrong path. But, now that the veil has been pulled off, let’s call Joe Paterno what he really is. Or, we’ll let Reilly do that:
“That professor was right, all those years ago. I was engaging in hagiography (the study of saints). So was that school. So was that town. It was dangerous. Turns out it builds monsters.
“Not all of them ended up in prison.”
White Cover Staff
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