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Coming to Joe Paterno's Defense: Former Penn State Players Need to Shut Up!

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This is a public plea to all former Penn State football players, especially those like Todd Blackledge, Michael Robinson, Matt Millen, and Franco Harris; Joe Paternoplease stop talking!  There is nothing any of you can say that will change the fact that you deified a man (Joe Paterno) who ultimately did not deserve your worship.

We are now about two weeks removed from the announced findings of former FBI director Louis Freeh’s report and three days have past since the NCAA levied its sanctions.  Why are you wasting your time trying to convince the masses Paterno could not have been the monster he has been made out to be?

We know you cannot possibly fathom the idea that the man you knew and loved shielded a pedophile for at least 14 seasons.  Frankly, it’s a notion I have a hard time reconciling and I didn’t play for him.  We also know you are personally offended by the speculation Joe Paterno acted (or did not act) in the hopes of protecting his legacy and the football program.

But tell me something fellows, does it really matter why Paterno remained silent while sounds of sex with children echoed through the halls of the building?  Would it make you feel better if your old head coach returned from the dead and announced he knew of Jerry Sandusky’s crimes but he could not turn him in due to a sense of loyalty?   

Look, we get it.  We all understand how difficult it must be for you to accept that the man you knew could make such an egregious error in judgment.  He likely preached integrity and honor to you all the time.  But therein lies the fundamental problem with you and the entire Penn State cult: football coaches make mistakes.  Even the one you chose to deify.

It’s perfectly natural to feel as you do.  In fact, there is a part of me that is actually envious.  It must have been so fulfilling to have such a large part of your self-worth tied to a man who stood for so many good things.  You have always known you could simply return to the compound at State College whenever you felt lost.  So I can understand why you are so disillusioned and defiant.  But in retrospect, can’t you see how unhealthy it is to worship a man?  Don’t you realize it is virtually impossible to laud Paterno for 50 years of success and wonderful service but ignore his role in hiding his friend’s criminal acts?

I keep hearing your collective say we should wait until after we hear from suspended athletic director Tim Curley, former vice president Gary Schultz and former president Graham Spanier before passing judgment.  That’s fair, but you have to understand those of us who weren’t baptized in blue and white waters have heard enough.  While the grand jury testimony, Sandusky’s trial and the Freeh report may not reveal the “smoking gun” you keep referring to, they are still awfully damning.

Worse yet, you and the rest of Penn State’s disciples have accepted the false narrative this entire scandal has been a vendetta to get your school and defame its leadership.  You claim those of us who believe JoePa simply blew it just didn’t know him.  That is certainly true but based on what we do know, you didn’t know him either.

Contrary to the chatter in Penn State’s pews, people are not celebrating the damage done to Paterno’s legacy.  Let’s be honest; the football program has been mostly irrelevant on a national level for a long time.  Unless you’ve been a member of the Nittany Lions congregation, you likely paid only marginal attention prior to the scandal.

Admittedly, it’ll be nice to live in the tri-state area and no longer have to hear Penn State alums crowing about the sanctity of their football program.  But nobody is pleased with what happened at un-happy valley.

So I am asking that all you former players please stop talking.  Stop telling us you only know the Paterno you played for.  Quit sounding as if we have done something wrong because the rest of us take a harsher stand when it comes to crimes against children.  And please (Franco Harris especially) stop rallying in front of statues.  It’s beneath you all.

Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area.  He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention.  His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

Contact Earl at emyersiii@gmail.com

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