Sunday, January 08, 2006

Joe Paterno-Out of Touch

Spending virtually your entire adult life in one profession for one employer can have a way of skewing one's perspective. That controlled environment can become the center of your world and it becomes easy to lose touch with issues that don't directly involve it.

That's the only explaination I can offer for Penn State football coach Joe Paterno's insensitive remarks last week. Paterno has given 55 years of loyal and successful service to Penn State and assisted the university in areas well beyond the football field. He was asked about an alleged sexual assault that resulted in the suspension of one of Florida State's best defensive players, A. J. Nicholson, for the Orange Bowl. His response, as reported by the AP, served neither him or his school very well.

"There's so many people gravitating to these kids," Paterno said. "He may not have even known what he was getting into, Nicholson. They knock on the door; somebody may knock on the door; a cute girl knocks on the door. What do you do?"

"Geez. I hope - thank God they don't knock on my door because I'd refer them to a couple of other rooms," Paterno continued. "But that's too bad. You hate to see that. I really do. You like to see a kid end up his football career. He's a heck of a football player, by the way; he's a really good football player. And it's just too bad."

There have been no legal charges filed in this case, at least through Sunday, but Paterno had already treaded Nicholson, the accused, as if he were the victim.

The president of the Pennsylvania chapter of NOW (National Organization for Women) , Joanne Tosti-Vasey, was outraged and called for Paterno to resign. She issued a statement on Friday saying, "When someone of his stature makes light of sexual assault, we have a serious problem." It sends a message that this behavior is not serious ... that sexual assault or rape or violence against women is acceptable for an athlete." The national office of NOW supports this view.

While I don't believe this calls for Paterno to step down from his job, I do think a price should be paid for his "boys will be boys" approach. Violent acts of male athletes toward women is a serious problem on college campuses, and a respected leader like Paterno should treat the issue with some basic level of sensitivity, or at the very least keep his mouth shut about them. Since he chose not to, I think a sizeable donation to an appropriate non-profit organization that assists victims of abuse along with a profuse apology would be a good place to start balancing the scales.

Football players may be the center of Joe Paterno's universe, but in the grand scheme of things they are no more important than any other student on campus, or any person in our society. If Coach Paterno knows that, he needs to do a much better job of expressing it.


At 4:50 PM, Blogger Dean said...

I think this is the PA NOW trying to pimp-up some cheap press by president Tosti-Vasey who chooses to view the World in a way where just about everyone will offend her agenda.

Why instead of asking for JoePas' resignation isn't Tosti-Vasey speaking to women to not cheapen themselves by thowing themselves under star athletes, rock stars and other places where groupies happen.

And that's what is happening here. From Paterno's life-time view, he has had to deal more often with people from the outside the organization trying to tamper with people inside the organization before a big game.

Not just groupies mind you, but gamblers trying to take an edge off a game-making athelete, someone looking to sell scandal stuff on ebay and other nere-do-wells.

This isn't to say in this situation the claims made by the offended party aren't true - nor is it to condone athlete who use their prowess to pounce on any woman showing the slightest of interest.

JoePa isn't out of touch - unless one concedes that he's out of touch with a situation that doesn't concern his team and of which he doesn't have the gory details.


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