Giving JoePa a Break

Here at Penn State the women’s basketball coach has continued to coach despite being accused of discrimination against players, but a comment from Joe Paterno is making all the headlines. These comments have lead some to call for his resignation. Here’s what the old man said:

“There’s some tough — there’s so many people gravitating to these kids. 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

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.”

This is murky water for anyone to get into, but I am going to play devil’s advocate here. While these comments appear to be insensitive on paper, I am pretty sure that was not his intent. I got the impression that Joe is just frustrated about the problems college football attracts and lamenting these situations in general. If it didn’t come out entirely PC, well that’s because he’s a 70-year-old guy and he doesn’t care what people think. He wouldn’t resign anyway, but I don’t think this situation warrants it. Still, Joe should apologize and let everyone move on.

What interests me is the evolution of this media mess. These comments came out of a January 2nd press conference, yet it took almost a week for NOW and the media to get onto this story. It seems to indicate to me that this wasn’t news on January 2nd and I wonder how it got to be this way. Centre Daily Times’ writer Walt Moody says today the quote wasn’t taken out of context. He said, “You could feel the room cringe,” when Paterno spoke.

Interestingly enough though, cringing doesn’t make noise, so its hard to tell whether Moody’s observation is true. Based on this video of the quote in a local news report all we can hear is Paterno’s words – and about a dozen writers laughing at his comments. Perhaps sportswriters are also insensitive about sexual assault? Don’t expect that to be making the headline of your local paper anytime soon.

Just as a disclaimer, I like Paterno a lot and that is why I wrote this. I am not endorsing Paterno’s comments – they were wrong. I just think they are also a bit misunderstood.

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