Somehow the Penn State story just got even worse. After a weeping Joe Paterno reportedly spoke to Penn State students outside his living room window about the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse allegations, he came out, seemingly all smiles and addressed a student body that had formed on his lawn. While the students were chanting and holding up signs showing support for the only college football coach they've known for 46 years, Joe Pa quieted them down and said the following:
"It's hard for me to tell you how much this means to me. I've lived for this place, and I've lived for people like you guys and girls, and I'm just so happy to see that you could feel so strongly about us and about your school. The kids that were victims or whatever they want to say, I think we all ought to say a prayer for them. Tough life, when people do certain things to you. Anyway, you've been great. Everything's great, all right."
Now I think we know why Tuesday's press conference was cancelled. By saying things like "the kids that were victims or whatever they want to say" is not a great way to frame the children who were sexually abused. And the scary thing is, discrediting or attacking the victims is PR 101 in political scandals. But this is not a political scandal. This is bigger than Penn State, it's bigger than Joe Paterno and it's bigger than college football. These are unspeakable accusations and to call into question the victims, and to subtly point the finger is unforgivable.
To not speak with the utmost delicacy here is to only come across as defensive at best and heartless at worst. Maybe this is all a big set up for the senility defense. Either way, Joe Pa made an already horrific situation worse by what he did last night.
Whether he likes or knows it, Joe Paterno will no longer be the head coach at Penn State within two weeks (if not much sooner). But his words on Tuesday night paint the picture of a man who isn't ready to have the biggest thing he loves taken away from him. And when people feel like they are painted in a corner they don't want to be in, they start taking swipes at what they think is responsible for painting them in that corner.
But this is not the time to create an adversarial position with the victims. If Joe truly understands what happened, he would not refer to those children as "victims or whatever." He would express regret. He would show himself to be human. Instead, he called into question the people who were wronged the most, which is a subtle defense not only of himself, but of Jerry Sandusky as well. And there is no more indefensible person in America right now.
Joe Paterno, who once stood for class in a league known more for cheating and lying, is tarnishing his legacy, one word at a time.
And on another note, I'm not sure why the kids were chanting his support. This isn't a Jim Tressel situation. This isn't about tattoos. This isn't even about cheating. This is the most heinous act imagineable. And anyone who holds up a sign showing support for Paterno, given the facts that we currently know about his lack of action is foolish. Yes, I understand we don't have all the facts in the story, but given the gruesome details we do know, even the most ardent supporters of Joe Paterno and Happy Valley should wait until we know more before making a "I HEART Joe Pa" sign and marching on campus.
If 1% of the details we've heard are confirmed true, you will look even stupider than you do right now.