The Cult of Joe Pa



Andrew with the righteous fury:


If you want to understand the cult of Joe Paterno's role in allowing a ten-year-old to be raped and his rapist never brought to justice, look at the scenes last night, as students rioted in defense of their demi-God. Winning football games morally trumps allowing a brutal child rapist to avoid criminal charges and go on to rape many more. There is no "due diligence" with respect to protecting kids from rapists. There is simply stopping them, and bringing them to justice immediately. 

That the structure of Penn State - and its creepy Paterno worship - allowed this to happen is bad enough. That the student body would rather side with a negligent football coach over a raped child is beyond belief.

I'm obviously in sympathy with Andrew on this, but let's take this one step further. Can anyone here try to get into the student mind that does something like this? I'm talking about Gilpin-Faust-like analysis that explains, without excusing. I think we all can agree that the students in this case were being stupid and short-sighted. Moreover there's an utter lack of compassion here for the victims.

But once we all know what we agree about, questions remain. What is the mentality towards football at a school like Penn State? What did Joe Paterno mean to that school and how does it compare to other schools? Are the kids not fully aware of what happened? Or is it just being young? Is this connected to Taylor Branch's piece from The Atlantic on college sports? Watching the ESPN video, it really looked, to me, like boredom--like a lot of kids looking to get into the mix.

As always, think before you write. Please don't come to vent. Have a drink. Have a coffee. Whatever you need to not speak only in anger. Your anger is shared. Now lets do something else.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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