How ESPN Killed Joe Paterno – #FootballFever

This morning we got official word that Joe Paterno had passed away due to complications associated with lung cancer.  From the title you may think that I am about to place the blame on ESPN.  You are partially right.

Let us begin by sending our condolences to the friends and family of Joe Paterno.  He has been a huge benefit to the Penn State community both on and off the field.

Now to our thoughts on his death.  In early November a scandal rocked college football.  A former assistant coach accused of sexually molesting children was arrested on the charges following a grand jury inquiry.  A few days later Joe Paterno was relieved of his duties as head coach of Penn State University’s football program.  In the midst of this there seemed to be severe reactions on both ends of the spectrum.  There were those who felt it was wrong to fire Paterno as he had reported the incident to those above him.  There were also those who felt that Paterno’s actions allowed more children to be molested.

An interesting story that I came across on College Football Talk, which then seemed to disappear and I was able to rediscover after due diligence.  The story claims that Paterno did, in fact, contact police the day after being told of the incident.  The story can be found here.

I do not condone child molestation.  However, anyone that came to Paterno’s defense was accused of essentially condoning child molestation.  This was an issue for me.  And to clarify, I am grew up a Badgers fan.  We didn’t root for PSU and Paterno was a constant thorn in our side.  But I did respect the guy.  In the midst of the scandal the 24 hour new cycle quickly turned Paterno into a villain.  This charge was led by ESPN and their 100 talking heads.  Everyone had an opinion, very few had all the facts.

Paterno, in his mid-80s, became a focal point for the network.  They camped outside of his house on the first game after he was fired, keeping a round the clock vigil.  Turning the focus on to the man.  I’m sure the stress of those days weighed heavily on him.  Throw in a cancer diagnosis and I knew Paterno would be gone very quickly.  A man who was held in such high regard was cast down by an angry mob.  With many seeming to forget that it wasn’t Joe who molested children, but Sandusky.  I kept going back to the article that mentions Paterno going to police to see if it had been retracted or taken down.  It hadn’t.  I kept checking ESPN and other sports sites to see if the story would appear.  It didn’t.

We vilified Paterno and left him for dead.  The stress of it all made it harder for an old man to fight his cancer and sadly he passed this morning.  And now those same places that lambasted him and left him by the wayside are capitalizing on his death and talking about how great a man he was.  Forgetting that just 2 months ago they did their best to bring him down.

As a country we need to improve our consumption of information and news.  We do it so fast.  We get into a mob mentality and we demand action.  Only later do we find out the facts and when they are contrary to what we first heard, we dismiss them.  I am saddened that a guy, who did more than most people would do in that situation, was turned from a vibrant man to a frail old man.  I hope we are able to learn from this and that Paterno’s legacy is remembered for the 60 years of greatness and not his final months.

R.I.P. Joe Pa

Photo Credit: Penn State Athletic Department (www.gopsusports.com)

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