Joe Paterno’s legacy


I think this is the third time I’ve written about the Paterno / Sandusky scandal.



This will be the last time, I promise.



But I can’t help myself.



So: Jerry Sandusky was found guilty. Then the Freeh report (which, by all accounts, was thorough and fair) found that Sandusky’s crimes were not only known to the University administration – and to Joe Paterno – but that those crimes were systematically covered up by the administration. Most damningly, this was largely at the behest of Joe Paterno himself, who wanted nothing to get in the way of his winning legacy. At one point, the administrators were about to go to the local authorities; then one of them met with Paterno, and some days later informed his colleagues that “we’re going to go another way with this.”



It’s largely on the basis of the Freeh report that institutions all over America, including Penn State itself, have quietly removed Paterno’s name from scholarships and such. Penn State took down Paterno’s statue on Sunday morning.



So it looks as if everyone’s trying to move on.



Except (sadly) for Paterno’s family.



Listen, I understand family solidarity; I admire it. It doesn’t shock or horrify me when a convicted murderer’s mother insists on his innocence. We don’t want to believe the worst of our loved ones.



But the Paterno family’s recent statements are way beyond the pale.



See if you can find the howlers in the following paragraph:



Sexual abuse is reprehensible, especially when it involves children, and no one starting with Joe Paterno condones or minimizes it. The horrific acts committed by Jerry Sandusky shock the conscience of every decent human being.  How Sandusky was able to get away with his crimes for so long has yet to be fully understood, despite the claims and assertions of the Freeh report.



Here’s my list:



        They talk about Joe Paterno in the present tense, even though he passed away some months ago. Just a slip? Or are they implying that Joe lives on as a kind of angelic presence?

        According to the Freeh report, Paterno did indeed minimize the crime of child abuse. He certainly considered it of less importance than his football record.

        Sandusky’s crimes might shock a decent human being – they shock me, and I am far from being a decent human being – but Freeh established that Paterno had a pretty good idea of what Sandusky was doing, and evidently it didn’t shock Paterno enough to remove Sandusky from proximity to the kids he was abusing.

        How did Sandusky get away with his crimes? Well, sugar, he had help. To be sure, Sandusky was dropping clues like bread crumbs all over the place – most horribly, that book of his called “Touched.” But for some reason, every time a little piece of information made its way to the Penn State administration or to the police, something (or someone) brought the action to a screeching halt.



The family’s statements go on. It’s not fair to punish the college, and the students, for what Jerry Sandusky did. How does this benefit the victims? Or the students?



And so, drearily, on.



I don’t like to get too psychological, but I can just imagine what it was like to grow up with Joe Paterno as a father. One assumes that life was all about winning and losing. Sadly, the family is applying that attitude to the current situation.  They do not seem to realize that the game has already been lost. It was lost in 1998, back when their father first discovered that Sandusky was abusing children.



The family needs to retreat, and express sympathy and condolences to Sandusky’s victims, and make a generic statement like “We respect our father’s memory,” and leave the rest to silence.



Silence, in this case, as far as the Paterno family is concerned, would be best.



The Jerry Sandusky trial


The Jerry Sandusky case has finally gone to trial. The testimony – descriptions of what Sandusky did to those poor kids – has been brutal. The defense, naturally, is trying to depict the victims as a cabal of greedy envious ungrateful liars, but I don’t think they’re having much success.



I was given pause on Wednesday morning, however, when I happened to overhear the following scrap of narration on “Good Morning America” (I paraphrase): “Present in court were both Jerry Sandusky and Mike McQueary, the two men who – more than anyone else – brought about the downfall of Joe Paterno.”



No. Sorry. Joe Paterno brought about the downfall of Joe Paterno.



Joe Paterno covered up a series of vicious violent crimes against children, because of his own vanity, and his overblown regard for his own reputation, and – maybe also a little – because of his (misplaced) loyalty to his friend Jerry Sandusky.



Paterno also tried (briefly) to portray himself as a victim. Remember those ugly Penn State campus riots protesting his firing? That’s another little nastiness that Joe Paterno brought about, and then did little to stop. I imagine him sitting home snickering about it.



Sometimes we have to separate people’s accomplishments from their failings. Everyone says Paterno was a great college football coach, and (because I know nothing, or next to nothing, about football) I can accept that. But Gandhi or Saint Francis he was not.



The more I think about this case, the emptier and more desolate I feel about it. Sandusky actually founded a children’s charity, which proved to be a rich source of little boys for him to prey upon. At least one victim was told that his accusations had to be groundless, since it was well know that “Sandusky had a heart of gold.”



I know that the trial isn’t over yet, and that I’m prejudging Sandusky.



Here’s the thing: I don’t think I’m wrong about this.



Here’s a sad fact about humanity, kids: when you assume the worst about people, you’re not often wrong.


Representative Anthony Weiner


Folklore tells us that Alexander the Great grew tired of being lectured by his resident schoolmaster, Aristotle, on how sex was a waste of time. One evening Alexander sent a prostitute into Aristotle’s room, just to see what would happen.  He waited a while, and opened the door to find the prostitute riding the naked Aristotle around the room like a donkey.



Moral: sex makes smart people do stupid things.



I wrote a few months ago about Republican Representative Christopher Lee and his funny shirtless frolics with a camera and a mirror. Now we have Anthony Weiner, a Democrat, also playing “Candid Photography Click Click Nudge Nudge Say No More.”



When it’s a Republican, I hoot and whistle, I know. I can’t help it. When it’s a Democrat – Weiner, or John Edwards, or Bill Clinton, or Ted Kennedy – I just squirm uneasily. And I get all forgiving and moral. Does it make them bad lawmakers? Does it matter who they have sex with? Or whether they use cigars when they do it? Or whether they pay off their mistresses with campaign funds?



Well, um, yes, I think that last one does matter, now that I think about it.



All professions have their share of jerks. Jerks are sometimes actually good at their jobs; in some professions, it’s probably actually an asset. Rahm Emanuel comes to mind. By all accounts a horrible person; a very effective politician, however.



I think the thing that bothers me most about the Weiner story is the attitude he’s been displaying lately. He’s not contrite; he’s angry and hostile. Angry at being found out? Probably. Angry with himself for not being more discreet? Possibly.



Bitchin’ bod, though.



Who knew?



The Congressional weight room must have a dynamite conditioning program.




Arnold and Maria Schwarzenegger-Shriver


By now, everyone living in this part of the Milky Way Galaxy has heard of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s child-out-of-wedlock.



Me, I’m big on Schadenfreude. When I see a Republican – the enemy! – make a big goof, I’m all over it, tongue lolling out of my mouth, gibbering with glee. I love seeing Republicans make fools of themselves.



And why? you ask. Well, they’re the Party Of Values, aren’t they? They oppose the evil anarchy that is gay marriage. And legalized abortion. And all kinds of other unthinkables.



And then, we find, they have affairs, and get (many) divorces, and have babies they aren’t really comfortable with acknowledging. (Remember Strom Thurmond and his black daughter?)



(I can’t get over the Christmas tree in the above picture. The invocation of the Virgin Birth, and the sweet innocence of that little blond boy with a Hispanic mother, and apparently no one noticed the resemblance . . . )



Ah well.



Here’s the thing: I don’t really feel glad about this.



I am sorry for the little boy, who will be saddled with this story for life, and I hope he doesn’t let it drag him down.



I am sorry for the poor mother, who had sex with an attractive man (well, he was sort of attractive at the time), and probably liked him, and had a little boy whom (I’m sure) she loves very much, and who is now the target of much unwanted attention.



I am sorry for Maria Shriver, who should have known better. Maria! I could have given you my copies of “Stay Hungry” and “Pumping Iron,” for God’s sake!  But no. She has kids by the big Austrian goof. And she probably even really cared for him. So: fine. Let it go.  Lesson learned.



I am even sorry for Arnold. Do you remember, a few years ago, media discussions about amending the Constitution so that naturalized citizens could become President? That was all about Arnold. He was big and handsome and Republican, and he governed California during – um. Perhaps not its most glorious epoch.



Now he has become what his detractors called him: a glory hound, a bodybuilder/action star who got into politics on the basis of name recognition. (Better they should have elected Gary Coleman, don’t you think?)



He didn’t turn out to be a total dullard, like – ahem – Jesse Ventura. (Jesse: in future, look before you leap. On the other hand, if I’d been a Minnesota voter, I probably would have voted for you. I’m a pushover for pro wrestlers.)



Anyway: no Schadenfreude today.  Let Arnold and Maria and their whole extended mishpocheh go.



Vanity of vanities, saith the prophet, vanity of vanities; all is vanity and vexation of spirit.



Momma’s tired.  Let’s do Schadenfreude some other day.



Scandale du jour



A friend recently told me that he likes reading about old Hollywood scandals.


Me too! I said. Fatty Arbuckle? Thelma Todd? Wallace Reid?


He looked at me blankly. Rock Hudson, he said. Tab Hunter.


Okay. I acknowledge that Rock and Tab are “old Hollywood.” It’s only my advancing age that makes them seem – well, contemporary. It seems like just the other day when Doris and Rock were turning out fizzy romantic comedies, and Tab Hunter was big and blond and handsome, and we wanted so badly for both Tab and Rock to be gay. And then – guess what!


I discovered Kenneth Anger’s epochal scandal collection “Hollywood Babylon” a long time ago. I learned from his books how Lupe Velez really died, and why Charlie Chaplin had to leave the country, and how much Douglas Fairbanks loved cocaine.


Those scandals all happened before I was born, in the distant 1920s and 1930s and 1940s. They seemed quaint.


And then I realized that this is how Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter seem to my (much younger) friend. They seem old-fashioned. They seem quaint.


Ouch! And ouch! Again.


Gimme my specs and my walker. I’m outta here.








One two three, look at Mister Lee

So there’s this guy, Chris Lee. I’ve never heard of him, as I’m not from New York’s 26th Congressional District. He is married, and he has a little boy, and he lives in one of those upstate New York towns with a name like a Ben & Jerry’s flavor.


Also, he recently opposed gay people serving openly in the military.  And he had an op-ed piece in the Tonawanda News two years ago, starkly warning of the dangers of sharing too much personal information on the Internet.  Aha!  A social conservative!


He’s not bad-looking, as you can see from the above photo. He was trolling Craigslist last month, and he got into a sort of flirting thing with a woman, and he sent her the above picture. He also told her some egregious lies about himself: he shaved about seven years off his age, he said he was divorced, he said he was a lobbyist. Gawker, which broke the story, has the whole email string here.


You will notice that he used his real name, as well as an email address linked to his Facebook account.


The woman with whom he was flirting was smart enough to do a quick websearch on this guy. Just to see what happened, I did the same. Well, you get a lot of Christopher Lee who played Saruman in “The Lord Of The Rings.” And then, right after that, you get the websites associated with Congressman Chris Lee, NY-26, complete with family photos and bio.


First his office said it was a put-up job, his Blackberry was hacked, etc., etc. Then, within hours, the Congressman resigned. Kaput!


One Internet comment struck home with me: “When I see a story like this, I hold my breath until I get to the party designation. If it’s a Republican I curl my lip in disgust. If it’s a Democrat I just sigh.”


Listen, stupidity is common to all. I know that. Look at Al Gore and John Edwards, for God’s sake! Two of the most wooden-headed boobs on earth. I used to like Al Gore. He seemed to have a sense of humor about himself, along with the stiffness and pomposity. But look at what he did to himself! (Not so much John Edwards; he always seemed to me like a walking hairstyle. As it turns out, that’s pretty much all he was, too.)


But it’s nice when lightning strikes on the other side of the aisle too.


And always remember: sex makes smart people stupid.


And I remember a comment I read in “George” magazine in 1996, made by a prostitute who was working the political conventions that summer: “Republican conventions are wild. Most of those guys are up there on the podium wearing ladies’ underwear under their dark suits. We get a lot of business then. Not so much Democrats. They don’t need us. They’re doing it with each other.”


I leave you with this link. It’s peripherally relevant, and it’s a good song.




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