What would Bear Bryant have done in JoePa’s situation?

I hope you’ll read this. The answer to this question is about as complex as trying to find the answer to how someone like this monster in Happy Valley could do what he did to children.

Nothing turns the stomach of “the normal” than hearing news like what has poured forth from Penn State this week.

The idea of a child being victimized in any way, especially sexually, is so shameful, so horrid, that the first response from those not mentally ill is usually to either remove the perpetrator’s genitals from his body using the rustiest, dullest butter knife one can find, or to take the person’s life on the spot.

There isn’t a punishment that fits this crime, and those who live through the agony of recovery face a lifetime of challenge few will ever know. There is a reason Jesus Christ Himself said:

“Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”

There is a special place in hell for those sinister enough to do what this Sandusky person did to so many kids he had sworn to serve.

Perhaps as disturbing has been the scene of support from students and followers of the Nittany Lions. Riots and support for their beloved coach and football program have served as a continual stream of spit into the faces of Sandusky’s victims, who will now all live through the humiliation of facing the one who victimized them.

But before casting stones in the direction of this mob and their mentality, remember that it was once a short walk between Penn State’s affection for Joe Paterno and our own. Very recently, to be exact.

For years Alabama fans have expressed a gushing affinity for former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno. He was the closest living relic to our own legend, Paul “Bear” Bryant. The two faced each other on the gridiron in some of the most memorable games in Alabama football history.

Last season, as Paterno returned to Bryant-Denny Stadium for a September match up with Alabama, he was constantly peppered by Alabama media searching to feed their hungry readers. We wanted to hear how much Paterno thought of the Bear, and writers and journalists in this state were ready to try to get this old football coach to say it.

Paterno even received a standing ovation as his team took the field, one of few instances I can remember when an opposing team received as much praise from the home crowd as our beloved Tide. The scene was so terrific that when Alabama returned to Happy Valley earlier this season for their end of the home-and-away series, the same Penn State fans seen this week rioting in the streets welcomed Alabama fans with open arms.

Talk to any counselor or psychologist and you’ll learn a lot about how people react to shocking news involving a loved one. It is not natural to actively seek the truth regarding someone you’ve come to love and trust through the years. Spouses have long been known to protect and even enable their partners out of devotion and clouded thinking.

So if Vegas takes these kind of wagers, bet the house that the same people holding vigile for Joe Paterno will see things a little more clearly and differently in six months. The leadership that dismissed JoePa in the cover of night will one day be seen as heroes who had to answer the call of leadership in the darkest hours of their football program.

But what about Paterno himself? Why didn’t he pick up the phone immediately and call the authorities when news of Sandusky’s behavior reached his 74 year old ears?

That is the million…or once the lawsuits start trickling in, billion…dollar question.

While we all “know” what “we” would have done in that situation, it’s important to take into account the nature of this relic we all cherished not too long ago.

If Vegas is still taking bets, I’d bet the house (again) that Joe Paterno has never picked up an iPad. I would wager he doesn’t own a cell phone, and even if he did, couldn’t text you if you gave him three hours to do it.

You can probably count on two hands the numbers of emails the man has sent in his lifetime. I’m not saying the man doesn’t know how to use a telephone or communicate with police, but I am saying that communication isn’t an instant given like it is with you or I. Joe Paterno wasn’t baptized into the information age like most of us, and unless you have a father who is completely technologically illiterate and even defiant (like I do), it’s hard to understand that mindset.

For those of us who use the internet daily, the world is a big, big place. We have friends in parts of the world that we’ve never seen, and will never see. Facebook, Twitter, the web, email and other tools have opened up mental avenues that give us an awareness of how big this planet is, and what possibilities are out there.

For example, I began writing for this website years…years…before I ever met capstonereport.com’s owner face-to-face. It wasn’t necessary to meet. We were communicating without this technicality. We didn’t need it.

Also, in our world, information is instantaneous. You don’t have time to mull over what just happened. The world knows about it as quickly as you do.

But JoePa doesn’t live in that world. Like so many of our parents, he lives in a completely different, archaic world with its own system of how to deal with things.

What was that system? Well, to answer that question, tell me, how often did you hear your grandparents talk about sex? You want to get a Southern Baptist church quiet? Have the preacher talk about from the pulpit the healthy, Biblical sexual relationship God intends between a man and a woman. Those 70 and up will die on the spot, and everyone else will go stone cold out of fear that it’s about to happen.

People in Joe Paterno’s era did not talk about sex. Healthy sex…good, acceptable, pro-creation, inside the confines of marriage sex. So they sure don’t talk about anything sexually deviant. There’s a reason homosexuality took so long to be accepted by some in American culture. A peek at psychology textbooks as recently as the 1970’s labeled it as deviant behavior.

Another item to consider, Joe Paterno wasn’t bathed in the sugary sweetness of political correctness like us. His actions of sending the information up the chain of command is par for his generation’s thinking. While you or I would say “I’m turning the S.O.B. in myself”, Joe Paterno’s generation worked at one place for 40 years, got their gold watch and retired. They operated within the system. Not that Joe could see what was happening with his glasses, but remember too it was reported TO him. That generation didn’t jump at internet rumors. Or any rumors. They lived by the mantra, “Believe half of what you see, and nothing of what you hear.”

Those thought to be evil in Paterno’s day would sit on that kind of information and do nothing with it. The “good people” passed it on to their supervisor. That’s what Paterno did, and why he did it.

So, now you take this man with this thinking and put him in that situation, hearing the news of Sandusky in the showers ten years ago, when he was 74. Is it surprising that he didn’t step out of that system, pick up his iPhone and voice dial the local authorities, offering them the GPS cooridinates to get there sooner?

I had someone ask me the question just today, “What would Bear have done in this situation?” I’ll spare you the WWBD bracelet idea that immediately came to mind. But we all have our own grandiose fantasies about Bear Bryant, a man whose reputation and legend outlived his lifespan.

But the truth of the matter is, for reasons I’ve mentioned, most of those from Paterno’s generation who had not sought to develop their thinking into the present day’s system would have behaved in similar fashion.

There are exceptions in every generation; pioneers who think beyond the futility of the present day. But Bryant was from the same generation–most accurately, the one before. Bryant had a fire in him that manifested itself in many ways on a regular basis. And perhaps he would have been one of those pioneers.

But for the majority of that day, you did exactly what Joe Paterno did. Is this right? We all know that answer. But simply add this to the pile of things that happened in that day that needed to be changed. It’s just too bad that a certain coach didn’t see it before now.


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