Say It Ain't So Joe
Football Related Scandal Traumatizes the United States

The legendary and unifying figure of Joe Paterno is currently under assault for failure to report sex abuse of minors by his subordinate.

Contact Editor
Amiel Ungar,

Joe Paterno
Joe Paterno

American football is not normally featured in these posts because in the absence of international competition, it has not led to wars as has occurred in Latin America and has not added to the approval ratings of governments as sports have done in Europe. Former French President Jacques Chirac, for example, used the success of a French national team to advance his political standing and the team was once presented as a poster child for French multiculturalism.

It is understandable, however, that given the economic crisis that the United States is experiencing and the polarization of its politics, the controversy surrounding legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno is traumatic and is dominating the American news cycle, pushing aside international news items such as the International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran off the front page.

Football is a shared American pastime - or passion - and collegiate football combines civic and state pride loyalty to one's collegiate alma mater (while also being huge money spinner).

Paterno the longest serving college coach and a fixture in State College Pennsylvania since 1966 was an American Idol and epitomized college football. When the idol has feet of clay people are dismayed and outraged.

An article on college towns that appeared in 1998 cited the importance of Paterno to State College, Pennsylvania.  A local magazine tried to imagine what the town would be like if Joe Paterno had never become the university's football coach. It imagined a downtown full of boarded-up buildings and empty storefronts and a university with half its current enrollment, a crumbling library, and a meager endowment."

Paterno was also lauded for placing standards over athletic success. While many colleges recruit athletes to play rather than study, comparable to Israel's recruitment of non-Jews and non-Israelis to its sports teams, members of Paterno's teams had an 85% graduation rate. In the 1997 college football season Paterno did not allow two  of his star players to compete in the postseason bowl game due to rules violations.

Now the 84-year-old Paterno faces disgrace for failing to report to the police sexual assault charges allegedly committed by one of his subordinate coaches on boys and sufficing with reporting the suspicions to the University hierarchy. Two members of that hierarchy are now facing charges of perjury and failure to report to the authorities.

Although Joe Paterno is closer to the conservative side of the American political spectrum and was a friend of presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, he has not been spared by conservative outlets such as Fox news and the Daily News. The media is incensed by the cancellation of a news conference presumably at the behest of University higher-ups.

Some have rallied on his behalf. But recalling a baseball scandal that occurred over 140 years ago, the prevailing sentiment is "say it ain't so Joe."  The school's board of trustees have ousted football coach Joe Paterno and president Graham Spanier, reports the Associated Press.