If I Liked Bunk, Can I Still Admire Joe Pa?

Morality is alive and well on the airwaves of sports talk-radio. The ethical crisis of the moment is what did Joe Paterno know about the sexual abuse of boys by a former assistant coach and when did he know it. The issue has led to remarkable moral clarity for talk-show hosts who generally embrace views that the Baylys associate with secularism and relativism in the United States. Why, Angelo Cataldi, has even called for the firing of Joe Paterno for not controlling the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the security forces of Penn State University, and not knowing every single aspect of the football program at PSU. In other words, Joe Pa should be fired for not being God.

This is not a post about sexual abuse. It is about ethical abuse.

First, Angelo and company have no apparent capacity to consider what friendships may do in preventing someone from leaning hard on a friend and colleague. Would those who are calling for Paterno’s firing be so quick to decide so categorically to eliminate a friend or relative? Isn’t one of the most persistent problems of human existence that moral ideals run up against personal allegiances all the time? Does this make violations of an ethical code right? No. But the inability to imagine the angst that someone like Paterno may have gone and still be going through is the sort of one-dimensional outlook that prevents evangelicals and other pietists from ever reading novels that explore morally ambiguous circumstances.

For instance, Bunk Moreland is one of the great characters on The Wire. And in Season Five Bunk knows what Jimmy is doing to bring a drug lord to conviction — namely, breaking the law and police regulations. Bunk disapproves mightily of Jimmy’s misdeeds. But Bunk never tells on Jimmy. Was I outraged that Bunk didn’t rat? Duh! Bunk remains one of my favorite characters despite his moral weakness. This is the stuff of life. It is likely what Joe Pa has gone through many times. (Of course, it could be that Paterno doesn’t care a wit about his former colleague or the boys the ex-coach abused. But how someone could be that cynical and that morally self-righteous all in one gulp gives my brain indigestion.)

But the moral crisis thickens when listeners remember that the show Angelo and company broadcast is sponsored by many gentlemen’s clubs where the lines distinguishing the righteous from the unrighteous are not so clear. Granted, Angelo may argue that pedophiliac sex is not consensual, is if voluntarism justifies willful lying before a grand jury or driving eighty-one miles per hour on the Ohio Turnpike. But last time I heard, human trafficking was one of the great illicit activities in our time and many of the women who come to the United States through human trafficking wind up in gentlemen’s clubs (see Season Two of The Wire). And has Angelo ever considered that some of the people who engage in the activities that transpire in gentlemen’s clubs end up being hurt by such behavior — from sexually transmitted diseases to psychological and spiritual scars that will follow the dancers and their tippers around the rest of their lives?

So it is not at all clear that Angelo and others who self-righteously condemn Joe Paterno are all that free and clear from the moral law they so eagerly enforce.

Will I be disappointed if it turns out that Joe Pa looked the other way too many times and didn’t seek to protect kids from lecherous men? Yes. But I am also disappointed in a talk-show host who (while driving my wife nuts when he talks about babes and boobs) is generally entertaining but so morally obtuse not to see that most days he should be disappointed in himself before pointing out the moral failings of others.

68 thoughts on “If I Liked Bunk, Can I Still Admire Joe Pa?

  1. Here I am happy to think your thoughts after you. My thinking was not so far along as yours, but I have kept asking myself, What should Joe have done? He reported it. Does doing what one is supposed to do with regard to the authority structure under which one operate not count for doing the right thing?


  2. You should hear the talk show here in Boston at WEEI. The hosts are the moral mandarins of society as they continually pontificate about Paterno and his complicity in the cover-up. Joe Paterno is more heinous than Sandusky. But of course, there is no mention of the sexual appetites of Sandusky because that might offend the gender-bender crowd here. One host said “this is not about gender….etc.” They have not gotten so lathered up since the Cardinal was shipped to the Vatican. Of course, the fact that Joe Paterno was not witness to what he heard in 2002, or that Sandusky was not on staff at that point is irrelevant.


  3. Thanks, Darryl. This is the first sane comment I’ve read on the whole JoePa thing. The radio hosts pontificating on this have clearly never had actually to deal with a situation like this–the legal ambiguities (which Bill Smith points up in comment 1) which mandated that JoePa kick this up the ladder where it would be handled (presumably although we haven’t heard this) in consultation with the university’s counsel.

    Added to this is McQueary’s complicated situation. He played when Sandusky was the defensive coach; he wants to believe the best; he’s not exactly sure all that he saw; and he wants to coach at PSU. Will anyone actually believe him? On top of all this is the issue of how long-standing personal friendship between JoePa and Sandusky, the desire to believe the best even in the face of disturbing news, can make it all a challenging issue.

    In the light of what ended up happening, we all wish (as I’m sure JoePa does) that he had called the hotline instead of kicking it upstairs. But where is the outrage for the previous report to the State College police on Sandusky in 1998, which resulted in no charges or investigation? The ethical compass of WIP as well as the national shows (we have Dan Patrick and Jim Rome in my area) that leads them to hammer Paterno at the same time they objectify women as sex objects and excuse murderers (see Leonard Little, former St. Louis Rams) strikes me as a bit off.


  4. The reason that the “self righteous” are going nuts over this issue is because “at risk” 10 year old boys have no way to defend themselves. People are outraged because a respectable coach used his reputation as a coach at PSU to establish a charitable organization and then sexually violated the kids that he set out to help.

    Had the defensive coordinator been guilty of bringing reproach on the University by talking about boobs and babes, Joe Pa would be treated a little differently by the sports media. But even hypocritical sports media types recognize a difference between boobs, babes and 10 year old boys.


  5. I agree that sports ethics can be most curious. I also agree that there is a “one-dimensional outlook that prevents evangelicals and other pietists from ever reading novels that explore morally ambiguous circumstances.”

    But Joe Pa did something gravely wrong here. These are his words:
    “As my grand jury testimony stated, I was informed in 2002 by an assistant coach that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of our locker room facility. It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the grand jury report. Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As Coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators.” http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/michael_rosenberg/11/07/pennst.scandal/index.html#ixzz1dAa7Q63W

    How does Joe hear about a distress-inducing shower incident without the substance of the distress being mentioned? How could he pass on any kind of story that did not include the substance of the distress? And what could be his motive for simply passing the information into the bureaucracy rather than reporting it to police?

    If I’m missing some facts let me know but I don’t see much ambiguity here. This looks like pretty serious sin of omission to just keep the football machine humming along.

    Getting back to sports ethics generally, I have noticed a few things. Strip clubs are OK. Single guys having sex is OK. Racist comments are not OK. “Homophobic” comments are not OK. Gambling is OK unless it’s on the sport itself. The things stars do are more OK than the stuff marginal players do, especially if a scholarship is involved. Basically sports ethics declare as wrong whatever is 1) illegal, 2) not politically correct, or 3) what, in the arguably moral realm, might hurt the team’s chances of success. Anything else?

    BTW, I feel your pain, Nittany Lions.


  6. Regarding comment #1: When the right thing to do is call the police. If all the facts of the grand jury report are correct, this “moral failing” has tragically and possibly irreparably damaged several young men. I think to compare what has happened to a television show that shows some “angst” between a couple of colleagues really trivializes what has happened to these young men. I think it is a shame because Paterno has run a spotless program.


  7. I think Joe messed up and I’m not sure that his program was spotless if he had so many enablers who didn’t want incidents like this going public.

    I also think that taking advantage of boys is deplorable.

    The point though is the moral calculation that allows this kind of perversity to emerge as the bright and shining example of sin in an age of porn. For one thing, perversity is par for the course among the young men who drink beer and watch sports (generally speaking). For another, don’t Christians believe that sin (even sexual sin) harms any human being no matter what his or her age? So shouldn’t the outrage among Christians extend to sports talk radio? But if that happens, are we any different from the Baylys who thrive on outrage?


  8. “So shouldn’t the outrage among Christians extend to sports talk radio? But if that happens, are we any different from the Baylys who thrive on outrage?”

    You had me until this comment. Why are you so hung up on these guys? Do you so desire to be different from them that you are willing to the opposing side just for the sake of being a contrarian?


  9. Consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds, but moral outrage is the default setting of American-made piety. So if conservative American Christians really want to be as counter-cultural as they plead maybe a more modest moral calculation is in order to push back against instead of go with the flow of moralism.

    Jon, I don’t think it’s so much an issue of contrarianism as it is that the Blog Bayly and Old Life seem like pretty good examples of the difference between moralism and conservatism, respectively.


  10. “Consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds, but moral outrage is the default setting of American-made piety. So if conservative American Christians really want to be as counter-cultural as they plead maybe a more modest moral calculation is in order to push back against instead of go with the flow of moralism.”

    Zrim, do you have any other prototypical exhibitions of outrage in mind? I can certainly think of the political realm in which many e-politicals express shock and outrage over – sit down now and brace yourself for this one – compromise! And you know what else? Politicians lie!

    Moral outrage can be focused and utilized to further justice but too often it is a self-serving mechanism to separate us good and moral people from those bad and immoral people, with a consquent decrease of the healthy self-knowledge that we are all sinners.


  11. I am no pietist, but I detest professional sports and similar mass entertainment activities. There is nothing conservative about sports culture. If there is a lesson here, it is about how concentrations of money and power corrupt organizations. PSU football has brought millions from alum. The attitude of those in the Penn State inner ring mirrors that of the Catholic church in Ireland in recent years. While I get DG Harts acknowledgment that it is hard to believe the worst of a friend, the witnesses were not those in power, but perhaps awed by power and their proximity to the inner ring. If the same activities had been observed anywhere but in those halls of power, the constabulary would have ended the matter ten years ago.

    Is it also possible that there is something in mass sports culture that triggers pederasty?


  12. RG, I see your point and basically agree (though I have trouble giving up sports even if I watch almost none these days). I am mainly commenting on the self-righteousness that afflicts us. I do have respect for Paterno. And I wish he had retired ten years ago, not out of moral outrage but simply owing to what is becoming a 74-year old man.


  13. >>>>The point though is the moral calculation that allows this kind of perversity to emerge as the bright and shining example of sin in an age of porn. For one thing, perversity is par for the course among the young men who drink beer and watch sports (generally speaking).<<<<

    Jerry Sandusky ought to try this line of thinking out on his fellow inmates. Even though he may be surrounded by murderers, rapists and criminals of the worst kind, because he sexually abused children, he will always be treated as "special" among the inmates.

    Further, is this really the bright and shining example of sin in an age of porn? Do the names
    Jim Bakker or Bernie Madoff no longer conjure up examples of sin? If someone was unfamiliar with Madoff's crime, they would think he had murdered scores of people.


  14. Paul, it is on sports talk radio where even will submit to being treated as objects (and from whom did they pick this up, Howard Stern, who is not exactly a pariah among American elites).


  15. MM, I’ll see your point about serving a two-dimensional worldview and raise a question or two: is focused moral indignation really ever that useful, even for something as noble as the advancement of justice? I know getting exercised makes people feel good, and people like to attribute it to one show of justice or another, but I remain skeptical. Isn’t moral fortitude robustly blended with modest expectations still better than moral indignation? It just seems to me that indignation, even when focused, aligns more with self-expression than self-comportment.


  16. Paul,
    Perhaps “triggers” pederasty is not the best term—perhaps it fosters an environment where it can easily happen. There is a lot about team sports culture that has its origins in the British public school system which has a long and well documented history of this kind of abuse.

    Dr. Hart,
    I think the self righteousness portion of your essay is spot-on. Some crimes enable the kind of public wrath that makes us feel good about ourselves; but it is still wrath and still sinful. As Paul alludes to above, we all anticipate with a certain moralistic glee that a sodomite pederast will get his justice at the hands of other prisoners.


  17. “is focused moral indignation really ever that useful, even for something as noble as the advancement of justice?” (Zrim)

    I get your point but I would distinguish. There is a kind of moral indignation that is all about venting, separating, demonizing, and establishing superiority. That kind tends to draw mobs together with attendant group-think and demagoguery. Not good. But there is a moral impulse (okay, maybe not “indignation”) which deeply empathizes with victims and yearns for justice. There is nothing inherently flawed about this kind of impulse. I’m trying to get away from the notion that everything must be coldly analytical and dispassionate while recognizing that the typical moral outrage we seen is as flawed as you say it is.


  18. MM, I’m not sure there’s anything cold about it. I mean, can’t one be passionate about comportment and restraint? People who restrain their emotions are often mistaken for emotionless people. So I think there may be as much of a difference between cold analysis and modesty as there is between moralism and conservatism.


  19. Zrim: “can’t one be passionate about comportment and restraint?”
    MM: Well, I am, and anyone who isn’t can just go the hell right now.

    MM said: “there is a moral impulse (okay, maybe not “indignation”) which deeply empathizes with victims and yearns for justice. There is nothing inherently flawed about this kind of impulse.”
    Do you disagree with this? Is such an impulse inherently flawed?


  20. MM writes “But there is a moral impulse (okay, maybe not “indignation”) which deeply empathizes with victims and yearns for justice.”

    I might even argue in cases such as incest and pedophilia it’s necessary. As heinous as these crimes are, and as ready as many pretend to be to give action to their moral outrage, more often than not most people who are actually acquainted with the victim or perpetrator in just such a case would rather it would just go away. Most victims have to be talked into, and urged on by others who believe in their case, to seek justice. Even then, many victims only reconcile to such action out of concern for others who may be victimized. There does seem to be a place/need for a brand of beligerence in pursuing justice while not giving way to sheer emotionality.


  21. MM, no, I don’t think a desire to see justice done is inherently flawed at all. When Anabaptists ask the judge to suspend justice for their perpetrator because they are commanded to turn the other cheek, I cringe. But I also cringe when jubilant cheers arise when he doles it out. I’m warmed–not chilled–by the judge who solemnly delivers justice but also demands restraint of the all-too-exuberant peanut gallery. Yes, whoever sheds the blood of man then by man shall his blood be shed, but let none be giddy about it.


  22. Sorry Sean and MM, but given how the moral idiots “deeply” empathize with the victims of these crimes, I’m having trouble thinking this is really a yearning for justice. I’ll give you guys the benefit of the doubt. But I think you guys would also like to distance yourself from the outrage of beer-drinking, bimbo-lusting sports fans and journalists. Any way you can create that distance would be fine by me.

    I mean, where’s the outrage over forms of immorality? And if radio-talk show hosts really empathize with the victims, can’t they do more the way they ask Joe Pa to do? Can’t they devote several shows to the parents and the children? Can’t they visit to console the victims? Or is “more” simply getting on their soap box for 4 hours and feeling superior to the rest of us sinners?


  23. No, dgh, I don’t think the sports guys are a great moral compass. They are primarily selling newspapers, magazines, television shows, and websites. The higher the moral posture, the less they seem like the National Enquirer. And perhaps they do get a little high on moral superiority, a drug most others get by watching reality shows. Have I sufficiently distanced myself?

    Your take on this is like a peanut peppermint pistachio praline chocolate swirl ice cream cone with jimmies dipped in caramel. But sometimes the best explanation is vanilla. And the explanation begins with an elite college football program. That means big money and prestige. Intertwined is a legendary football coach getting paid millions of dollars. It’s all about money, power, and men who want to maintain them. Paterno and other PSU officials decided that orphans, aliens, and widows (vulnerable boys) would not disrupt their program.

    The talking sports heads may lust after bimbos, but at least they have enough natural light to see that boy rape is a more aggravated sin than showing Swedish bikini beer babes on commercials. Now I guess this will bug Zrim, but I have had personal interaction with boys and men who were molested as boys. It’s not like a physical injury that heals or you just work around. I won’t go into details,but it is devastating to self-perception and sexuality. It is also not uncommon for molested boys to molest boys when they are of age. So the sin ripples for generations.

    Then, on a lesser level, Paterno has sinned against Penn Sate fans. At its best sports can be a way for generations to bond and strangers to have some harmless recreation in common. But now it all might feel a little tainted.

    Can you like Joe Pa? Sure, but the sports talk idiots actually got this one right. The flavor of the day is vanilla.


  24. DGH, I don’t have any desire to defend or laud the sports radio talking heads on the issue. Your point is well-taken, and having seen this scenario play out a few times, I already know that the majority of these guys would’ve done nothing. I’m actually impressed that Joe Paterno was able to steel himself within a 24 hr time frame and report the issue. The pattern on these issues is the victim gets re-victimized and the predator is believed and protected. That McQueary(sp?) has to go through the psychological gymnastics of calling his dad, in order to get his footing again, is also no problem for me. Like I said, both McQueary and Paterno did more than 95% of the population in like situation. My argument is for advocacy on behalf of the victim to pursue justice and because most of the time the victim and their family don’t want to go through it, it requires quite a bit of hand-holding and persistence on the part of others to at least get a modicum of justice, if it can be called that, on the issue. Yeah, the talking heads are out of their moral depth on the issue.


  25. Of course, maybe I give Paterno to much credit, he may be required by office to report whether he deems it necessary or not.


  26. MM, I appreciate your personal experience with certain victims. I don’t have much. Still, it would sure seem to me that actual victims don’t really get much genuine satisfaction from talking heads on soap boxes who, as you say, are really about selling, and selling is about whipping people up. The best I can do is imagine, and this morning when the dj hosting “Bob and Tom” oozed with glee about the firing of Paterno and company I had a hard time imagining real victims resonating with it. Plus, going from the glee to more “A priest walks into the confessional with an altar boy” jokes just seems, I don’t know, you know?


  27. Zrim, my annoyance factor would probably be higher if I had to listen to those guys or had to watch them. But my relatively short commute has lately been accompanied by Howlin’ Wolf, who, strangely enough, has had a song co-opted by a current Viagra commercial (“you’re in the age of getting things done..woo ooh hoo..”). Then, I don’t watch ESPN much either. I used to find Jim Rome’s moralizing particularly annoying, and enjoyed it when Kirk Ferentz refused to go on his show by saying something like “Jim who? Oh yea, well, I just didn’t think we should go on that kind of show.”


  28. MM, I totally agree with you. This issue isn’t real complicated. It’s about child rape. Even the sports talk guys have it right, though they don’t reflect on their own sin. The knowledge of an adult male colleague raping a boy in the shower should cause enough disturbance in one’s conscience that he shouldnt be able to “sleep on it.” The real victims will not be benefitted by the tarnishing of Paterno or the Penn State football program. Already it has turned into the plight of Joe Paterno in this media frenzy and the plight of the victims is soon forgotten.


  29. Extra perspective here.

    Interesting tidbit I’d not seen elsewhere: “Though Spanier, Paterno, and top officials at Penn State knew of the criminal allegations against Sandusky, he was still granted unfettered access to the football program.”


  30. MM, I haven’t watched a PSU game in years and don’t really care to because big-time college sports is thoroughly corrupt (though I believe Joe Pa got his start before steroids kicked in). I do not doubt that molestation afflicts these folks throughout their lives. What I find hard to fathom is that sports talks hosts can’t fathom that dancing naked in front of libidinous men also afflicts women both before and after they lose their figures.

    In which case, your vanilla is too plain. These radio folks don’t know what you know about the victims of molestation. They don’t care about these boys or what they turn out to be. They care about declaring themselves righteous.


  31. DGH, to your “They care about declaring themselves righteous” I would add “and making a buck off the sin and suffering of others.” Never forget ratings.

    I used to really enjoy college athletics. Increasingly I see the corruption and the ridiculousness of this activity being affiliated with an institution of learning. Steve Alford – Mr. WWJD himself – brought a lot of this to light. He was an example of what’s wrong rather than a prophet revealing it. But his hair always looked great, or at least the same.


  32. >>>>What I find hard to fathom is that sports talks hosts can’t fathom that dancing naked in front of libidinous men also afflicts women both before and after they lose their figures.<<<<

    Dr. Hart:

    You don't find this hard to fathom. The God of this world has blinded their minds — they are slaves to their sinful human nature. They are totally depraved but they still have the ability to do a kind deed every now and then as they are not "utterly" depraved.

    I think what you are doing in this post is demonstrating the absurdity inherent in the outrage of your pals, the Baylys.


  33. Jeff, nor is unfettered access clear. It could mean that no security officer is standing at the door. But if you want to interpret it in the worst way, sure, it’s not “just a visit.”

    Maybe bad things happen under normal circumstances, such as going on to campus, fraternity among former colleagues, well maintained shower facilities.


  34. DGH, Sure. I think we the public see the tip of the iceberg in terms of “bad things that people do to each other in private.”

    I’m just saying: If you were in an administrative position and received an allegation that someone under you, a friend, had abused another person, then prudence would dictate

    * Moving quickly to investigate, even if only to clear your friend’s name.
    * Making sure that, moving forward, your friend had an alibi and those working with him had reasonable protection.

    We’re not talking about putting a scarlet A for Abuser on the guy. We’re talking about assigning him an assistant.

    I think the analogy you want is this: If a high school Sunday school teacher in your church were accused of abuse, what would you do?

    But all of this is remote. In addition to sharing your distaste about the hypocrisy of radio commentators, I would add: justice without facts is injustice. Without knowing what’s in that grand jury testimony, I don’t have an opinion about who did what wrong thing.


  35. By the way, there’s an interesting parallel here.

    The university president who was just “retired” was the same president who failed to do due diligence in investigating the shenanigans of Michael Mann the climate scientist.

    Story here.


  36. The grand jury report:

    Click to access C4181508116.PDF

    Pp. 6-7 detail that the graduate assistant witnessed anal intercourse between Sandusky and a boy, then reported it to Joe Paterno. Paterno heard the account on a Saturday morning. On Sunday Paterno reported to University officials that something of a sexual nature had happened. About ten days later University officials met to discuss it.


  37. “The university president who was just “retired” was the same president who failed to do due diligence in investigating the shenanigans of Michael Mann the climate scientist.”

    Poets and novelists get to be imaginative, but climatologists? Noooo, we’re supposed to just do dry research, with math and graphs and statistics. Prove this, prove that – no outlet for our creative sides. And then you judge us. It’s enough to make a guy want to go back to directing.


  38. We’re not talking about putting a scarlet A for Abuser on the guy. We’re talking about assigning him an assistant.

    I don’t know, Jeff. I’m sort of reminded of our past discussion about a friend who is carrying on secretly but platonically with a woman other than his wife. Bad judgment isn’t immorality, and so assigning an accused man an “assistant” seems somewhat like saying a man who exercises bad judgment is guilty of “emotional adultery.” I know both appeal to the masses, and one even sounds prudent. And I certainly understand everyone would want to protect the vulnerable, even at the relative cost of the invulnerable’s reputation. But if prudence is what we’re after, what about appealing to the man’s conscience instead of assigning babysitters? That sure seems like the way adults are supposed to be treated, that is, until it is proven that they have behaved like children.


  39. Agree with the critique that as sinners we enjoy feeling more righteous, and that rape of a child is one of the few taboos that the consensus still condemns. Because there are so few taboos left the evil is decried but without reflection as that might point fingers the other direction as well…

    Actually found this article by Gary North, who is probably anathema on this web-site, interesting in that he (a theonomist) applies a NT ethic to to the situation. Almost sounds like a 2k’er when he explains the second mile. But the historical standing of the university as its own society that he discusses is not being discussed elsewhere. http://lewrockwell.com/north/north1059.html


  40. Zrim, I can appreciate that we disagree on this and that I could be erring here. Still and all, I think you’re trying to take proof and make it absolute. In fact, in society, there is a grey area between allegation and proof, called “reasonable suspicion.”

    * Individuals formally charged with a serious crime are held until trial, unless bail is set.
    * Public safety officers charged with a crime are often suspended with pay, or without pay, until the allegations are settled.

    Those kinds of steps, which fall somewhere between “innocent until proven guilty” and “guilty until proven innocent”, indicate that we actually don’t treat adults as either “innocent” or “guilty”, but as “innocent”, “probably innocent”, “possibly innocent”, etc.

    We do the same in the church. Individuals under process are treated differently from individuals not under process — notably, they are not free to transfer their membership.


  41. Jeff, I see the point. But here is Angelo’s problem. He had on a coach this week, Phil Martelli, the St. Joe’s basketball coach, who told about his own experience with telling university admin’s about a violation — he did not mention specifics, though he insisted it was not sexual molestation. And Phil received word from the admin that he was finished with his duties and now the lawyers were taking over. It sure seems to me that a similar scenario played out for Joe Pa.

    Also I find it odd that the journalists reporting this are exempt from the what did they know and when did they know it accusation. Although since Angelo was a journalist, I suspect that he would follow the code of confidentiality, that if he had investigated a wrong doing, he would not go to the civil authorities but would reserve this information for the newspaper. So if journalists don’t have a moral obligation to break the rules governing confidentiality, why can’t they imagine a similar set of codes governing other jobs.


  42. MM, not good. But it is not the full story on Joe’s side. Plus, it does not say what else Joe did or did not do, right? I’m not trying to exonerate Joe. I’m trying to hose everyone else off. I guess it’s too late.


  43. Jeff, we agree that certain situations call for lots of gray and that certain folks are necessarily treated differently. But I think we disagree on how that treatment should look. And I’m saying that I don’t see what’s prudent about assigning adults caught in the gray babysitters. It reminds me of how adults treat themselves like children by putting babysitter software on their computers to keep them from behaving like children instead of behaving like adults with their own two hands. The Christian world loves the idea of babysitter software and furthering a culture of adolescence. So much for being counter-cultural.


  44. DGH, I hope it’s clear that I see some validity in your critique of sports journalists and one-strike moralism. It’s just that I think the most fitting analysis of this situation starts with the 5th commandment:

    Q. 130. What are the sins of superiors?
    A. The sins of superiors are, besides the neglect of the duties required of them, an inordinate seeking of themselves, their own glory, ease, profit, or pleasure; …careless exposing, or leaving them to wrong, temptation, and danger; . . . or lessening their authority, by an unjust, indiscreet, rigorous, or remiss behavior.

    Getting back to one-strike moralism, I offer an analogy. I have an elderly relative who occasionally voices what can only be characterized as racist attitudes towards two distinct ethnic groups. Icky stuff, and I suppose one-strike moralism would shun her. But ick sticks to me as well, even if it is not the same type of ick. So I have ceased to mention this, and try to practically show gratitude for all she has done for me over the years. I am not going to summarily declare her evil on the basis of those attitudes.

    Arguably Paterno comes from a generation that tended to sweep icky stuff under the rug, and it doesn’t get much ickier that molestation. The elephant in the room is that he may have attended a church institution that tended to sweep such stuff under the rug. So perhaps our moral clarity on this issue is actually better today than it was in Paterno’s formative years. My assessment is that he did something very wrong, but, like you, I’m not ready to make a sweeping assessment of his character or to think that some opportunistic radio guys are his moral superiors.


  45. DGH, both are valid points. I sometimes complain that we live in a society that has too much oversight. I don’t mean “Big Brother is watching you”, but that, well, we live like people under law.

    The situation with Martelli sounds like that.


  46. Zrim, the point of assigning an assistant is not to keep the individual from sinning, but to provide him with an alibi: You *know* that from Sept 8 onward, I did not do anything.

    And to provide the school with that same alibi: Yes, Coach Schmoe was accused, and yes we kept him in the program because the accusations were unproven, and Yes, we are certain that he did nothing wrong from that time forward.

    It’s about evidence, not prevention.


  47. Jeff, fair enough. But my points about treating adults like adolescents stands. Is there a way to provide alibi’s for adults that doesn’t seem so childish? Maybe a discreet appeal not to show up at certain venues until things cool down?


  48. Jeff, I don’t about you, but I’d hardly feel like I were banishing a fellow by appealing to his common sense. And in point of fact, I think one might get further with him if he were treated with the measure of dignity gray situations still demand.


  49. DG,

    So, pots can’t call kettles black? Of course the proverb isn’t about the veracity of the pot’s attribution but is designed to illustrate it’s hypocrisy.

    So your local sports guys are hypocrites – so what? Hypocrisy somehow invalidates their conclusion about what happened at Penn State?


  50. KP, the hypocrisy comes from rushing to judgment about a situation these folks did not know about. We still don’t “know” if Sandusky committed the crime. We still don’t know what people told Joe and what he told others and what others told him to do or not do. But because you seem to know what happened in the locker room, you also know everything else. That’s not hypocrisy. It’s self-righteous ignorance, never a flattering state.


  51. I see that anyone can make an accusation. This I already knew. 🙂

    But I don’t see how this goes to “asking someone not to come around is treating them like an adult, but asking them to have a witness present if they *are* around isn’t.”





  52. Jeff, my point was that assigning someone an escort, as opposed to making the case to voluntarily push back, seems to convey, at least to me, that the accusation was more true than not. You hypothetically complained that by doing so I was “banishing” you. My hypothetical accusation in response is what I think most are doing. An escort may provide an alibi in theory, but I think it also conveys to our friend something else, something we may not appreciate until we ourselves experience it. So I think the way to both show dignity to our friend and provide alibi is to suggest voluntary push back. I mean, nobody can accuse him of wrong doing if he isn’t present in certain venues, right? So he may “feel banished” by the suggestion to be temporarily absent, but I think that’s a little this side of whiny when I’m also trying to keep him from being babysat.


  53. DG – Slippery and evasive as ever. Joe said he should have done more; you should believe him – he knows more about this situation than you do.


  54. Jeff, watch what you say about neutrality, they’ll be calling you a radical (2ker). But, yes, there are different ideas about how to address certain indifferent situations. I appreciate yours but think mine is better. Three cheers for 2k.


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