Enough about Paterno's statue

July 13, 2012, 5:48 pm
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And now, what I hope without any justification at all will be the last word ever on the Joe Paterno statue.Screw the statue. Screw your interest in the statue. The statue doesnt matter.RELATED: Ratto -- Peterno put the brand ahead of human decency
But in fact, the statue does matter, in one important way. It shows how hideously addicted we still are to symbols and icons and displays, as opposed to less fungible things like people.Weighing the amount of debate over the last 36 hours between the fate of the Paterno statue and how the school intends to make restitution to the victims and become a force in the fight against child violence, we find that the statue won in a rout.In fact, we didnt want to talk about the victims at all. We did want to talk about Paternos legacy, and Penn States misplaced interest in the football team, and why Graham Spanier hasnt been indicted yet. We loved the blame part, and yesterday the blame was the story.But then it morphed into what should be done about the football program still a decent notion for debate, but empty given that there is no indication that such a thing could easily be done, let alone actually done. And then we landed on the statue.The stupid bronze statue. A symbol of an era gone by, and an era gone bad.And we still havent gotten around to talking about how to make the victims whole, or at least as close to whole as possible. We used them as a stick to hit Paterno, and the football program, and the Penn State administrative culture, but weve still skipped right by the most important job, and the most important people.I mean, there is a solution here, or solutions. One way, though not the only one, would be to make the football program a non-profit entity, with all money generated from this most lucrative of operations going to a fund for the victims, or for the ongoing fight against violence against children.RELATED: Ratto -- Time to focus on Penn State's administrators
That way, the football program is doing right by the victims, playing for something bigger than the Beef OBradys Bowl, as well as not punishing those current football players and coaches and staff who had nothing to do with the cover-up. Football as force for actual tangible good and nobility, as opposed to entertainment quite the radical notion.But that debate never took off, because it never started. We wanted to argue about the statue, which is merely a symbol, an image, a brand. And symbolism and image and brand, and our addictions to all three, are what helped bring down the Penn State way to doing business.RELATED: Key findings of the Penn State investigation
The symbolism, image and brand generated money and power at Penn State, as it does in any corporation. That power and money was defended even at the expense of the children ravaged by Jerry Sandusky. But here we are, the enlightened outsiders, the ones with our outrage all in a knot, arguing about the statue, and Paternos legacy (another hilarious sidebar), and spending zero time on how to fix this for those who were damaged, and those who might be in the future.Well, here is one modest proposal. Keep the football program and have it fight for something more noble than the Leaders Division of the Big 10 Conference. Make it a standing advertisement for what went wrong, and how it can be made right. Make the money a tool, rather than its own reward. Make Penn State stand for rebirth rather than degeneration.And then you can worry about the damned statue, and the stupid legacy. After all what needs to be fixed, gets fixed.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

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