History won't be kind to Paterno

November 14, 2011, 9:12 pm
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The continued deconstruction of PaternoWorld advanced to the removal of his name from the Big 10 championship trophy, thus reminding us yet again of the First Law of Tributes.

Dont name things after the living.

And the Second:

Your legacy isnt yours, but is something given to you by others.

History is not immediately inclined to look well on Paterno, unless everything we have come to learn in the past nine days is actually wrong. His contributions, and there are many, do not square with the information regarding the Jerry Sandusky scandal, and ultimately this isnt about one horrible week against 61 years of devotion. Its about nine, or 13, or God knows how many years of doing what prior generations were more inclined to do under such circumstances.

RELATED: Big Ten removes Paterno's name from trophy

Look the other way, even when looking the other way was unthinkable.

But we dont need a 15,000th recitation of what happened, because that news changes all the time.

This, rather, is the story of the undoing of Joe Paterno the symbol, and the trophy is just the first thing. Indeed, in the worst-case scenario, the revelations are such that even the family name might be removed from the library he and his wife Sue gave to the university.

And that was the legacy he wanted as much as the football. He wanted to be Penn State across the board -- Penn State, Brought To You By Joe Paterno -- and there was no reason why that wouldnt be the case.

Now, his name is being sandblasted away, and the trophy is the first sign of that.

Few people seem bothered by what under normal circumstances would be considered a rush to judgment, and for that we can cite the horrifying nature of the alleged crimes, and the size of the conspiracy of silence. And we say alleged only in the most legal sense, because the seemingly overwhelming evidence has neither been presented in a court of law or rebutted.

But in this era, where nobodys business but my own is now a quaint old song title and nothing more, judgments are evaluated by speed first, and guilt is often determined in the public domain by the time it takes to claim innocence.

In short, the rule of thumb is now, The longer it takes to craft a defense, the more likely it is a lie.

So it is with Paterno and Penn State. Sandusky is fully within the legal realm, and his guilt or innocence is already in the system, so this isnt about that. This is about the slowly disappearing Paterno.

His allies (or more accurately, defeated adversaries) have been fired or suspended. The new president has no ties to the Paterno legacy save what the school wants them to be, and the school is largely more interested in moving forward than defending the past.

In short, the Big 10 trophy is only the beginning of the undoing of the Paterno name, unless we have all jumped to the wrong conclusions about the scandal, its depth and breadth. His legacy looks like nothing so much as a slow fade to black.

And thats the thing about legacies for the living. They can be built, and they can be demolished, all while you sit and watch. Depending on how badly you need a legacy while youre alive, that can be the worst punishment of all.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

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