Friday, November 11, 2011

A Veteran and the Real Joe

It is unfortunate that Andy Rooney didn't make it to one more Veterans Day.

I'm sure you know by now, Rooney passed away Saturday at the age of 92.

While he was best known for his "60 Minutes" commentaries, Rooney was also an Army veteran who wrote for Stars and Stripes, and covered some of World War II's biggest, ugliest, and bloodiest battles.

I will leave the obituaries up to the better skilled, but I will say that I admire those, like Andy Rooney, who can write and get people to take notice.

By the way, something struck me while watching Andy Rooney television obituaries.  Many of those stories featured the opening of "60 Minutes."  Dear God, what an assemblage of talent on that broadcast-- Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, Harry Reasoner, Dan Rather, Ed Bradley, Diane Sawyer, Steve Kroft, Lesley Stahl...  I think the only thing that surpasses it was the radio group hired by Edward R. Murrow during World War II.

Happy Veterans Day, Andy Rooney.

Now, on to the Joe Paterno saga.  I will never understand the blind allegiance to this guy.  He was the ultimate actor.  The Paterno you saw in public was a fake.

I covered Penn State football a bit in the 90's, and I was warned early on.  Even back then, I had a reputation for asking difficult questions and being a professional pain in the behind.  It is a distinction I wear with honor.  Anyway, I was told that if I asked questions that challenged sanctimonious Paterno or PSU, I ran the risk of having me and my organization frozen out.  I'm not sure who authored that rule-- athletic director Tim Curley, Paterno, or both.

Richard Justice is a writer for the Houston Chronicle, and below is an excerpt from his column that really nails it.

  Indeed, that’s one of the lessons of this story. Paterno became accountable to no one, and isn’t that sad? He was the moral compass of State College and of Penn State.

He earned that status by winning games, graduating players and not cheating. He seemed different from so many of the others because during his 46 seasons, Penn State proved it could win with honor.

Somewhere along the way, Paterno’s value system became distorted. He had more power than any school president or mayor or athletics director, and because we assumed he always used it for good, because we believed the things he said about winning with honor, we allowed his power to grow and grow and grow.

Paterno built what appeared to be a model program, but he also built a program around secrecy and arrogance. No one crossed Joe Paterno. No one challenged Joe Paterno.

Paterno professed to be part of the larger university community, but in truth, he believed the university was there to serve him.

You see, if I have trouble conjuring up sympathy for the beloved and sainted  JoePa, now you know why.