Thursday morning on ESPN Radio, Mike and Mike held an interview with former Penn State QB Todd Blackledge. Todd was a quarterback under Joe Paterno in the early 80s where he was a three year starter and led the Nittany Lions to the national championship. Obviously, Todd has invested a lot of emotion into his former coach and Penn State football, so I was very curious to hear his perspective.
When asked by Mike Greenberg (the smaller Mike) if his feelings on Joe Paterno had changed in light of the known facts, Blackledge replied, "It's changed, and I'm disappointed with the way they went about handling this ... but I don't believe" that he did it to protect the image of Penn State football. Blackledge went on to say that he felt like Joe was simply a victim of his own propensity for loyalty. He elaborated that the way people are portraying Joe's part in the scandal is wrong. He says that Paterno obviously displayed poor judgement and made bad decisions as a result of blind loyalty to his assistant Jerry Sandusky.
I will say that Todd was clear that he was disturbed and felt horrible for the victims. Back in November when Paterno was fired, Blackledge was interviewed on Mike and Mike and stated that it (the firing) was the right thing to do. So, his opinion certainly carries a little more weight for me than some other people that haven't shown a willingness to look at the situation impartially.
I believe it to be natural for loved ones to seek some sort of reasons for why someone made the decisions they made in the case of scandal or crime.They want to hold onto the image of the person that they knew in private. However, that often leads to opinions that are less than impartial. In the case of Todd Blackledge and the Paterno family, I feel like that is happening right now.
It is their contention that Joe the man must be separate from Joe the football coach. I couldn't agree more. They want to say that Joe the man would never cover up such a scandal to protect Penn State football. In keeping with their contention for separation I ask, "Would Joe the coach cover up such a scandal to protect Penn State football?" The answer I continue to come up with is a resounding yes.
Football coaches, perhaps more than any other sports coach, are intimately married to their jobs and their legacies. In a sport where athletes are measured by their ability be stronger, tougher, faster, and smarter than other men in high impact movements, the coaches are measured by their ability to will those men to victory more often the the opposing coaches. Joe Paterno did that better than anyone in college football history. For 50 years he was married to his mistress. He slept in his office and he dreamed of Penn State football.
For me, it was that marriage, that passion for his mistress that caused Joe the Man to make a series of horrible decisions as Joe the Coach. Loyalty to Sandusky was not the issue in my opinion. Rather it was loyalty to his work. Loyalty to what he had built. Remember, Sandusky left in 1999. Was it a coincidence that he was no longer coaching shortly after this all came to light internally? I don't think so. I believe Joe the Man was disgusted with Jerry Sandusky, but Joe the Coach just wouldn't let him make the right decisions with regard to reporting the scandal to the police. Unfortunately, many more children had to pay the price for Joe the Coach's poor judgement.