Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Joe Paterno Moment

Did you know that Joe Paterno has been in the news lately? If you don't, you probably don't have a television or an internet connection. If you don't have an internet connection, I don't know how you're reading this, but I suppose I should explain that Paterno had a former coordinator diddling kids, and he didn't do anything about it. Although it is unconfirmed, Paterno may have confronted Jerry Sandusky, and Sandusky may have responded with this:

He should have known that this was probably a sign that he diddled kids, but Joe Pa's old, so he may have let it slide.

But what's done is done, and now Joe Pa is done at Penn State. Still, I felt this was a fitting time for me to share a story where I was put in a very similar situation as Paterno faced with Jerry Sandusky. Let's take a stroll down Creepy Memory Lane.

As I have spoken about before, I used to work in Minor League Baseball. One of my responsibilities was overseeing the ushering staff at the ballpark. For the most part, I had great guys that worked for me down there, as they are some of the best people I have ever met. Unfortunately, I could not fill my staff with All Stars, and in many cases, I couldn't even provide replacement level performance from the members I had to fill out my staff with.

That led me to hiring Don (not his real name). When I interviewed Don, I could only understand about one out of every six words he said, but as we worked together, I got it down to one out of three, so I could almost always make out what he was trying to tell me.

Don wasn't competent in many areas, but he did enjoy busting smokers, and he was a warm body, so those were his strengths. He wasn't very good at communicating with guests, so I almost always put him as far from people as possible.

Despite this, he definitely grew on me. He was harmless, and his incompetence was kind of endearing. One of my favorite Don stories was when he left a message on my answering machine and his callback number was 13 digits. Needless to say, I never called Don back that day.

But onto the important story. One day, I got a troubling report from someone in food and beverage where they said that a guest complained that an usher, Don, was peeping at his little kid while he was at the urinal. Now Don was obviously always a weird guy, but I honestly thought he wasn't competent enough to be a pervert. That was my initial thought, but I had to confront him about it.

So I talked to Don about it, and he assured me that this never happened and he was just going to the bathroom. I wanted to believe him, and honestly, I did believe him. I just never expected someone who, although incompetent, couldn't have been more harmless. Still, I had to make sure he was telling the truth.

I set up a sting operation where I told an intern to follow John into the bathroom the next time he went in there (Sorry Nick S.). The intern did as he was told and came back with a troubling report. Don was not only glancing at little kids while they were at the urinal, he was staring them down while they were at the urinal.

To hear that the information was true really sucked. Yes, he was always incompetent, but his incompetence had really grown on me and had made him endearing. I had to do what I had to do. I immediately fired him, and he was banned from stepping foot in the ballpark.

So I have a slight understanding of Paterno's position. My usher never diddled kids, but when I got the information, I knew I had to get to the bottom of it, even though I wanted to believe Don. Paterno decided to put it in other people's hands instead of finding out the truth about a man he probably considered a close friend. I understand why Paterno didn't act, but that doesn't make it right. He made the wrong decision, and now he's paying the consequences.

I'm happy that the situation I was involved in never escalated, because it is truly a fucked up situation in State College. Everyone involved deserve what they get and probably more.

Even Penn State students actions have been stupid, but almost all college students are morons. They don't understand the levity of the situation, and a lot of them are probably just interested in being in a riot. When I was in college, I once ran through tear gas to see what it felt like. That was fucking stupid, but that's what college kids do: A bunch of stupid shit. The students aren't vile human beings, they're just idiots, and in a few years, they'll realize how stupid their actions were. Making stupid decisions is all part of the college experience.

The right decision isn't always the easy decision, and in time, even the most ardent of Joe Pa supporters will realize, you can support his coaching legacy, but you cannot support him taking the easy way out in this situation.


P.S. That kind of ended on a down note. Let's get an awesome quote from Iowa Wrestling Coach, Tom Brands:

"We need guys to not just say, ‘Hey, I'm doing it right, look at me.' We need them to grab guys and say, ‘I'm an extension of the coaching staff, and what you're doing is out of line, and by God you're going to get it right or you might have to answer to soap in the pillow case," Brands said. "We need a guy or two like that."

If this were a football coach saying this, it would be a major news story, but Iowa's Wrestling Coach? It's just a rallying cry. More soap in the pillow case justice, please.

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