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Friday, July 20, 2012

We are all Spartacus: Gary Pinkel defends Joe Paterno

Posted By on 07.20.12 at 07:31 AM

Nisos and Euryalos
  • © Marie-Lan Nguyen
  • Nisos and Euryalos
The football coach at my alma mater just said some interesting things about Joe Paterno.

Paterno was a "great man, a good man," said Missouri's Gary Pinkel during the Southeastern Conference's media days this week in Alabama. (Mizzou just joined the SEC.) “I'm sure maybe if he could do it over again he would (have) followed up a few things. But don't take away all this guy did. And to sit here and blame him for all this I think is wrong.”

If that had been all Pinkel had to say on the subject he'd have sounded obtuse, but—well, when have we not cut Division I football coaches a little slack? But there was more. Pinkel didn't simply forgive Paterno. He found fault elsewhere.

“You know, it's such a tragedy,” Pinkel began his remarks. “Joe Paterno was a friend I got to know professionally. You can't take away the greatness of this man. He was a great man, and you can't, however you analyze this, all of a sudden erase all that this guy's done. You can't do that. Nobody can do that. I think when you come out of such a tragic situation. . . involving children, and the magnitude of this in our country from a media standpoint, I anticipated really what happened, to be honest with you, I anticipated that (the media) would do this.

“Now (the media isn't) going to just sit back there and say, `Well, just things happen.' You're not going to do that. They're going to be firing, and, people, they're going to get people who are going to make statements and they're going to point fingers.”

The magnitude of this in our country from a media standpoint.

I guess we're guilty. I guess we started out with a quiet little case of serial betrayal and sexual exploitation of children and then blew it up into one of those great big stories that reporters on a joyride like to honk their horns at.

Pinkel's got a different perspective and I bet a lot of coaches do as well. Bishops operate under the handicap of having to square what they're willing to put up with with Christian values and traditions. Coaches do not, and I'm wondering what the effect would be if they all got together and took a stand.

"It is a pity," their joint statement might say, "that sportswriters who want to blow this out of all proportion are so ignorant of the men whose courage, gravitas, and principles of duty and honor serve as a model for those of us in the coaching fraternity. The ancient Greeks and Romans understood as our critics do not that there is no contradiction between the manly mentoring that we regard as central to our mission and the intimate activities for which Jerry Sandusky has been viciously condemned. I refer you to the Thebans, in whose honor their conqueror, Philip of Macedonia, raised a monument that stands today, though some say the statue of Joe Paterno should not. I refer you to Nisus and Euryalus in Virgil's Aeneid, an epic poem no football coach would do without. I refer you to Homer's tale of Achilles and Patroclus.

"Should we not read these texts? Should we not aspire to the sobriquet Old Roman you ignorantly toss about?

"We are not men of parts. We lead your schools to glory. Take us or leave us."

I'd like to think anyone who signed a paper such as this would be run off the campus, out of the state, and out of the country. You never know.

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