Letter to a Duke friend

Had an e-mail from a Duke buddy this morning that read:


The report and early fallout is beyond anything I for one anticipated. Bobby Bowden has called on Penn St to take the statue down.

Here is my response. Your comments are welcomed (especially in case I have to respond to him again).

Morning, Jeff.

You are probably overreacting -- LOL! More to come: The Curley/Schultz trials, Spanier will want to have his say, the Paterno family/Wick Sollers will not go quietly (nor should they), and so on. We are about halfway through this saga.

The statue coming down? Sure, why not? WE put Joe on a pedestal -- he steadfastly refused that over the years. Go back and listen to clips of interviews with him following key games, and he consistently says stuff such as, "The other guys give us an opportunity that our guys capitalized on." "This win is a testament to how great these fans are." "The game could have gone either way; our kids found a way to gain the victory." Then listen to him after a loss: "I got out-coached." "I should have called a different play there."

I think the major difference between us, Jeff, is that you see things from an outsiders' perspective. Even amongst people such as you, (other friend's name), and other Duke grads, I don't sense the same feeling of family that exists amongst Penn Staters. It may be silly, but I can be anywhere in the world, see someone with a Penn State item, yell "WE ARE!" and get an excited "PENN STATE!" in return. A great deal of that spirit centers around football, which in turn was created by Joe Paterno, but there is a deeper sense of community than just the sport.

So people can parse each document, word, reference to/by Joe, and decide he should be exhumed, drawn and quartered, and the pieces burned. Doing so may salve their sense of outrage (and feed their smugness that "I did something to save the children!" even though they ignore abuse in their own neighborhood), but they lose as well: They lose the fact that ALL people are imperfect, and that, in the end, there is a great deal to be said for measuring the sum of a person's contributions rather than isolating one or two events out of an entire lifetime.

Joe was asked one time, "What do you think of this year's team?" He replied, "Ask me in 20 years." He meant, of course, "Look at these kids when they are well past football. Are they good citizens, fathers, husbands, and all?" Football was his teaching medium; teaching positive values was his subject matter. Did he want to win? Passionately! Did he understand that sometimes losing one game creates more character than winning ten others? Yes, he did.

Finally (and I don't mean to be rude), what has Duke learned from the lacrosse incident? Sure, no child was physically abused. How are the young men who endured that ordeal holding up? Are there emotional scars from being mistreated by the administrators? (Yeah, they were given nice-sized checks; is that enough? If you believe it is, please hold to that belief when Penn State is through issuing checks to its victims.) What happened to those administrators who mishandled that ordeal? Seems to me they are still there (and still making similarly arrogant decisions). Most importantly, what safeguards are in place to prevent future ineptitude? I don't recall receiving any "sensitivity training" on how to handle situations such as the lacrosse events. What is Duke doing to learn from Penn State's situation? Awareness shouldn't be restricted to child abuse -- is there any increase in awareness of sexual harassment, date rape, elder abuse (Duke has a hospital, which is vulnerable to elder abuse occurrences), and so on? One can sit smugly and pretend "That will never happen HERE!", or one can recognize human weaknesses and failures, and work to prevent.

Hope all else is well with you.



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