SAN DIEGO – January 22, 2012 – Four decades ago, Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was nearly lured away to the NFL with promises of a big salary.
But after sleeping on it, he changed his mind and turned the job down. He cited the words of the Greek hero who had inspired him in high school and whose words he lived by: “When you choose wrong, as Aeneas found out, life comes down on you with some terrible whacks,” Paterno said.
The mainstream media whacked the man revered as “JoePa” good and hard in the wake of the alleged child abuse scandal at Penn State University in which assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested on charges of abusing several boys over many years. Paterno was criticized for his inaction over the situation.
He announced his retirement in the wake of the growing furor, but the university later fired Paterno with a telephone call several days later on November 9.
Two and a half months later, the revered football coach who holds several college football records including the most wins by a Division I coach has died of lung cancer.
Paterno often said football was what kept him alive. For tens of thousands of Penn State players, family, alumni and supporters who revered JoePa, they will see his removal after decades of dedication as nothing short of a death sentence.
Expect Paterno’s supporters to blame the news media for putting their hero on death row, even if the university carried out the execution.
In the past few weeks, one-thousand alumni met with new Penn State President Rodney Erickson in three forums to voice their concerns about the way the university dealt with the sexual abuse scandal. Their voices are growing louder by the day, and the roar following Paterno’s death will be loud and even angrier than before.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, over and over they asked the same questions: What did the trustees know? Why didn’t they believe Paterno’s account that he knew nothing about the situation until well after it started, and then reported it as required? Why was he fired with no evidence and without any opportunity to explain himself?
Increasingly, alumni allege the decision was made only to get the news media off the university’s case.
“The only reason they did it,” one middle-aged woman in a Penn State football jersey was quoted as saying in the Inquirer, “was because the media kept screaming that they had to. The trustees should all resign. But only after they apologize to Joe.”
Several board members feeling the heat decided to make statements of their own to the media. Board member Joel Myers told the Wall Street Journal that firing Paterno was “heart-wrenching,” but the board unanimously agreed on the decision, and cited the pressure of the growing “media circus” on campus.
One of the more visible alumni leading the charge to restore Paterno’s good name is Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris. “I can’t understand why it happened. … We have to be relentless. We have to keep fighting for Penn State,” Harris said. “We can’t let the Board of Trustees or the media write the final chapter.”
This emerging theme is the same one sounded by Newt Gingrich and conservative voters, one that allowed Gingrich to win a surprising victory in South Carolina’s presidential primary on Saturday.
Gingrich told elated supporters his victory was due to “something very fundamental that I wish the powers that be in the news media will take seriously: The American people feel that they have elites who have been trying for a half-century to force us to quit being American and become some kind of other system.”
This came on the heels of Gingrich’s blast at this week’s debate on CNN when moderator John King’s first question addressed allegations about Gingrich’s personal life. Gingrich roared, “The destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office, and I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.”
An ABC News poll following the debate showed South Carolina voters swinging toward Gingrich as a result. In post-election analysis, former Governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said on Fox News that Gingrich should buy King a big steak dinner.
The seemingly clueless mainstream media needs to get a grip on understanding why the public is so angry at them, and stop ignoring or denying the feedback it’s getting loud and clear, or it may hasten its own demise. But that’s a separate discussion.
Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich may have shown Penn State a way out of its public relations nightmare.
In Gingrich’s situation, if he can continue to successfully channel the anger by voters at what they perceive as an increasingly out-of-touch “liberal elite” news media, he will exact the revenge Paterno’s supporters also crave by winning the Republican presidential nomination several months from now.
Penn State is desperate to appease its angry community, and it could benefit by learning a lesson from the South Carolina primary outcome by trying to unite them against a common enemy: the mainstream media. It’s a classic tactical move. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Penn State officials may be able to successful channel the outrage and blame its hasty decision to fire the most influential and revered man in its history on the pressure levied by the mainstream media, explaining it as the only avenue left for the university to protect its students, staff and alumni from a tsunami of negative attention.
If Paterno is exonerated, now there is a martyr to defend and the case is made even stronger. Either way, angry supporters may eventually rally around the university as families often do in a crisis and direct their outrage outward at the mainstream media, placing the blame squarely on them for rushing to judgment about Paterno’s role and giving the university no choice but to remove him to call off the dogs.
Penn State may survive this scandal by taking a page from the playbook of Coach Gingrich… a playbook that seems to be producing a winning strategy.
Read more at:
Newt Gingrich’s life’s purpose is the quest for absolute power. In the present tense, he seeks the restoration of the power he lost.
Newt Gingrich, modern colossus and architect of Reaganism, will deign to be your president.
Three states, three winners. What’s next? A protracted battle for delegates, starting with Florida on January 31.
Grabbing at the mantle of Ronald Reagan, Santorum and Gingrich are tearing it to shreds.
Between their big-government positions and their flip-flops, the difference between Gingrich and Romney is too small to make a difference.
Read fresh political coverage in Communities @WashingtonTimes.com Politics
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. Read more Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities at WashingtonTimes.com” when quoting from or linking to this story.
Copyright © 2012 by Falcon Valley Group
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.