Yesteday Penn State fired Joe Paterno. Last night Penn State students rioted. They damaged public and private property and assaulted police.
The most common sentiment was that Joe "didn't do anything." On the contrary: he participated in a coverup of the rape of a child. This conspiracy of silence allowed the perpetrator to escape detection and go on to assault other children.
I can understand why some nobody, like the assistant who actually found Sandusky in flagrante delicto with the kid in the shower, would report the incident to higher-ups and let them deal with the police. But Paterno was Sandusky's boss and the symbol of the football program. He was the one with the moral authority -- he always claimed morality and ethics were an integral part of his program -- to make sure that Penn State football wasn't sullied by the actions of one scumbag. But he just kicked the report up the chain and buttoned his lip.
Joe Paterno doesn't deny any of the facts. He helped a felon escape justice. By his own moral and ethical compass, he knew he had to go. That's why he announced he would retire after this season. But the board knew that wasn't good enough and made Joe play by his own rules.
Had this incident occurred at some no-name Division III track program there would be absolutely no question that the parties involved would be fired, and that everyone would agree it was the right decision. But because this is football and Joe Paterno is the figurehead of an iconic institution, a lot of angry students think he should get a pass.
What the angry mob doesn't understand is that their idolizing of Parterno and Penn State football caused this. Putting people and institutions on pedestals fills them with hubris and lets them think that they are above the law. They come to think of themselves and their program as more important than the rights of individuals, and if some little people are hurt to preserve the image of the leader and the program it's justified because the leader and the program are so moral and ethical. Which, when you think of it that way, makes it seem even more corrupt and self-serving than it already does.
If you still think Paterno was wronged, try replacing "Joe Paterno" with "archbishop" and "Penn State" with "Catholic Church." I mean, some people do claim Penn State football as their religion but this is carrying a little too far.