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Bill James probably needs to stop commenting on the Penn State scandal

Jul 13, 2012, 9:13 AM EDT

Bill James

I love and respect the work of Bill James. It changed my life in a lot of ways. And the one time I met him I found him to be a really nice man.  When he strays away from his baseball bailiwick, however, he often loses me.  And I don’t think he’s ever lost me more than he did yesterday when he decided to defend Joe Paterno for some reason.

Deadspin has the details, taken from James’ online chat session yesterday.  Upshot: someone asked him about Joe Paterno’s knowledge of the 1998 investigation of Jerry Sandusky. That investigation, which involved a now clearly-established incident in which Sandusky molested a boy in a shower at Penn State’s football facilities, did not lead to criminal charges at the time.

Paterno did nothing to Sandusky after that investigation. And then, in 2002, when he learned that Sandusky was still molesting boys in the shower, he continued to do nothing. And then last year when all of this broke he lied about what he knew in 1998, both publicly and to the grand jury.  Which is why James’ defense of Paterno made my jaw drop. Emphasis supplied by James:

The Freeh reports states quite explicitly and at least six times (a) that the 1998 incident did NOT involve any criminal conduct—on the part of Sandusky or anyone else—and (b) that Paterno had forced the resignation of Sandusky before the 1998 incident occurred … In any case, what EXACTLY is it that Paterno should have done? Fire him again? It is preposterous to argue, in my view, that PATERNO should have taken action after all of the people who were legally charged to take action had thoroughly examined the case and decided that no action was appropriate.

I suppose if the question is, for some reason, limited to whether Paterno broke any laws in 1998, this exceedingly legalistic answer is marginally acceptable. But to sit here in 2012, knowing what we all now know about this, and about Paterno’s knowledge, subsequent inaction, subsequent lies and the tragic consequences of all of it which he, and maybe he alone, could have done the most to stop given his stature, and focus on whether at one brief moment in time Paterno was legally required to do more than he did seems preposterous.

It’s the sort of cherry-picking that, had someone done it to baseball data, would cause James to flip his lid. It is legalistic argument for argument’s sake that is so utterly beside the point when it comes to assessing Paterno in the present day that the word “misleading” doesn’t begin to do it justice.

I like it when people play devil’s advocate as long as it attempts to be instructive. And I don’t much care for sanctimonious piling-on at all.  But unless James added more to this point later, I don’t see what he is trying to accomplish here. And even if he had some instructive point to make, it is severely outweighed by just how disingenuous it is in light of the overall action and inaction of Joe Paterno since 1998.

And I do not think that avoiding a disingenuous point like the one James is making here necessarily renders one a member of the mob piling on someone. James is simply missing the glaringly obvious point to this story in an effort to make an intellectual point that is utterly meaningless.

Which, sadly, is what James is often accused of doing with baseball. It’s always been a bogus charge. In this case, though, it’s right on.

  1. oldnumero7 - Jul 13, 2012 at 9:18 AM

    Damn, I do love Bill James’ work. But his contrarian instincts seem to have done him in here. I’m sorry, Bill, but in this case the mob is right.

  2. joecool16280 - Jul 13, 2012 at 9:23 AM

    Love your work Mr James but stay in the shallow end on this one.

  3. deadeyedesign23 - Jul 13, 2012 at 9:28 AM

    To an extent I agree with him. When this whole thing started I defended Paterno to some degree because he found out about it, reported it to his superiors to investigate. There’s reasonable deniability there where they could have investigated it and found no evidence of anything and that was that, but with it coming out that he knew that Sandusky continued molesting kids? The next call is to the cops.

    • awesomenar - Jul 13, 2012 at 11:51 AM


      The FIRST and ONLY call is to the cops. We’re not talking about a guy who’d been accused of stealing stationary, or even someone who was masturbating in the locker room shower. In ’98 Sandusky was accused of CHILD RAPE and MOLESTATION! There never has been or will be another appropriate or acceptable action other than reporting that information directly to the police IMMEDIATELY!

      • stevem7 - Jul 13, 2012 at 12:57 PM

        If the FIRST and ONLY call is to the cops then why isn’t the kid who saw Sandusky being held to that standard? He’s allowed to go and tell Coach P about it the next day. He should be just as criminally liable as they say Coach P was.

      • shea801 - Jul 13, 2012 at 12:57 PM

        Not to mention it was ONLY decided that this not be a criminal case because of John Seasock; the Freeh investigation reports he explicitly had conflicts of interest by being the person legally deciding whether Child Welfare should push for charges because of contractual obligations to PSU and Second Mile. Investigators hearing about evidence they did not have at the time regarding one of the 1998 victem’s mother consulting a psychiatrist PRIOR to contacting Child Services (that started the 1998 investigation), stated they would have opened a formal investigation with that knowledge. Seasock stated otherwise. Specifically, “[I’ve] never heard of 52 year old man turning into pedophile overnight”. Seriously? That was your professional conclusion? That an old man playing naked with boys in shower isn’t a pedophile, but just good natured? And you work for Protective Services? YOU SHOULD BE HUNG! That was MY first thought. How do you think “this doesn’t happen overnight” instead of “Jesus, this guy may be a pedophile and we should look deeper into this” when that is your job!? To deal with pedophiles and abused children on a daily basis, and just conclude this is the ONE guy that is different from the thousands of pedophiles you’ve dealt with over your career is criminal!

        The 1998 victem’s mother went to the police. The University didn’t. They were gonna sweep that under the rug were it not for her. And they still managed to squash that. It’s criminal, and those looking at jail time should absolutely get it for what they’ve done in this fiasco.

      • joebuckiscreepy - Jul 13, 2012 at 3:22 PM

        it’s weird, i made the same “we’re not talking about someone stealing pens” comment a while back.

        i am shocked at the psu apologists. their level of denial and stupidity is absolutely ridiculous.

      • awesomenar - Jul 13, 2012 at 4:11 PM

        stevem7, I agree completely that Mike McQueary (the assistant who witnessed the shower raping) should go to jail. Everyone shown to have ANY knowledge of these events at any point prior to Sandusky’s trial, who failed to notify the police, should go to jail… for a very long time. I don’t care if it’s the president of the university, the towel boy for the team, or Joe Paterno’s rotting corpse. They all need to pay the price.

  4. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 13, 2012 at 9:28 AM

    In 1999, at which time Paterno, Schultz, Curley and Spanier were all aware of the incident with Victim 6 the year before, Jerry Sandusky was given the choice of retiring, or staying on indefinitely.

    In an email from Tim Curley to Spanier and Schultz, Curley wrote that “Joe did give him the option to continue to coach as long as he was the coach.

    Yeah Bill, what else could Paterno have done, EXCEPT NOT GIVE HIM A HAVEN TO KEEP MOLESTING KIDS!

    • heyblueyoustink - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:27 AM

      Couldn’t agree more. Standing by and ignoring the crime makes you just as much a part of it when it comes to kids.It’s indefensible.

  5. ck101 - Jul 13, 2012 at 9:35 AM

    After reading James’s book on true crime stories, which was very interesting in parts but nonsensical in others and had so many tangents and seemingly nonsensical digressions that it came off like a story told by Abe Simpson, I wondered whether he has become in some ways a victim of what was initially his strength: his iconoclasm and rejection of “the system”, for lack of a better word. He became rich and famous, and had a deep impact on the game of baseball, by writing for himself, without working within conventional strictures. What led him to success was entirely what spun out of his own brain, entirely through his own efforts.

    And good for him, I say – he’s a remarkable American success story. But at times you wonder now whether this is hurting him. He seems to have developed a rather deep appreciation for his own brilliance, and in his own notes for the crime book admits that he makes life absolutely miserable for anybody who tries to edit him (and that book, more than any I’ve ever read, would have been made much better with some judicious editing). You wonder whether he has people in his circle who he can trust to tell him when he’s not making any sense.

    • sictransitchris - Jul 13, 2012 at 9:51 AM

      George Lucas Syndrome

    • tomemos - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:48 AM

      Very well put. I think the difference is that, when he was contrarian about baseball, he had studied the issue and had data to back it up. Here, and (from what I can gather) in his crime book, he’s more or less just spouting off.

    • lukebean - Jul 13, 2012 at 12:22 PM

      Abe Simpson?? Leave my man Abe out of this discussion!

  6. dirtyharry1971 - Jul 13, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    half os his stats are nonsense anyway so why would anyone expect him to say anything different?

    • nategearhart - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:29 AM

      Which half, specifically? I’d love to know which ones you like and which you don’t like, and why.

  7. bigleagues - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:00 AM

    Here is the bottom line – and it should be clear as day to any right thinking human regardless of school pride or whatever bizarro loyalty you are trying to justify. . .

    Whether or not Joe Paterno did his due dilligence in 1998 is almost unimportant – if ‘Joe Pa’ were truly disgusted and outraged by Sandusky’s continued reign of terror on children, the Penn State football program would have been secondary.

    A REAL LEADER OF MEN would have stepped forward, and spent all of his already immense career capital, if necessary, to expose the ugliness that had been allowed to continue on the Penn State campus.

    What’s more important? The reputation of a collegiate football program? Or the lives of children that were being terrorized by a man who had the run of the campus and facility – even as he was being denied access to kids in other organizations and municipalities?

    If Joe Pa was the man who his legend says he was . . . Joe Pa would have gone to the FBI and spilled the beans, called a press conference and exposed all that he knew, while announcing that he was resigning.

    If Joe Pa had done that then everything that the Pennheads want us to believe about Joe Pa would be true.

    Instead, Joe Pa passively participated in the rape and violation of innocence of countless children.

    F PSU and F Joe Pa.

    • nightman13 - Jul 13, 2012 at 11:45 AM

      Sadly, in this country doing what’s right takes a backseat to money more often than it should. Joe Pa knew the program would lose boosters, prestige and respect if this came to light. So get out the broom and start sweeping under the rug.

      • cur68 - Jul 13, 2012 at 12:04 PM

        Joe Pa knew the program would lose …
        If that’s what Paterno “knew” then he’d be wrong. To have done the right thing as soon as he knew what Sandusky was, would have ATTRACTED boosters, students, admirers and good publicity. He’d have been shown to be exactly what they always claimed he was: a man of honor, integrity, compassion and deep caring for his charges. However, he made a different choice, and here we are now. I can’t look at this mess and say this was the better alternative.

      • nightman13 - Jul 13, 2012 at 1:40 PM

        Oh I totally agree with you Cur that he did the wrong thing. But I think that boosters tend to care less about a program that does the right thing vs winning. The only reason the boosters loved the whole integrity bit was because is made the program look more prestigious.

        Obviously it blew up in their faces and I hope thier souls are forever haunted for the agony that they let that sicko inflict on those victims.

    • klingonj - Jul 14, 2012 at 1:43 PM

      He had a chance to permanently seal high stature for him and turn this molester into the cops. His legend would be “he did the right thing no matter what”. But he didnt, he wound up parsing words. Make no mistake, the McQery moron is another one. Both knew what was wrong. They didnt need anyone to point it out.

  8. anotheryx - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    This is SOOOOOO taken out of context.

    If you know anything about “Hey Bill” section of his website, you know that all of them are informal conversation / argument with his subscribers, with many one liners and jesting.

    • anotheryx - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:09 AM

      So, your article should be renamed to “Deadspin probably need to stop taking private / subscriber only comment / discussion and publish them out of context”.

    • Lukehart80 - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:12 AM

      Rather than claiming James is being unfairly criticized about this because his words are being taken out of context, you might provide the context you believe the rest of us are missing. Arguing that his words were delivered in an “informal” setting filled with “one lines and jesting” fails (in my opinion) to justify them.

      • anotheryx - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:15 AM

        It’s paid / subscriber only material, so I can not copy paste them without explicit permission. Something deadspin never considered apparently.

      • Chip Caray's Eyebrows - Jul 13, 2012 at 11:03 AM

        Or you could paraphrase. At least if your argument really had a leg to stand on, you would.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:19 AM

      Sorry, this deserves to get quote split:

      This is SOOOOOO taken out of context.

      As Lukehart80 mentions, please provide us the context then

      you know that all of them are informal conversation / argument with his subscribers,

      Doesn’t really have to do with the issue at hand.

      with many one liners and jesting.

      I subscribe to the deadspin model of comments/jokes. If you want to joke about racism, or sexism or any taboo subject, that’s fine. But be warned, because you had better be funny or you come off like an insensitive asshole.

      So is James making a joke here about Paterno? If so, it’s definitely not funny. Or is he actually trying to defend Paterno and doing a piss poor job at it?

      • anotheryx - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:26 AM

        He was trying to defend Paterno. From his prior postings, my understanding of his view is that:

        1: Paterno did what he thought was appropriate at the time.
        2: He did not have the responsibility to do more than reporting to his superior.
        3: With later development, Paterno did not do the best thing, but hindsight is 20/20

        I don’t think they are unreasonable views to take.

        This topic have been a hot debate in “Hey Bill” section for a while and have dozens of postings. He was elaborate on his view response to the subscriber, but non of his prior postings were included in the Deadspin article or this one.

      • nategearhart - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:31 AM

        Yes, it is only through HINDSIGHT that child molestation is bad.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:32 AM

        1: Paterno did what he thought was appropriate at the time.

        And he was dreadfully, horribly wrong in his assessment of the appropriateness.

        2: He did not have the responsibility to do more than reporting to his superior.

        Legal responsibility perhaps. Which is my point about what James gets wrong: one’s legal responsibility is not the be-all, end-all here. Paterno, as the man in total and complete control of the PSU facilities, and the single biggest reason why anyone would want to associate themselves or their children with Penn State football, had a moral and ethical obligation to do more and he failed. And was later a coward and was later still a criminal when he lied to a grand jury about it.

        3: With later development, Paterno did not do the best thing, but hindsight is 20/20

        He did not merely fail to “do the best thing.” He did a thing that allowed boys to be raped and unless he had the intelligence of a child, he knew this was a likely outcome of his inaction.

      • anotheryx - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:53 AM

        The end result was terrible, everyone agree on that.

        But it’s like one of your best friend for decades ask you to come to your picnic party. He ran in some trouble earlier but generally you thought you know him enough to be OK. Well, he murders a bunch people at the picnic. That was horrible, and not only you are the direct cause of it, and you very well could of prevented it. But what you did given the information you had at the time that unreasonable?

      • tomemos - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:56 AM

        The Freeh report–the very report James is using to defend Paterno–makes it clear that Paterno gave Sandusky permanent “emeritus” access to the Penn State facilities where he committed some of the rapes. Later, Paterno lied and said that he was not aware of the 1998 investigation, and, when McQueary saw Sandusky raping a boy, Paterno pressured Curley et al not to go to the police.

        So, in light of this new information, James’s points (“what is Paterno supposed to have done?”) certainly are “unreasonable views to take.” But James is too committed to his own vanity to revise them.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 13, 2012 at 11:08 AM

        [don’t mean to piggyback off Craig here, but]

        1: Paterno did what he thought was appropriate at the time.

        Maybe I’m biased because I’m a father, but this is a bullshit answer. In ’98, there are reports that Sandusky has molested someone and is being investigated by the cops. He’s cleared. In ’01, an assistant coach brings more reports of Sandusky molesting someone. He’s still allowed around the team at the time, even after!

        Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me…

        2: He did not have the responsibility to do more than reporting to his superior.

        That’s a cop out. As the Freeh report notes, and others have speculated for years, Paterno was the #1 authority at PSU. When crimes are committed, especially one this grave, you don’t report the guy to the administrators, you go to the cops. I won’t go so far as to say that Paterno’s inaction enabled Sandusky to continue molesting kids at the PSU campus, but if I’m a parent of a victim after the ’01 incident, I’m contacting an attorney right now.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 13, 2012 at 11:10 AM

        But what you did given the information you had at the time that unreasonable?

        That isn’t a direct comparison. A more apt one would be, back in ’98 your friend was investigated for murder but was acquitted. You decided to keep him around as a friend. Then in ’01, an assistant of yours comes to you and complains he saw your friend committing another murder. You still keep him around. Then, 11 years later when you friend is up on multiple murder charges, you lie to the grand jury saying you never had heard about any incident prior to the ’01 situation.

      • tomemos - Jul 13, 2012 at 11:13 AM

        “But it’s like one of your best friend for decades ask you to come to your picnic party…”

        How about, it’s like you lied under oath and claimed not to know your friend had trouble, when you were fully aware. Also, when your friend did murder the people (in 2001), you not only didn’t turn him in, you pressured your other friends not to tell the police. That’s what’s in the report James is using now to defend Paterno.

    • tomemos - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:51 AM

      If James doesn’t want to be taken out of context, he shouldn’t provide his comments out of context. He should either make the archives viewable to everyone, or make the whole thing subscriber-only. If he publishes the comments on the main page, he can’t complain when people talk about them.

      • anotheryx - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:58 AM

        He never complained people talk about them, in fact, you know he could care less if you familiar with his work. However, I did complain about it because what Deadspin did was to take stuff out of context on purpose in effort to fan the flame, which is not the most honorable thing to do, and it’s a shame HBT is on the same boat.

      • tomemos - Jul 13, 2012 at 11:10 AM

        Fine, so you’re the one who’s wrong to complain. Look, there is no “out of context” here! James made these comments about the Freeh report, which is new information. He’s obviously read the report. We can assess his claims in light of what we know today, because we know the same things he does. The fact that he’s argued about the case before now doesn’t add any essential context.

        You’re essentially arguing for a standard where James can never be criticized for any viewpoint as long as his archives are behind a paywall. That doesn’t make any sense.

  9. thefalcon123 - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    Well, Bill James has said on his website that he doesn’t believe in global warming and there just isn’t enough data to back up global warming claims….

    …I take everything Bill says that isn’t about baseball with a grain of salt.

    • anotheryx - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:12 AM

      Bill James NEVER said he doesn’t believe in global warming.

      He said that while there are enough data to show global warming, scientist did a piss-poor job of conveying those data in a way that everyday man can understand.

      This resulted in many people do not believe in global warming when they should, since they couldn’t understand the data scientist published.

      • thefalcon123 - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:23 AM

        I hate to argue with you…but yes, he did say there wasn’t enough data.
        Later on, after many people argued against him and provided him with links, he softened his stance.

      • paperlions - Jul 13, 2012 at 11:36 AM

        In defense of scientists here, it is not that scientists didn’t convey the information simply and accurately. They did. It is that people don’t like to hear bad news, and if someone else is shouting loudly that the bad news isn’t true (thank you pollution industry for your rampant and well funded disinformation campaigns) and spending a lot of money to make sure their lies are told over and over….people generally will believe what the want to believe because 1) they prefer not to hear bad news, and 2) it would take effort to determine if the bad news was true or not and who has the time to invest in something so trivial like the future environmental health of the world we rely on to sustain all of our activities.

      • thefalcon123 - Jul 13, 2012 at 11:37 AM

        I should note that I lack the patience to look back through years worth of “Ask Bill” archives. But as an anonymous internet commenter who you know nothing about, you should really just take my word on it.

    • jeffrp - Jul 13, 2012 at 3:09 PM

      He also wrote in Popular crime: “Michael Jackson was never at any point in his life one of the 100 most famous people in the world.”

  10. danaking - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    It’s now clear Paterno could have, and should have, done more. The level of vilification he has received is over the top. It’s easy to look back, with all the evidence in, and say what he should have done. It’s a different thing to take those kinds of actions as things unfold and you’re learning as they do.

    This has sullied Paterno’s image, as it should. What bothers me is how many people are willing to throw away 60 years of good work, helping thousands of kids, like it never happened. he was wrong, though i suspect he didn;t know how wrong he’d been until it was too late and the story broke. Yes, it is a serious stain on his record and reputation. Too many people have gone from portraying him as saint to evil. He’s somewhere in between, and certainly does not deserve a level of vilification beyond what Sandusky has endured. Let’s not forget who is the real criminal here.

    • Alex K - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:49 AM

      I see your point. This, however, is such a terrible thing that it calls to question his entire career. He was party to covering up child molestation…what else was he party to covering up? If something that despicable could be know and not reported to the police what smaller things were swept under the rug?

      Paterno is not a monster like Sandusky. That doesn’t mean that I have to have one ounce of repect for him.

      • natslady - Jul 13, 2012 at 11:33 AM

        Did Paterno rape children. No. Did he KNOWINGLY enable the raping of children. Yes. What exactly is the difference?

      • paperlions - Jul 13, 2012 at 11:40 AM

        Exactly. If you find out someone is a liar, you call into question all of the things they have ever told you….it isn’t like someone starts lying when they are 80 yrs old, they’ve been doing it for 80 yrs.

        If someone would cover for a pedophile, what else would he cover up? In this case, probably just about anything necessary to protect his program. If you put the PSU football program ahead of children getting raped in the football locker room showers….what else did he put the program ahead of?

      • Alex K - Jul 13, 2012 at 12:17 PM

        The difference? Paterno didn’t actually molest the children, of course. It is over the top to claim there is no difference in the person commiting the act and the person turning a blind eye to the act. There is a very large difference in those two things.

        I will never have a single atom of respect for Paterno, but I also will never call him a child molester which you are indirectly doing.

    • natslady - Jul 13, 2012 at 11:28 AM

      You are an airplane pilot for 20 years. A good pilot. Maybe even you rescued people when you were in a war. One time you have too many and crash a plane and people are killed. YES, that is all it takes to throw away 20 years of good work. I’m harsh, but Paterno in some ways is worse than Sandusky, because Sandusky could not have done his crimes (or so many of them) if Paterno had not covered for him. Paterno was a COWARD. He didn’t want “bad publicity.” And to say, “he didn’t know how wrong it was,” sorry, not buying that. You had the Catholic Church and many other examples of the same crime and the same coverup. He knew how wrong it was, he just thought he could get away with it, like most other CRIMINALS. He would be under indictment if he were living.

  11. itsabergthing - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:39 AM

    The real question is why should anyone give two fucks about what Bill James thinks about this or anything else that isn’t sabermetrics related??? I mean seriously, it’s Bill James, who cares?!?!

    For that matter, why does anyone really care about what every single talking head on the planet thinks about pretty much anything. They all do the same thing, only relay information that backs what they believe and hide what contradicts them rather than look at both sides of any issue (see Fox News or CNN), nobody, and I mean nobody in the business of reporting ever gives a broad look at anything, it’s all opinion and no real journalistic integrity or work ethic. I know, way off topic, but it’s so aggravating to see day in and day out, I wish someone would go back to the true roots of journalism rather than the manipulative BS we see today. My bad for the tangent.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 13, 2012 at 11:12 AM

      Maybe I’m misunderstanding you, but are you initially complaining about why we care about James’s opinion on anything non-sabr related, only to complain that people don’t discuss broad topics anymore? Isn’t that a bit hypocritical?

      • itsabergthing - Jul 13, 2012 at 12:20 PM

        I guess it could be depending on how you look at it. I was looking at it in two separate ideas. Bill James isn’t the equivalent of Fox News or CNN, he’s a stats guy with an opinion on social issues that nobody probably, or at least nobody should take seriously. The news networks on the other hand are taken seriously and at face value by their loyal subjects because they are reporting the news of what is happening around us day in and day out. They all seem to only report their side (withholding information) of any issue rather than reporting both sides and allowing the viewer to come to their own conclusions rather than just follow the conclusion of the networks talking head blindly. The same story can be reported by two different networks, with two completely different takes, and the only information that is shared is only what benefits whatever they feel helps their viewpoint. To me, that’s not reporting, reporting should be laying out all the facts and allowing the public to make their own opinion from the facts. There is no real news outlet anymore, your best bet would be to read or watch two or three completely different viewpoints and put it together yourself. Like I said, my bad, I went on a tangent and was off topic, I mean this is a baseball website.

    • thefalcon123 - Jul 13, 2012 at 11:38 AM

      This is far too obvious…but what the hell!

      • itsabergthing - Jul 13, 2012 at 12:21 PM


  12. Jonny 5 - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:39 AM

    “The level of vilification he has received is over the top.”

    I don’t think so. Paterno was god of his football program, which in turn was god to Penn State. Paterno had the power to end the further suffering of innocent children not once, but twice, and didn’t do it. Twice that WE know of. Tell me Paterno did what he should have done, honestly. Because that would be the only reason not to vilify him. Had Paterno lived up to his reputation even? Sandusky would have been outed a very long time ago. Less children would been harmed. Paterno would still be the hero of Happy Valley. All he had to do was live up to his own reputation and he decided to orchestrate a cover up instead. He became a villian in the eyes of the people who suffered because he was an enabler who turned his head, and he should be seen for what he really is. It was his choice to become that person who decides their cause is more important than people are.

    • chumthumper - Jul 13, 2012 at 12:34 PM

      Paterna and the other principals involved in this sordid mess made a conscious decision that the victims be damned, the institution must be saved at all costs. The damage to Paterno and his legacy is done. One oh sh*t is worth a thousand attaboys.

  13. vallewho - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:59 AM

    I hope hell is a bit warmer these days.

  14. thedistrictattorney - Jul 13, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    Craig, if you are signed up for James’ pay site (which is a heckuva deal – $3/month), you can check out his fullest explanation of his position in the article entitled “The Trial of Penn State”(subtitle: “Penn State is asked to defend its handling of Joe Paterno.”)

    I don’t think anything there contradicts what you wrote at all, but certainly after reading that rather epic piece, no one will be able to say that you’re going off only a portion of what he said…

  15. ck101 - Jul 13, 2012 at 11:10 AM

    While I think the point about context is minor and doesn’t make James look a lot better, it’s not entirely unfounded, depending on the time frame. As to the 1998 accusation, that was, as far as we know, the first confirmed investigation/allegation regarding Sandusky (I grant that it’s entirely plausible people had speculated about him before, given his penchant for having young kids around him, and Penn State’s hierarchy doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt about ANYTHING in this case). If you limit the discussion solely to the events of 1998-1999, you can make a case that Paterno’s actions during that time frame are at least arguably defensible. Remember, this was the sole allegation, which gave rise to no charges after a police investigation. And the contents of the Freeh Report’s discussion of Sandusky’s now-suspicious departure as coach can fairly support an inference that it did not have anything to do with worries about pedophilia (it may well have, but there’s no proof of it in Freeh’s report); Paterno’s notes from a meeting with Sandusky indicate that he had told Sandusky he’d just spread himself too thin, between coaching and his Second Mile work, and for that reason he was not a candidate to some day succeed Paterno.

    So, if James is saying only that Paterno’s conduct in ’98-’99 may have been adequate in light of what he then knew, that’s not that outlandish a position. Given Paterno’s horrific conduct from the date of Mike McQueary’s report in 2001 onward, though, it’s sort of like saying, in assessing OJ Simpson’s life as a whole, that his acting as Nordberg in The Naked Gun is underrated; it sort of misses the point, since after 2001 there is no defense of Paterno. And if that’s what Bill James meant, he really should have made it more clear.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 13, 2012 at 11:14 AM

      So, if James is saying only that Paterno’s conduct in ’98-’99 may have been adequate in light of what he then knew, that’s not that outlandish a position. Given Paterno’s horrific conduct from the date of Mike McQueary’s report in 2001 onward, though, it’s sort of like saying, in assessing OJ Simpson’s life as a whole, that his acting as Nordberg in The Naked Gun is underrated; it sort of misses the point, since after 2001 there is no defense of Paterno. And if that’s what Bill James meant, he really should have made it more clear.

      Bolded for emphasis, well said

  16. yahmule - Jul 13, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    To me, the primary appeal of social media is seeing idiots getting self-checked.

  17. cshearing - Jul 13, 2012 at 12:15 PM

    @anotheryx and that farcical picnic analogy : Would you invite that friend if his past history included killing people at picnics? And then, after he kills people once, you extend a lifetime invitation to all your future picnics? Then maybe your analogy works. Maybe.

    • anotheryx - Jul 13, 2012 at 1:31 PM

      If he was was acquitted of the charges after investigation, like the 98 incident, yes.

      There is no lifetime invitation AFTER the confirmed act, which was just recently. To say you should not invite him BEFORE that is hindsight. It’s not the best judgment and the end result was horrific, but it’s not exactly proof that Paterno acted with devious intentions.

  18. ezwriter69 - Jul 13, 2012 at 12:27 PM

    Football meant more than protecting the kids. Period. That’s what the Freeh report says, and there’s no way to spin it any other way. It’s true for Bill James in this despicable diatribe, it was true for Joe Paterno, and it was true for PSU as an institution.
    Protecting the football program meant FAR more than protecting the kids.

  19. drewsylvania - Jul 13, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    Sadly, I suspect we’ll be saying the same things (that we’re saying about James) about Joe Posnanski, when the latter’s book comes out.

    • IdahoMariner - Jul 13, 2012 at 2:16 PM

      I hope not, and I don’t think so. Just based on the things he wrote after the grand jury report, and based on the thoughtfulness of his body of work, and the fact that he is the besotted father of two children…no. If his book covers the Freeh Report, and considers its findings, I would be surprised if he mustered a defense of Joe Paterno anything like James’. I could see him examining the consequences when a life of apparently good work gets subsumed by bad choices, and how a life of apparently good work could mask a lot of bad things, that in the context of college football (because Paterno’s power is not exclusively a Penn State phenomenon) and Penn State itself, that good intentions could get subsumed by the rush of power and the fear of having it taken away. Those seem to me like things Posnanski is pretty well-equipped to both see and write about.

      All of it good things to think and talk about, because no, the villification of Joe Paterno has not been over the top. Many people have risked far more than Paterno would have risked to protect children in harm’s way. People without power and resources, people who risked their physical and financial safety because it was the right thing to do. After being a prosecutor for 15 years, I am struck, over and over again, by the stories of people who choose to do the right thing when they become aware a child has been physically or sexually abused. Talking about how Paterno threw away a lifetime of apparent good works because he was afraid of losing power or money is a good thing to talk about. Thinking about ways to check the power held by individuals in these programs is a good thing to talk about. Paterno should have done the right thing. Children suffered in ways that most of us don’t even want to directly contemplate because of it. That Paterno thought it was worth it to preserve a game or an institution — but more likely, simply his power and status — is chilling and disgusting.

      And for what it’s worth, I don’t think this is all that Paterno did in the interest of preserving “his” team and “his” university — we already have the reports regarding in his interference in the investigation and discipline of the football team involved in crashing a party and physically assaulting several people there. Somewhere between covering for his players and covering for Sandusky, there is a lot of room for a lot of bad things happening.

      • paperlions - Jul 13, 2012 at 2:47 PM

        I hope you are right. I haven’t read any Poz for months, after he defended Paterno and then went to radio silence on his blog….I just never went back. If memory serves (and it may not), most of his arguments were of the “wait until we have more information, maybe Joe didn’t know anything” variety….which is to be expected, I guess, when you have been working so closely with someone you admire and such news comes out. Still, I haven’t been back to Joe Poz’s blog since last fall…and don’t feel any desire at all to go back.

      • IdahoMariner - Jul 13, 2012 at 3:24 PM

        although, Paperlions, now that I have gone off to see when the book is due out, and when it was delivered…damn. I hope that Posnanski rises to the level he is certainly capable of, by giving us a clear, thoughtful analysis that talks about the good and bad of a life lived in that universe. I always considered Posnanski’s radio silence a good thing, because he definitely needed to sort things out, and get some distance — but Posnanski was really, really clear about the evil that Sandusky had done (and obviously shaken by what was in the grand jury transcript), and he has always seemed to me to at least appreciate that perhaps big isn’t better for college football. But maybe I am wrong. Maybe he got too close, and his sentimental instincts won out. I hope not. I hope Posnanski had the chance to write something great, because he had a unique opportunity at a watershed moment to get as clear a picture as you can of what drives someone like that. Maybe that picture comes out, even if Posnanski isn’t as objective and distanced as he should (and can) be.

      • paperlions - Jul 13, 2012 at 6:37 PM

        Yeah, I hope so, too. Poz was great to read, always thoughtful and a great/natural story teller.

        Honestly, I always saw Paterno as a bully. His demeanor was always that of a person that wasn’t used to being questioned and did not expect to be. The fact that there is so much documentation that he protected his program by shielding his players from university (and probably legal) discipline…and all of this mess…suggests that he wasn’t such a great guy and that he didn’t do things quite as right as people once thought.

  20. longstroker - Jul 13, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    I don’t care how long you know someone, Why on earth would Paterno cover up for this POS? If,Paterno, would cover this up, what else would he cover up. This is a huge deal what about all the little ncaa violations that could of been happening. There is a reason why he covered for him and it isn’t out yet, but i suspect it might come out when they start the trials. Also McQueery stayed on as Coach? Really!!! Why did he??? Theres a reason for that too hasnt come out yet!!! Be aware the truth will eventually come out so all the PSU/Paterno ding-dongs quit ringing the bell, because your bell is fixing to be rung! Lets face it the guy was on campus the DAY the grand jury testimony came out last year. There was no fear in these guys(paterno,sandusky)co-conspirators becasue they knew the end was coming and they were all going down together!!!!!

  21. worldwidebleater - Jul 13, 2012 at 4:53 PM

    It seems Paterno likely took adequate action in 1998. However the knowledge he gained in 1998, should have influenced his perpective and subsequent actions substantially.

  22. mamsy2000 - Jul 13, 2012 at 7:15 PM

    Joe Pa is rotting in hell for what he did and is saving a spot for Sandusky.

  23. advantageschneider - Jul 14, 2012 at 12:27 AM

    This doesn’t surprise me from Bill James. He spent a decent amount of time in two of his books writing about how he thought the evidence that Pete Rose bet on baseball was weak and would not stand up if it was in criminal trial in our justice system. Based on his writing he seems to be the kind of guy that needs irrefutable evidence that a some wrong doing occurred. He’s entitled to his opinion I guess. I just know if I ever get put on trial, I’d really hope Bill James was on the jury.

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