Few things in this world are more heinous than sexual abuse of a child by an adult. It is the ultimate violation of human dignity, a shamelessly evil derailing of human potential before that potential has fully formed. It pours acid on the heart and soul of the young victim, scarring them deeply for life. It can often lead the victim into a life of substance abuse, inability to form long-lasting, meaningful relationships, and even suicide.
Which is why Joe Paterno's retirement announcement Wednesday was all the more puzzling. From the moment the fingers of the writer left the keyboard and clicked "send" it was destined to be Paterno's undoing.
Among words of what appear to be genuine grief and apology, we found this tone-deaf, poorly-worded, note of arrogance:
"That's why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can." (Emphasis added.)
Even if we give Paterno the benefit of the doubt – that he was attempting to sound reassuring, not arrogant – whoever edited the final document should have sensed the nuclear potential of such a statement.
Whoever advised Paterno – assuming it was not Paterno himself – misjudged both the furor of the community and the venom of alumni. In that one, pivotal moment, Paterno believed in his own mythology; that the man who poured millions into the university over the span of decades, could define his own conclusion to a career-ending scandle.
They were sadly mistaken. As I read those words, I shook my head. "How could such smart people get it so wrong?"