The Fall of an Italian American Icon: A Story Without Heroes

The death of former heavyweight champion “Smokin’ Joe” Frazier was enough bad news in the world of current events last week, another symbol of youth that fades away from all of us.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was a kid watching Frazier battle through his epic trilogy with Muhammad Ali, the epitome of a big heart and soul that went through life with his head down, at full speed.

He died of liver cancer last week, at the fairly young age of 67. He was tough, but eventually the fight ends for all of us.

He was a sporting figure worthy of your admiration, his resilience and tenacity being his greatest qualities. As an undefeated fighter, he took his championship into the ring against George Foreman, and was promptly knocked to the canvas six times en route to his first defeat in the brief bout.

But, Frazier kept getting up after each knockdown. He didn’t give up, and was only stopped by referee Arthur Mercante calling a halt to the bout.

Unfortunately, the Frazier story was overshadowed by the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University. Legendary Nittany Lion coach Joe Paterno was fired from his position as head coach, as he seemed to not do enough to help bring to justice one of his assistants, a dirtball named Jerry Sandusky, who may have abused dozens of young boys.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Paterno’s story is disconcerting because he built a program over 40 years of doing good and helping boys become men not just through football, but also solid principles of every day life.

That doesn’t matter now. Paterno could have used his significant power and influence to alert local police to a sexual deviant on his campus. He chose instead to relay it to the Athletic Director, who dismissively swept it under the rug. With no follow up on his part, Paterno looks like a willing accomplice.

That may not be fair, but it’s how it is in the court of public opinion. That’s life.

This is a story without heroes. It is an American tragedy, committed on her grounds of higher learning. No one tried to help the kids. From the University President, to the AD, assistant coaches, executive directors, all the way to the janitors that may have seen some of these despicable crimes. No one helped the children.

All they cared about was their positions and their paychecks. No one saved the kids.

The question is, how do they get away with it so many times? Like the scandal that plagued the Catholic Church before this, how are these perpetrators able to assault these children with such frequency?

I ask: Isn’t there one vigilante parent out there? Out of all the parents of these kids, isn’t there one defender of our youth? Shouldn’t the long arm of the law be the last thing these criminals have to worry about? Isn’t there one parent who would draw a six iron from his golf bag with the purpose of pulling a “Lee Trevino” on this guy? So he couldn’t hurt any more kids?

Joe Paterno is no longer one of the greatest college football coaches to ever walk a sideline. He has become a symbol.

Joe Paterno is an Italian American icon whose fall from grace will symbolize our country’s failure to always concern itself with the well being of our children. It’s sad that a man who probably did the right things most of his life, couldn’t pull the trigger to do the right thing one more time. To put a sexual predator behind bars. To help protect our kids.

Did you like this article? If so, don’t keep it from your friends! Share it, tweet it, and tell me what you think of today’s modern athlete in the comments section.


5 thoughts on “The Fall of an Italian American Icon: A Story Without Heroes

  1. Talking about a vigilante standing up for the children, reminds me of an episode of the Sopranos with the soccer coach having sex with one of his girls on the team and Tony Soprano and his gang stood up for her, boy did they stand up for her. Maybe it isn’t the right way to stand up for someone but justice was surely dispensed with.

    We do need more people to stand up for the little people whether they be children or adults and do the right thing whether its calling the police or reporting to some sort of authority and then following up on it to make sure it has been rectified or is at least being dealt with.

    Excellent job, Joe. Keep it up.

  2. Joe,

    I am in complete agreement with you. Joe Pa wasn’t a rookie coach who feared for his career and even if he had been I would be upset.

    But it is made worse in my eyes because he was the Football God on that campus and there was no risk involved. It shouldn’t have been a question of what to do. I read that some people saw Sandusky with one of the kids but never saw word of them doing something.

    At a minimum how do you not call the police.

  3. This is a great, post Joe. I really appreciate your honestly here.

    Smokin’ Joe was great. Brings back memories of being a kid when names like Frazier, Forman, Ali, and Cosell, were so often heard. I remember Howard Cosell so well, as many forget this stuff used to be on network T.V.

    Yeah, the Sandusky thing is painful to hear about. I don’t feel the least bit sorry for Paterno. Like you said, he should have done the right thing but chose to cover this up. It is truly amazing that this horrible stuff went on for so long. What a sad story.

    1. Thanks, Marcus, I appreciate the kind words. Although I’ve been a Notre Dame fan for college football, I’ve followed Penn State’s fortunes in the past as I’ve always had a healthy respect for Paterno and the program he helped build there. This story is sad because of that. He’s done so much good, and now this scandal threatens to abolish all that good. I still find it hard to believe he knew about this, and didn’t do everything he could to have it stopped. And now, the Syracuse thing too…is the world just going crazy, or is it me?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s