Which is not to say that the statue should remain as-is. The inscription underneath his name that reads “humanitarian” must not remain. A plaque could be placed nearby explaining the good while not neglecting any of the bad. And perhaps a more fitting way to remember the man would be, rather than having the effect given of the man leading a football team out of the tunnel, having instead several featureless young boys, looking plaintively towards Paterno.
That bronze statue will never turn around to help them, much as Paterno, in his life, appears to have done nothing to stop Sandusky and prevent further sexual abuse of young boys. That is symbolism more powerful than emptiness.
Still another baseball writer, ESPN’s Buster Olney, wrote a tweet suggesting that Penn State should look to Kent State, where four students were killed in 1970, for how to handle a memorial.
I have to disagree with Olney. I once dated a girl who went to Kent State and I spent some time on that campus. There are markers in a parking lot in the spot where each body fell on that day. The parking lot is still in use. It’s okay, though, because you can’t park in the spaces where the students died. Then, hidden away from the road is a larger May 4 Memorial. I was left with the impression that Kent State, collectively, would like to forget what happened there.
No doubt the Penn State community would like to forget the inaction of Paterno as well. The best way to make sure this cannot happen is to leave that reminder to Paterno, its meaning now forever changed by what we know today. When they go to their football games, if the NCAA deems that their program shall be allowed to continue uninterrupted, this is what they will see: the man whose name was synonymous with their institution, who, we now know, was violating its sterling reputation for at least a decade.
Much needs to change administratively for Penn State to have the proper oversight to prevent this from happening on their campus ever again, to be sure. Another part is the public reverence, that, over the decades, created the environment that allowed Paterno to be this great figure who was so feared that, as was written in the Freeh report, janitors did not report witnessing Sandusky in the shower, abusing a young boy. They believed that if they did so, they would be fired and forgotten. They may even have been right.
Tearing down the statue might have a cathartic effect. On the other hand, it is the easiest way to let them forget what should not be forgotten. Leave up that reminder where no one can ignore it and hopefully we are that much closer to never seeing this or anything like it happening again.