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HomeSportsNFL | NCAA FootballWill Joe Paterno's PSU Legacy Suffer the Chris Benoit Fate?

Will Joe Paterno’s PSU Legacy Suffer the Chris Benoit Fate?

Joe PaternoHello there loyal readers. Welcome back for a very different kind of article. Usually I write about some old school wrestling memory of mine and I try to keep the tone light and fun. But the events this past week surrounding the Penn State child abuse scandal have compelled me to action. I am not here to debate the merits of the penalties handed down to Penn State by the NCAA. For the most part I agree with the sanctions.

As the father of two small children I can not even begin to imagine the pain and horror those victims and their families have gone through. In fact, even writing these first few sentences has got my anger up over the thought of what was allowed to occur. But I don’t want to get off on a moral tangent here. Let’s all agree that what happened was horrific and everyone involved needed to be punished. This leads me to Joe Paterno. I can think of only one other individual who fell from grace so quickly and as shamefully as Joe has. And that would be Chris Benoit.

[adinserter block=”2″]Now, let me state one thing right away. I am in no way comparing the two for their transgressions. Joe Paterno allowing a known predator to operate in his midst was awful. But murdering your wife and young son in cold blood is a whole other level. And if I was getting worked up in the last paragraph, I am really steaming now thinking of what Benoit did. So these two men may seem like totally opposite people but they have more in common then you might think.

Joe Paterno was all about the football program at Penn State. He built it from nothing into a national powerhouse. His football program allowed the university to flourish and become the institution it is today. And it was this blind obsession for what he built that led Paterno to make the catastrophic decision to keep quiet about what was happening to protect it. Chris Benoit was trained in wrestling in two of the most mentally unhealthy environments imaginable, Stu Hart’s Dungeon and Japan. A cult like belief in the sanctity of professional wrestling was burned into his brain. Over the years, Benoit would sacrifice life and limb with an almost fanatical desire, all in the name of “the business”.

Paterno was so protective of the empire he built that he was noted for never allowing outsiders into the program. It was like a secret society that only select few ever got to see. Benoit would often haze rookies to the point of near death if they did not show the proper respect and reverence to the veterans in the locker room. You had to pay your dues to be one of the boys.

Even the initial reactions to both incidents were similar. The WWE cancelled Raw right after the Benoit murders and had a night of tribute to Benoit, before the horrific truth came out. It would turn out to be probably the biggest regret of Vince McMahon’s career. When Paterno was fired, Penn State students marched and protested for their beloved hero who was just a scapegoat in their eyes. Now they look foolish for supporting someone who wasn’t just an old man who didn’t have all the facts. He had the facts and he had a choice, and he chose to do nothing.

In the end both men died without truly facing the punishment they deserved. Benoit took his own life on that fateful weekend and with it took the cowards way out. Paterno, of course, was fired for his inaction and died of lung cancer shortly thereafter. But had he lived, he would have had to deal with the facts that came out of the Freeh report and the knowledge that he wasn’t so innocent after all.

One last similarity between the two is their legacy, or lack there of to be more precise. Chris Benoit was one of my favorite wrestlers ever. I loved his technical abilities. I loved his intensity, which actually turned out to be insanity. I saw one of his last matches, in Philadelphia, just weeks before he snapped. I was sitting in the third row for an ECW taping. I still to this day can remember the feeling I had seeing the look on Benoit’s face as he glared at his opponent who was outside the ring standing directly in front of me. It was fear. I actually lost myself for a moment and felt afraid, that’s how intense he was.

[adinserter block=”1″]Today, you would never even know that Chris Benoit ever existed. He has been wiped off the face of the WWE Universe. You will never see him again in a highlight package or on a list of greatest ever wrestlers. He has simply vanished, just like Joe Paterno. As a kid I dreamed of playing for Joe Paterno. He did things the right way and was different than all the other coaches who cheated to win. He was pristine, he was my hero. And now he is gone. Penn State took down his statue. It is only a matter of time until they change the name on the Paterno Library. The NCAA vacated his wins so they could remove him from the record books (I bet Vince wishes he had thought of that). You will never again see his image in a positive light. No scenes of his players carrying him off the field, no more moments of glory. And just like Chris Benoit, Joe Paterno will simply cease to be. And maybe that’s as it should be.

Vince DeHoratus lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two kids. He has been a life long wrestling fan and he has passed that love onto his son. Though not quite yet “middle aged and crazy”, he is fast approaching it.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. point and laugh says it right on the nose.itook time to read the report and to the same conculsion.you on the other hand think he knew with no proof other than what youread or heard.if joe had really knew what saduskuey did, he would have to been restrained from beating him to death.yousir, did not know joe paterno?

  2. I think it was BS to not ever acknowledge Chris Benoit ever again. You shouldn't have the right to white wash history, we learn about Hitler because it happened. People should be forced to acknowledge that people can be monsters, anyone can be a monster. You could wake up and go murdering tomorrow, and you probably will cause you're a real jerk. The pretend like you didn't exist isn't right, stupid humans!

    • Lol. The author isn't comparing them like that. He was speculating on whether or not JoePa will be erased from the NCAA records, much like a certain wrestler was erased from his company's grandeur. The process has already begun, and it's pretty sad it's going down like this.

      • Thanks Joe. I was pretty sure I said in the third paragraph that I wasn't comparing the two actual crimes. But I did use a big word like transgressions so that probably confused him. 🙂

  3. I too read the Freeh report. I took away something a little different. It had a lot of conclusions, inferences, and opinions, but precious few or significant facts. So, I googled the author and found he was one of Clinton's spin doctors through the Monica Lewinsky incident. This little tidbit annihilated the credibility of the report. I was already suspicious of a law firm hired to be an "unbiased" investigator. When ever has a paid attorney been unbiased? So now the question is, since the Board of Trustees hired this schmuck, what did they hope to gain? The obvious is to manipulate public opinion, as all spin doctoring is intended to do so, but why so negative, and to what end?

    The glaring possibilities are it was to dull or destroy the Paterno legacy in order to build a more aggressive program. Members of the BOT had been screaming for Paterno's head for years because a more winning program would benefit the school. (That translates to "make more money)

    The investigating bodies, Child Welfare, and the Attorney General's office investigating these allegations since the late 90's didn't press charges until 2011. Until then, they are just allegations. To take the kind of actions people are screaming about is unconscionable at the time things were going on. They say that the PSU staff acted maliciously and with mal intent. It wasn't a conspiracy to nurture the fetishes of a pervert. The entire staff of every organization is tasked to protect the good name and prosperity of that organization. To take such action on allegations is unfair, unjust, illegal, and immoral. The University would have been subject to legal recourse from Sandusky and Second Mile if they took action without due cause, and allegations aren't due cause.

    Have you ever dealt with Child Services, in any state? They, on the other hand operate without checks or balances. They can, and do, remove children from any situation with only the whisper of a rumor to justify their actions. Frighteningly, their charter brings to mind the Nazi SS. The fact no action was taken by them in the late 90's is extremely puzzling. But to imagine that the PSU administration could influence them via the governer's office is bit of a stretch.

    It's easy to stand on the ground of the righteous with hindsight, but consider this: The Clinton Administration is credited with being the architect of Political Correctness. Louis Freeh was one of it's draftsmen. He was named FBI director by slick Willy, and then wrote an "unbiased" account of the Monica Lewinsky incident, and directed the Waco cover-up. Do you really want to take your hindsight from this source?

    Paterno was betrayed by his beloved Penn State in order to produce more wins via a more aggressive program like we see in the SEC. The architects of this didn't foresee the PC kneejerk reaction from the NCAA and BCS. The irony is splendid; they hired a foundational spin doctor of Political Correctness whose efforts cause a PC backlash that sets back their agenda by at least 5 years. Delicious!

    • WOW, that is a lot to digest. Thanks for the comments. I don't think the political motives are the real point of the story. Yes there are political agendas everywhere these days, I might even suggest you sound like you have one of your own. I think Joe had way too much power and influence to be betrayed by anyone. I now feel that Joe knew. Maybe not the whole story, maybe not every gory little detail. But he knew enough. And I don't feel he did enough to exert his considerable influence on the situation to stop what was going on. I do believe he could have at least brought the issue to light and maybe not stopped it but certainly done more good than by doing nothing.

  4. There are too many fans who still do not believe due process has been served and Joe was used as a scapegoat! Too many of us knew him personally and all of the good he did around town to promote education. He also was not the one who commited the crime and his family will fight to show he did his job and reported the incident to the proper people. This is far from over, unlike Benoit, Joe should not be forgotten.

    • Thank you for the comment. I was not trying to compare their crimes, as I stated. Benoit commited his crime while Joe did not abuse anyone. I agree that Joe Paterno, the person, did far more good in his life then bad. He truly did give generously to PSU and to his players. I understand why they support him and love him like a father. I would say that Joe did 90% good in his life. But that last 10% is really bad. While Joe didn't commit the crimes, I don't think you can say anymore that he did enough to stop them. Even if Joe didn't have ALL the facts, I believe he had enough to know right from wrong. And he chose wrong.

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