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K Praised, Ripped For Paterno Comments

What Jerry Sandusky is on trial for has been haunting for many people including us, most of the people who care about Penn State and most of all the young men who have testified against Sandusky.

Obviously it has been on Coach K's mind as well; his recent comments on Penn State's firing of Joe Paterno have received extensive coverage, both positive and negative.

Among the (particularly) negative is a guy named Dan Bernstein out of Chicago, who really ripped K a new one over this. And you know, as much as we admire Mike Krzyzewski, he's no more perfect than anyone else. Everyone has flaws and shortcomings. He'd probably tell you the same thing, and if he didn't, we're pretty sure Mrs. K could think of a few.

But really, Bernstein goes way overboard here. One beginning point: the guy makes his living writing about "bouncing rubber balls" -  who is he to criticize others for making a living from the game?

Beyond that, though, when you start a column with this paragraph - "One is a wolf in sheep’s clothing — a nasty megalomaniac who is over-worshipped and overpowered because of a bouncing, rubber ball. He’s as vainglorious and vindictive as the coach for whom he once played, but with a better understanding of PR. Bobby Knight, airbrushed" - you know he's not seeking truth as much as he is enjoying having a big megaphone and ripping people he doesn't like.

"The other" he's about to rip into is the easily lampooned Dick Vitale. The difference between Vitale and Bernstein though is that Vitale, all too often an uncritical man, is nonetheless fundamentally a very decent one.

Did Penn State act out of panic? Did they fire Paterno before the facts were clear? That's possible. To be honest, we're really not sure. There came a point - it was probably the reports of Sandusky with the kid in the shower - that we had to tune it out. The human heart can only take so much. We wanted to throw up more than once.

At the height of the scandal, though, it was absolutely clear that Paterno would have to go. It wasn't a question of complicity or anything else; that's just how these things are done these days.  It's S.O.P. The mob has to be fed.

What we suspect Coach K was suggesting was something more or less like this: Paterno served Penn State with distinction, and not just in football, for an incredibly long time. Until the very end, there was never even a hint of the slightest problem.

No one would countenance covering up for a serial child molester and like Coach K, Paterno is a man, with all the flaws and problems that suggests. When the final record of all of this is written, it may well turn out that he was a horrible man. Or maybe not. Time will tell.

However, is it possible that the modern template needs to be questioned? That the urge we all have to get things cleared up as quickly as possible, to offer up careers or celebrity as a tonic needs to be questioned? We live in a time when it would probably be smart to question all our assumptions about how we do things because all too often, even though we imagine ourselves in a brave new world, in fact we're doing things out of rote or because we've been told that's the way things are done.

Justice should always be the goal. We should temper the urge to rush to it whether we're talking about Joe Paterno, John Edwards, O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony or, well, anyone of us.

It could be that Penn State was entirely correct in severing their relationship with Paterno; doing it as a PR move was not the right reason. In that, Krzyzewski is correct: it's not that he was the long-time coach, it's that a 60-year relationship should end on the basis of truth, not on the basis of a media panic.