I grew up listening to and reading the Bible--King James Version. I now prefer other translations more, but for sheer poetry, it is hard to top the KJV command of language and its lovely poetic sounds. So, with the unfolding news this week about Penn State University, the phrase that rushed to my mind is the title passage above--David's lament over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan.
The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen!
Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.
Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain, upon you, nor fields of offerings: for there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil.
From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan turned not back, and the sword of Saul returned not empty.
Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.
Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel. (2 Samuel 1:14-24)Pure poetry.
If ever there were a "mighty" in our times, especially in the field of higher education, it would be Joe Paterno.
My husband and I have gone to Penn State football games for YEARS! We began attending these rites of fall when a friend of ours offered us tickets for several games. We eventually built up enough points to be able to buy our own tickets. So, we got 4 season tickets--and another friend gave us a parking pass right next to the stadium--we were set. We took along friends and always had a grand time watching great college football.
We even went to what turned out to be the second national championship game, when Penn State beat Miami in Phoenix. What a grand time. And when Penn State joined the Big Ten and won its championship and returned to the Rose Bowl to play New Year's Day--we went to that game.
Several years ago, we decided to stop going to all the home games, and have loaned our tickets to a colleague of my husband's. But we still watch the games on HD TV.
And now this news.
The much vaunted defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, who crafted the winning defensive strategy against Miami, was indicted for abusing 8 boys (and a ninth has since come forward) since the late 1990s. In 1999, when told that he would NOT be named head coach to succeed Paterno, Sandusky took retirement. He focused his attention on a charity he ran, called The Second Mile, which he founded to give at-risk children a better chance in life. All the boys in this unfolding scandal were ones who came into contact with Sandusky through The Second Mile.
The Penn State connection to this story is that a current assistant coach, while he was a graduate assistant, had inadvertently come upon Sandusky in the Penn State locker room showers and CAUGHT Sandusky, mid-abuse of a young boy. The graduate assistant, shaken, retreated and went to talk with his father, who said--tell Paterno. The graduate assistant did. Paterno told his superior in the university, the athletic director, who in turn told the vice-president, who in turn told the president. And, there, it seems, the trail stopped.
The current furor now is why didn't Paterno do more?
Who knows? I really have no answer.
But the consequences for this grand old man of football--who has all his life lived by a personal ethical code par excellence, who has insisted his players graduate, who has lived in the Penn State community for decades, who has a listed telephone number and a published address, who has given millions of dollars to his university--this grand old man has now fallen.
Should he have been fired? Should the other three university powers have been fired, as they were? Should the graduate assistant have told ONLY his father and his coach? On and on the questions go.
And all we are left with is the sinking feeling--HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN!