After reading the Freeh report, there's no getting around it: Joe Paterno fucked up.
I apologize for the bad language, but there's no other way to describe it. Besides, little kids aren't reading this, and if they do, I think it will be far more damaging to their psyche to learn that powerful and influential men could care so little for their welfare or fail them so badly.
Then again, that's a tough lesson they'll learn one day. You get older, your parents die, you see that people will hurt children, people will ignore evil, and you discover your heroes aren't so heroic.
That last bit is certainly a take-away for me regarding Paterno, who as I wrote late last year, I grew up idolizing, went to his football camps, and met briefly on a few occasions.
This column isn't aimed at taking shots at Paterno. His detractors have been chomping at the bit for years and there have been times in the media frenzy these past few months when you might have thought Paterno was the one accused of abusing kids, rather than his former assistant, Jerry Sandusky.
I'm not going to join them. My view of him changed last year when it became clear he didn't go to the police in 2001 when he was notified of an incident in the locker room showers. The Freeh report, despite what some have claimed, doesn't have a smoking gun in that respect. It's a thorough and well-done report, but it doesn't break much new ground unless you weren't paying attention last year.
The report only makes more clear what was already evident in 2011: People stood by while a serial child molester used Penn State's campus as a ground to lure his prey.
Paterno was fired, got sick, expressed regret and died. He's gone to meet his maker. All the good he did has been overshadowed now by his awful mistake in failing to do something about Sandusky. History will judge him thoroughly in time, and only time will tell how much of the good he did will be remembered.
What blows my mind, and there is a lesson for us all in this, is that in his moment of truth, he failed to do the right thing.
Paterno wasn't alone in failing to do the right thing. He was joined by many others, including the other three stooges: Gary Schultz, Tim Curley and Graham Spanier.