Civic Soapbox
4:26 pm
Fri November 18, 2011

Paterno & Dylan

Farmville, VA –

Paterno & Dylan

Nothing is more demoralizing than watching a hero fall. As the nation has been alarmed by details of the Penn State sex abuse case, the Penn State faithful have been scrambling to find some way to salvage the image of their once proud icon, Joe Peterno. At times like this, we should lend our ears to a man of sober reason and insight - Bob Dylan.

Often lampooned for his inscrutable lyrics, it was in fact Dylan's spot-on social commentary in 1963 and 1964 that brought him to prominence. He took the unfocused thoughts and feelings of discontented youth and crafted them into timeless anthems of protest.

Songs like "The Times They Are a-Changin'" made clear, the status quo could no longer be tolerated. Dylan divided privileged Americans into two groups; those ready to confront the shame of segregation, and those who, fearing the unknown consequences of change, were willing to turn a blind eye. Much like 19th century abolitionists, Dylan emphatically stated that the "silent majority" was guilty, merely by virtue of their silence. While the facts of the Penn State case are still emerging, it is clear that people around the program knew, (and we would hope, abhorred), what was going on, but didn't do everything in their power to stop it. Fear of embarrassing the program and losing their jobs led them to uphold the status quo.

Another element found in Dylan's early work relevant to JoePa and the Nittney Nation, is the inescapability of fate. Dylan songs are full of references to waters rapidly rising, battles outside raging, and ships coming in. It is often said that, it is not THE deed, but the cover-up that does most people in. In this case, the cover-up enabled the deed, which had it happened once would be disgusting enough, to happen again and again. You can kick the can down the road, until say you cement your legacy as the winningest coach ever, but eventually you will be called to account. The longer you prolong the denial, the harder a rain's a gonna fall.

I have read that Peterno is fan of classical music, especially Beethoven and Verdi. So the man digs music, and has good taste. Having been born in 1926, he was not likely too caught up in the counter culture - and this is unfortunate. I can't help but think of lyrics like, "He who gets hurt will be he who has stalled, the battle outside ragin', will soon shake your shake your windows and rattle your walls, for The Times They Are A-Changin', as I imagine the Paternos hunkered down in their home thinking, "how did it all go so wrong". Perhaps if the higher ups at Happy Valley had ever really sat down and dug a great Dylan tune like "When The Ship Comes In" or "Blowin' In The Wind", they would have realized that an atrocity is an atrocity and turning a blind eye can easily bring down even the greatest of men.