I’m going to say something both wildly popular and wildly unpopular in one phrase: firing Joe Paterno was stupid.

Now, before the moralists get on their soapboxes and the football fans start cheering, I’d like to add to that statement.

Firing Paterno, even though he was going to retire at the end of the season anyway, is the university’s way of putting a band-aid on the situation. They’re trying to distract from the real issue that they had a pedophile hiding amongst their faculty for years.

What’s really sad is the fact that they succeeded.

Part of that is the fault of the rioters, who gave the media something else to latch onto, and part of that is the moralists, who are willfully throwing stones in every direction so no one thinks they are an “apologist” for “child abuse enablers.”

On that note, that is the most inaccurate phrase that keeps getting tossed around in this situation. Paterno was not “enabling.” If you really want to use that argument, direct it at the student who reported it to his coach instead of the police, or better yet, the school officials with authority in this who were notified by Paterno.

I know you moralists are all tired of hearing this, but Paterno did what he was supposed to do within the confines of the law. If you don’t like the law, take it up with the government.

I can hear the arguments now, and no matter what I say, I know you won’t listen to it before angrily commenting below, but I’m going to say it anyway. No matter how much you think, “I would’ve done more in that situation,” I hope you realize you’re wrong.

If you and all the other people like you out there would really do more in this situation, so much child abuse wouldn’t go unnoticed and unannounced. David Brook wrote an excellent op-ed for the New York Times on that subject. I highly recommend it. It ran next to an astonishingly dumb piece by Joe Nocera, who mostly focused on football.

Speaking of football, that’s another thing getting entirely too much recognition right now. Everyone seems to think the students are rioting because they feel like football, their “religion” as Jon Stewart called it, is being tampered with. Everyone wants to compare football to the Catholic Church in this scenario. That is not a proper analogy.

It’s true, football coaches hold a special place of honor at Division I schools, and students generally have a lot of pride in their team. However, the media is painting these students too broadly. The football program is just another target to divert attention away from the real issue at hand.

Paterno should never have been the focus in this situation. Penn State should not be the focus. Sandusky shouldn’t even be the focus. The focus should be on the wider issue of child abuse and helping the victims as much as possible. Those kids have some tough years ahead of them, and believe it or not, firing or not firing Paterno doesn’t make any difference to their lives whatsoever.

The best way you can help in this situation? Stop overreacting. That goes for the Penn State rioters and the moralists alike. We might as well throw the media into that, too. Stop it.

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