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Bill James Defends Joe Paterno

Most people who read Thursday's Freeh report about the Penn State Scandal came away with the impression that Joe Paterno probably engaged in a cover-up of Jerry Sandusky's criminal activities that allowed Sandusky to continue using his connections to Penn State to sexually abuse children. Most readers thought that it left Paterno's reputation in tatters.

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Most people aren't Bill James, the godfather of sabermetrics in baseball.

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The 1998 incident was perceived AT THE TIME to involve no criminal conduct. The May 3, 1998 incident was very, very, very thoroughly investigated by at least four different agencies (University police, state police, and two different child welfare agencies), all four of which issued written reports stating that no criminal event had occurred. In retrospect, since the actions were part of a pattern of criminal conduct, it may be said that they were criminal conduct in and of themselves, but no one saw that at the time.

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In any case, what EXACTLY is it that Paterno should have done? Fire him again? It is preposterous to argue, in my view, that PATERNO should have taken action after all of the people who were legally charged to take action had thoroughly examined the case and decided that no action was appropriate.

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Of course, the question of whether Paterno had any legal guilt in the wake of the 1998 incident isn't the issue here. At the very least, though, there's the fact that Paterno continued to allow Sandusky to use Penn State football facilities to abuse children. Then, a few years later, when Mike McQueary told him about an incident in which Sandusky raped a young boy in a Penn State football building shower, it appears Paterno covered it up and lied about what he knew about Sandusky's pattern of brutal behavior.

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Often, when James has an opinion that few others share, he's really on to something. In this case, though? Ugh.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.