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Ten Foot Mailbag: Paterno Is Not Exonerated

By Tim Baffoe-

(CBS) Welp, it's true. Haters are indeed going to hate.

I'm useless to fight them. So go on with your bad selves, you Paterno truthers, you Ohio State wonderfans, and whomever else I have or will rankle in the future. Science has shown me that resistance is futile.

Weekend. Back to school.

On to your correspondence.

My first thought when hearing the words of former Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina when asked whether former Penn State coach Joe Paterno was an active participant in efforts to cover up Jerry Sandusky's abuse was "That's fine, but were prosecutors in Sandusky case really digging for lots of Paterno evidence in the first place?"

I understand that Paterno and Sandusky will be forever linked and that an investigation of Sandusky couldn't be done without some investigation of Paterno, but getting dirt on the head coach wasn't prosecutors' main objective. The Sandusky trial wasn't a Paterno trial, no matter what kind of straw man charlatans want to make of it.

Now, if he were still alive he'd likely be set for trial with Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz. The best thing to keep his reputation from being further sullied and put his loyalists in a really precarious position was for Paterno to pass away.

Note, too, that Fina still acknowledges Paterno should've done more. "He (Paterno) said it best," said Fina. "He said: 'I didn't do enough... I should have done more.'" So when someone like Ivan Maisel uses the word "exonerated" regarding this "new" information, that's a bit troubling and premature, especially when I'm not sure Fina himself would be comfortable saying he "exonerated" Paterno.

But even for the sake of argument if I were to entertain the hypothetical that Paterno was oblivious to the alleged Sandusky cover-up (though I'm not because there is evidence that shows otherwise), when that heinous stuff happens under your watch and you don't take proper action—even if unaware—you lose your job (because the JoePa truthers always try to tie this all back to why they think he shouldn't have been fired).

That's how positions of authority work. We see superiors go to the chopping block all the time for the actions of their underlings. And when you embrace the aura of being the guy who cares most about the betterment of a university—particularly the well-being of young people—you are collateral when the reckoning comes.

First, I take exception to saying "most media people" have the same ideal fan template. There are writers and talkers in this town that encourage much the opposite of what other writers and talkers in this town desire when it comes to fans.

For me—and I understand this is a nearly unattainable ideal, but that's never stopped me from a quixotic etiquette crusade—I only ask that fans constantly do their best to be the smartest they can be. This doesn't involve a city full of automatons, but rather a group that is self-aware and rational in the fundamentally irrational environment of sports rooting.

Don't take criticism of your favorite teams or players as a reflection on you personally. Ditto praise. Take off the blinders and know—KNOW—when your team sucks and when it is good and why. Rooting for a bad team doesn't make you less of a person, just as rooting for a good one doesn't make you better. And you don't know how to coach the team better than the current administration, so stop with that crap. Only columnists like me do.

Cheer with your heart, but analyze with your head. I'm Joe Meatball in the heat of the moment of games. Watching live sports shouldn't be a Jungian exercise unless that's your thing. But I can compartmentalize things afterward, e.g. every Cubs game I watch is the first game of the season, but when it's over I know what a win or loss means in the grand scheme of things, and I know that Donnie Murphy isn't really a great baseball player.

And if a Cardinals fan tells me the Cubs suck, I agree. I don't retort with an insult or try to find a way to discredit the Cardinals. The Cubs do suck. That person is right in his/her statement, and I understand it in no way is a reflection on me personally. (Pro tip: the easiest way to suck the life out of a troll is to agree with the troll.)

And make an attempt to change with the times. Sabermetrics and its equivalents in other sports are not going away—they are the way, so you can either accept that or become a fossil sooner than later. Need you be a math nerd by tomorrow? No, because neither am I, and I struggle with advanced numbers, too. But I don't discredit them just because they're unfamiliar or difficult. Ignorant, awful people do that.

Never rely on the excuse "I've always been this way" because that means you're obtuse and an assclown with a messed up ego. Allergies to change are the marks of idiots, and I don't care about how long you've been a fan of the Blackhawks or that your dad took you to Bears games in the 1970s. Pulling out your fan resume is a calling card that you're stupid and can't make a decent argument with current information.

Just try to not be willfully dumb, please.

While this is true, I'm not sure if it's because of my superiority or the Cubs inferiority.

Not at all unless you're Rick Morrissey.

"The earth didn't shift on its axis with Ditka's arrival at Halas Hall, and nobody's life will be affected by the news. But it's just nice, isn't it? Ditka is back where he belongs — in the warm embrace of the Bears. Let's hear it for the natural order being restored."

I had trouble reading that column because of the massive fart noise it created that was ringing in my ears. What the hell is that? I thought that as a collective we were over Ditka. The franchise has been un-Ditka for 20 years now. All Bears head coaches since him have been nothing like him, nor should they be.

Yes, he deserves appreciation for coaching the only Super Bowl title for Chicago's most important sports team. He should not be deified, though, especially since a coach worthy of the aura some surround him with would have won more than one title with the talent he had. Arguably the NFL's best defense in history and one of its greatest offensive players ever certainly help make a coach look good.

And current Bears likely know Ditka as the guy yammering on TV before a Monday night game. The Superfans, the sweater, etc. are at best the traits of a caricature for today's twenty-somethings. Ironically, Ditka is so often a caricature of himself anyway.

A World Series-caliber team usually firing on all cylinders. It also doesn't involve Cody Ransom.

And here's your Angry Penn State Fan of the Week:

From: Christopher F.
To: Me
Subject: Penn State

Without question I am better than you.  If I questioned that, I would kill myself.  

And you are not fit to carry the title of columnist.  Boswell is a columnist.  Vescey a columnist.  Povich was a columnist. You are a hack who can't be bothered to get his facts straight.

Sent from my iPhone

Thanks for emailing, tweeting, and reading. If your question did not get answered this time, that does not necessarily mean I am ignoring it. It may be saved for the next mailbag. Hopefully you're a slightly better person now than you were ten minutes ago. If not, your loss.

Want your questions answered in a future Mailbag? Email them to or tweet them to @TimBaffoe with the hashtag #TFMB. No question, sports or otherwise, is off limits (with certain logistical exceptions, e.g. lots of naughty words or you type in Portuguese or you solicit my death). If you email, please include a signature.

Jeff Pearl
The author. (credit: Jeff Pearl)

Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for, Tim corrupts America's youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim's inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget, but please don't follow him in real life. E-mail him at To read more of Tim's blogs click

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