Bob Schieffer on the fall of icons

The fall of icons are the stories that always hit us the hardest. When our heroes let us down, it forces us to question our own judgment for elevating them in the first place.

So it was, when we learned that the legendary football coach Joe Paterno and a lot of other people above and below him at Penn State either looked the other way or, at worst, covered it up when they learned that one of Paterno's top assistants was a child molestor.

We said what that kid said to Shoeless Joe Jackson, one of the players accused of fixing the 1919 World Series: "Say it ain't so, Joe."

Shoeless Joe was a barely-literate man who claimed he was duped by gamblers. But it is hard to believe that anyone who had an inkling of what was going on at Penn State didn't understand its significance.

But they had bigger fish to fly - protecting a football program that brought millions of dollars and national attention to their school.

Paterno was a great coach who now says his heart goes out to the young victims, but it's a little too late for that.

As the Catholic Church learned, when protecting the institution is put ahead of protecting those it is intended to serve, it is eventually the institution that is put at risk.

That is unfortunate, but let us remember those the institution forgot, the victims - children who may have been scarred for life.

They deserve to know those who wronged them and those who knew about it are being brought to justice.

And yes, that includes the icons.

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    Bob Schieffer is a CBS News political contributor and former anchor of "Face The Nation," which he moderated for 24 years before retiring in 2015.