Friday, July 20, 2012

The Legacy of Joe Paterno

I've been debating what to write on the legacy of Joe Paterno.  What he means to the community of Penn State, and what he means to the world are two wholly different things. To an outsider, he's the coach of a crippled and rotten institution. To many he is just as guilty as Sandusky, if not more so. And one can debate the question of what he should have done and what he did. You can debate media bias. You can debate the fanatical defense you see from Penn State students and alumni.

But you can't debate that what Joe attempted to portray his whole life is not all that he was. Viewed through the rose colored glasses of Happy Valley, Joe Paterno was a hero. he was a man who stood above the greed and corruption of college football. he cared about his players, and not just their stats. he wanted to see them graduate, and graduate they did. And he wanted to win. and win they did. And in doing so, Joe became a legend almost as big as Penn State itself.

And in doing so, he became unassailable. How many comparisons of coaches involved good old JoePa? When you looked at scandals in big football programs like USC, Ohio State, Miami, and others, invariably Paterno's name would come up. because Paterno was the proof that you could do it the right way. you could work hard, and be rewarded for it. And it seemed paterno would coach to the bitter end, just trying to make sure that the program he came to represent would always be known for the morals he showed to the world.

And then November of 2011 happened. The scandal that rocked a man who seemed so untouchable, that scandal would never reach him. Remember all those scandals that he was compared to in the past? Those all paled in comparison to what they were accusing Joe of. Add them together and they weren't 1/100th of what Joe had been a part of. So they took his team away. And he lost what he had worked so hard for. And he died.

And the Penn State family mourned his passing. And we all hoped that what we feared wasn't true. That he did the right thing. That others covered it up. That it wasn't Joe. then the Freeh report came out. And every Penn Stater's worst fear was confirmed.

He knew.

He could have stopped it.

He didn't.

So what are we left with now? How do you reconcile the image of a man who meant so much to so many, with the image of a man who now represents the face of a monster. The man who covered for Jerry Sandusky?

Will supporters of JoePa attempt to explain away the wrong he did? Of course. And will people vilify him to an extent he doesn't deserve? Of course. And far be it from me to determine the proper way to remember JoePa. All I can tell you is what i feel.

JoePa was a legend in my family. he was a hero to me. i listened and watched to Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions for as long as I can remember. I've bled blue and white my whole life. And when everything broke, I was in denial at first. But then, as I watched how Joe handled the situation, my view began to change. Joe was not the face I saw on TV. He was an old, tired man who had made a mistake. And he refused to admit to it.

Then he died.

Then the Freeh report came out. And I founf out Joe knew more than anyone could have imagined. How could Joe Paterno, the man who always did the right thing, not call the cops, or the governor, or the President? he was Joe freaking Paterno!! Someone, anyone would have listened. And it hurt. Even though I never met Joe Paterno, to imagine someone I had looked up to my whole life could act in such a disgusting manner, it hurt me.

So take down the statue. I think it should come down. What did Joe always say? it isn't the name on the back of the jersey that matters, its the name on the front. So bring down the statue.

And lets do what Joe would have wanted. The Joe we all knew and loved. The Joe who cared about Penn State, and doing the right thing. Let's move past this horrible tragedy as a family. And let's make it about Penn State. No tributes to Joe Paterno. No statues. No names. Just Penn State. The Nittany Lions. And if they suspend football for a year or two, and give us the death penalty, no complaining. And when the Lions come back on the field, we'll be right back where we should be, in Happy Valley, supporting them.

And as for Joe Paterno? Who can say what we'll think of him in the future. 10 or 15 years from now, we might look at him differently. But for right now, Joe has to go.

In every way.

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