The Strange Case of Joe Paterno

by on November 29th, 2010
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First of all, during this mourning period for Joe Paterno, we wish to offer condolences and thoughts for the family and friends of the coach.

To anyone who has followed the shocking revelations regarding the Penn State University scandal, this has been one of the most distressing and disgusting news stories. The images portrayed and told in the news media were just sickening. In this day and age when rape is called assault, I question the use of graphic images in this story. Buy using such language it stirred powerful emotions such as anger, rage and vengeance. Never mind the privacy and dignity of the alleged victims. Before it even entered the court system, it had been judged in the court of public opinion.

Whether or not Joe Paterno was guilty of anything beside poor judgment, it is vague to tell. But University officials cowered like rabbits and fired Paterno on the spot, rather than face public backlash. Technically, Paterno had filled the legal requirements as he understood them. It must have been disturbing that a long time associate and colleague could have committed such atrocities. What was the relationship between the graduate assistant coach and the head coach? How well and how long had Paterno known this man, compared to his relationship with Sandusky? Perhaps Paterno was shaken and skeptical on his way down to the campus police station to file his report. How well does any of us know our friends and neighbors? What dark things are happening behind closed doors. When our perspective is we only wish to see them in the best light?

How this tragedy apex-ed at the end of Joe Paterno’s life is hard to understand. Perhaps he does share some blame and as he said, “wished he could have done more”. Perhaps a blind side in his character contributed to his fall.

Most working guys know men who live their jobs. It is who they perceive they are. Is it a intense love of the job, or just a love of self? Joe Paterno has long been admired as a man of integrity and honesty. His contributions to his student athletes, the university and his community is unquestioned. This is similar to the Book of Job. Job had a unquestioned piousness and reputation, even before God. But as you read the story, he reflects that he misses the times he wore regal gowns and people would acknowledge him and bow as he walked by. Paterno has been quoted as saying as far as his job was concerned, he had a fear he would end up like Paul Bear Bryant. The long time successful Alabama coach, who died within a month of his resignation. Turns out this prediction was true.

For as much as Paterno was respected, he accumulated as many enemies. As time progressed, he refused overtures to retire and turn the reigns over to a younger man. He was openly mocked in media sources and earned the nickname “Joe Pa.” This name carried as much ridicule as it did respect. It is sad when a man cannot accept his lot in life, and live life on it’s own terms. He was no longer the tough young man from Brooklyn, with character and ideals. That man had faded into the twilight of his life, but he could not let it go.


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