This post may meet with some serious disapproval, but I feel the need to express my sorrow around the loss of former head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions football team, Joe Paterno.
Growing up in a small town in central Pennsylvania, our athletic world revolved around professionals in Pittsburgh, local high school teams and Pennsylvania State University sports. Most notably, the Penn State Nittany Lions football team, led by Joe Paterno during my entire 2 decades in central PA. So much pride was generated amongst the fans by the amazing performances of the football program year after year. And that team relied on the leadership of Joe Paterno.
I still remember attending my first live game at Beaver Stadium (yeah, yeah, hold the snarkiness, please). The energy of a packed stadium was an incredible, visceral experience and I was swept up in all of the excitement of a great game and being part of my first “wave.” My heart swelled with pride as I watched what was considered to be our home university team (my hometown was home to a local campus) win game after game and fight valiantly in bowl games.
I am filled with sorrow knowing that such a seemingly great and honorable man was fired from his post because he failed to pursue to the fullest extent of what was surely his immense power the appropriate, severe punishment of Jerry Sandusky and the condemnation of his actions. I hurt for the many, many innocents whose lives were irreparably damaged by Sandusky. And I lament the role that JoePa played, or did not play, in this case.
However, what I remember of Joe Paterno, and what I choose to continue to remember of him, is the amazing legacy that defined most of his life. The ending to his story is terrible and tragic for so many and in so many ways, but I will remember him as the larger-than-life figure that he was so many years ago, not the fallible man that he turned out to be. If choosing to carry within my heart a positive image of this man and not a negative one (without downplaying the negative impact) is wrong, then I am happy to be wrong.
My husband played football for two years at Penn State and loves Joe Paterno like a father-figure and his heart breaks for the loss of Joe Paterno, his reputation and the victims of Jerry Sandusky… and yes, he also knew him, too.
Something I don’t usually talk about, but I am a survivor myself, I feel I can say first hand that I don’t blame JoePa for the abuse that the children suffered from Jerry Sandusky… I blame Jerry Sandusky. Could Joe Paterno have done more… yes! But he did what was required by law, he reported to his bosses what he heard second hand from another person, which is sadly more than what most people would have done. I truly believe that the person who walked in on the abuse should have done way more than he did. He saw it first hand! And the people Joe Paterno reported to should have done more when it was reported to them.