Rest in Peace JoePa

Joe Paterno, the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions for 46 years, passed away this morning of complications from his treatment for lung cancer.  It’s a sad day for college football fans the world over.

His football credo was “Success with Honor”, and that credo worked.  As head coach, he won 409 Division I games, and two national titles.  He took his teams to 37 bowl games.  He spent at total of 61 years in the Penn State football program.  During that time he wasn’t only a coach, but a mentor to his players.  He was a father figure to some, and taught them not only the game, but also how to be good men in life. More than 250 of his players have gone on to play in the NFL.

Joe was outspoken about ethics in sports, one of the few.  His program was never accused of violating any major NCAA rules.  He contributed much to the school he loved, not only as a coach, but monetarily also.  He affected not only his players, but the fans, the students, the alumni, and anyone who has every watch Penn State football games.

JoePa is a legend.  He’s the only college football coach whose name I’ve known since I was a child.  The man loved his job.  It was his life.  And his players, the college, and his fans loved him right back.

I was never a Penn State fan, but I knew who Joe Paterno was.  When I was growing up, he was talked about by all the sportscasters.  I knew he was the guy with the New York accent, who wore his pants rolled up with white socks.  He was the guy with the coke bottle glasses standing on the sidelines.  He’s the guy who I saw riding on the shoulders of his players and the fans.

It’s funny how you take for granted that some people will always be there.  I could never imagine a Penn State game without Joe, but it did happen.  It felt weird.  A someone’s missing kind of weird.  A ‘is this really happening?’ kind of weird.  Now, it will become the new normal.

I didn’t think his death would affect me like it does. There is a sadness I didn’t expect to feel.  But, Joe Paterno’s legacy will live on.  He leaves much good behind.  Rest in peace JoePa.  You will be missed.

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4 Responses to Rest in Peace JoePa

  1. While I recognize his many achievements as a coach, I find it inexcusable that he did report the child abuse to the authorities. He may have provided excellent support and guidance to his players, but under his regime, many children were raped, abused, and traumatized. I simply cannot bring myself to look at him as a role model because of that extreme transgression.

  2. Seashell says:

    I think it was wrong for him not to report it also, but there was more to it than that. He reported it to his superiors who did not want it taken to the authorities. That did put him between a rock and a hard place, but there’s no excuse for him not doing the right thing. In a recent interview, he says he wish he would have, but hind sight is 20/20. It’s a shame his legacy will be tarnished.

    • There were certainly problems with the chain of command, and Paterno’s superiors are also at fault, but I can’t believe that no one, even the people that witnessed the crime didn’t take immediate action. If you see a child (or anyone for that matter) being abused, you immediately try to stop the perpetrator and call the authorities. It doesn’t matter that there is no set procedure within the organization for reporting it or that the people in charge don’t want you to. There are times when you have to take a stand and put the needs of others before your own concerns about job security.

      Judging by the way that the Penn State community idolizes JoePa, I think that they would have rallied around him, praised his actions, and defended him from the board had his superiors expressed public displeasure or attempted to fire him. And if he was fired, I’m sure another college would be proud to have a upstanding and moral man as their coach. He would have been able to provide the same services at another school.

      Hindsight is 20/20, but in the case of sexual abuse and rape, it shouldn’t take any time past the incident to realize that you need to take action against it. I can’t imagine having to live with the guilt that you could have stopped abuse and knowing that by not reporting it, you too contributed to children being hurt and permanently emotionally scarred.

      JoePa encouraged strong morals and tried to set a good example for his players, but I cannot understand why he would have a double standard for people’s reactions to children being raped and sexually abused. It’s inexcusable. You can always make the choice to do the moral thing, even when when you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, something I’m sure he tried to teach his players, and something he did not follow himself, in this case.

      It’s always sad to see someone that you idolize make a fatal mistake like this, and it is also tempting to sweep it under the rug, but I think that it would be a immense disservice and affront to anyone who has ever been abused or raped to hold JoePa to a different standard just because he did other good things in his life. I’m not saying that it’s okay to disregard the good he also did for the Penn State community–he did do tremendous things, especially for his players, that deserve respect and lots of praise–but his reputation is appropriately tarnished and should remain that way.

      • Seashell says:

        So true. I have to wonder why a man who was so upstanding could make such a mistake! Didn’t he not consider the child? He has a son of his own, for Pete’s sake! What if that child had been his? But, I guess it’s not for me to judge. I’ll leave it in the hands of the One who will.

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