Sunday, January 29, 2012

R.I.P. Joe Paterno 1926-2012

I’ve spent all week trying to come up with adequate words to describe what Joe Paterno meant to me, and the void I feel at his passing. What I’ve come up with isn’t nearly adequate, but, in the belief that something is better than nothing, here goes.  I arrived at Penn State shortly after the infamous Sugar Bowl where number 1 Penn State lost to number 2 Alabama and their legendary coach, Bear Bryant, after trying to score 7 times from with the 1 yard line and failing to do so. The joke then was, “I’m going to get some Joe Paterno golf balls.  Why? Because they’re guaranteed to go straight up the middle every time! “  Well, Joe did go on to win two National Championships after that, following his famous philosophy. Yet, despite his advanced years, adapt he did, the undefeated 1994 team, and one to this day I’m convinced would have easily defeated national champion Nebraska had the two had the opportunity to square off, had one of the most prolific and diverse offenses in college football history, an offense that had three first round picks in the first eight selections, including the top overall pick. The one thing on which he never compromised was in doing it the correct way, sending players to class, benching them for infractions, but believing they were innocent until proven guilty. Young people, he used to say, need guidance. That’s our duty as educators, to guide.  I was so proud to send my daughter off to her freshman year at Penn State this year, so proud that thirty years later, this same man was still there. Nowhere else in the country could this be true. Obviously, this year didn’t turn out as well as we expected, Joe was proven to be human, his career terminated by a horrendous decision on his part,  a decision which I believe lead to his death less than three months later, as much from a broken heart as from the cancer.  I believe that he grieved for the victims, and this grief, not the loss of his job, did him in at the end.  Time will put his career in perspective.. For me, ultimately, I can still say I’m proud to have met him, and proud to send my daughter off to a university that was synonymous with his name. Rest in peace, Joe.

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