Joe Paterno Was Not the Man We Thought Him to Be

I couldn’t write about Penn State for a while. I was rendered speechless in horror by the events unfolding, and that is really saying something when a writer and blogger can’t formulate intelligent thought due to revulsion, shock, and confusion.

Now I just want to state my take on the obvious.

I went to Penn State briefly. I was a Nittany Lion fan and a Joe Paterno fan. I was at the stadium chanting with the cheerleaders and crowd when they cheered out tributes to him. I loved sports and even when I transferred to Temple U, I still rooted for the Blue and White. (Temple wasn’t exactly a national presence worth rooting for) Joe Paterno was a God at Penn State, larger than life even back in the 70’s.

When I moved to Texas and had little Longhorn progeny, I switched much of my energy and loyalty to them. I still had a fondness for Penn State, but was more of a Longhorn fan. (Hook Em by the way – it is contagious being down in Texas for so long) Mack Brown is everything Joe Paterno was not. He has proven that so far at least in his career.

As I now watch news and see the 85 year old Paterno, I am reminded of my dad a bit. Except my dad has white hair like a typical  85 year old, whereas I surmise that JoePa has been hitting the Grecian Formula for years.

Both men kind of ramble their words the same and shuffle along the same with a slight hunched over frame. They both talk with a thick East Coast accent. This similarity would normally give me cause to empathize, but there is no relating to old man Paterno now that we all know what was going on in “Happy Valley” under his watch.

Paterno is no longer the father figure. He is no longer trustworthy. He is no longer to be admired. He led a conspiracy of silence, after all. He remained solidly a part of a “good old boys” network of coaches even though he HAD to know one of his inner circle was engaged in AT LEAST some troubling acts with young boys. And that is the politest way that I can word that, giving Paterno any of the benefit of doubt.

And so this is how his last chapter is written. He stayed in the game too long, perhaps after his brain was a bit addled and he could no longer distinguish “for the good of the program” from evil. His name comes off awards, trophies, and any consideration of future accolades. His history of sports prowess becomes inconsequential in light of the wrongs and harms done in and through his program. He was in charge, he knew his cohorts, he let it continue for years and years despite reports. That is a reality check.

He now has been fired, something no one having anything to do with Penn State thought could ever happen. He has lung cancer too.

But even the biggest Penn State booster has to be sickened to know Paterno was not the man we all thought him to be. So I suggest we save all our sympathy for the victims.

2 comments

  • Saddest news story of the year. We took our son to tour Penn State(one of the many campuses we toured last spring) and it was not the happy college town I remembered visiting when friends went to school there. If my heart feels a little broken, I can’t imagine what it’s like to be an alum who loved the school and Papa Joe

  • So sad..I remember a wonderful made for TV movie called “Something For Joey” and Paterno was a key character. I’m not sure I could watch it again

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