Paterno did not die of a broken heart, but I’m sure he had one (tf)

Joe Paterno’s death has dominated the headlines recently. Surely his legacy is tarnished, but if we’re going to remember the bad, we should remember the good as well. Paterno was a man with flaws (last I checked they don’t make any other kind), but he changed a lot of lives for the better (just ask Adam Taliaferro), and for that he deserves the accolades he’s been receiving. Some folks are going a bit far mind you…..calling to mind North Koreans and Kim Jong-il….posting pictures of a God-like figure peering down into Beaver Stadium, protecting the huddled masses. It’s a bit creepy really. Remember him sure, but granting him the status of a deity might be taking things too far.

But Pennsylvanian’s do love their football….and the PSU fans I know didn’t think it was strange at all that their beloved coach was turned into a statue when he was still very much alive. If they didn’t really consider him a god, they still didn’t mind having a place to kneel and pray and give thanks….just in case.

The man was a great football coach. A great teacher. From all accounts a wonderful family man. Did great things for his school and his community. A true humanitarian. One lapse in judgement doesn’t take any of that away. Surely he’ll have the dreaded asterisk next to his name in the history books, but I think that will fade in time…like pencil on yellow paper.

They don’t make ’em like Paterno anymore. The guy kept his pants rolled up to save on dry cleaning bills. His coke-bottle glasses remained defiantly un-stylish. And he never once wore a headset on the sideline. He was the last of the old school hard-asses, his players hating him until they graduated (and nearly all of them did), and then realizing that his teachings made them better players…and perhaps better men. Which is why even in the wake of the scandal, so many former players sounded so out-of-touch with the reality of the situation….refusing to even consider that their coach might have done something wrong by doing nothing. In the heat of the moment they came across as insensitive to the victims at best, an embarrassment to the University at worst. Ironically….it was this tone-deafness that had outsiders questioning just how successful Paterno had really been in molding his men.

But in retrospect, it seems less mean-spirited and more loyalty-driven. We all know people in our lives who we’d defend with our last breaths….to the point of irrationality. It’s likely we don’t have to do so with a microphone in our face though. I’ve gone to bat for friends with less than sterling reputations just because they were friends of mine. If they weren’t , I’d probably want them thrown in jail. Loyalty is one of those words that sounds so virtuous but so often isn’t. Yet still, it’s a trait we look for in others….and hope we have in ourselves. To be accused of disloyalty is one of the worst epithets one can endure.

So yea, Paterno should have done more. He admitted so himself in the final interview he gave. I’m not sure the PSU board had any other choice but to let him go when they did. This is a story about the heinous abuse of children, after all. That’s bigger than a football coach no matter how iconic he was. To hear it now, you’d swear that it was the board (or the media) who killed Paterno. “Died of a broken heart” I’ve read over and over again…..as if the cancer cells were pixie dust.

If anything, it’s my thought that Jerry Sandusky, who managed to remain stealth for years under Paterno’s watch…may have taken some of the Coach’s fight away at the end. When folks chanted “We are….Penn State!”…. Sandusky was in that mix too. Paterno must have been stunned that such a thing was possible. A monster had slipped through the cracks. In Joe Paterno’s world. Sandusky used his status with Paterno’s program to lure young boys into horrific situations. Again and again and again.

The day Paterno learned of this……the sheer magnitude of it….the domino effect of human suffering it caused….what might it have done to him on the inside? Only those closest to him know….but the rest of us can speculate.

Paterno did not die of a broken heart, but I’m sure he had one.

–Tom Flannery

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~ by admin on January 25, 2012.

One Response to “Paterno did not die of a broken heart, but I’m sure he had one (tf)”

  1. death by sandusky 10

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