JoPa, we hardly knew ye

Well, that’s not exactly true – depending on how ye look at things. I can’t say I was ever a Joe Paterno guy, partly because I was never a Penn State guy. But I’m sorrowful and I’d like to believe he was mindful of the needs of others, except until a few months ago.

Many things bothered me about Paterno. He overstayed his welcome and welcomed overstaying. And then there was the very awkward exchange between JoPa and Rutgers coach Doug Graber at midfield after a Penn State rout in 1995. Graber, who was a former UW defensive backs coach, and by all accounts a pretty decent guy, gave Paterno a little dose of his own inferno when JoPa ran up the score on the Scarlet Knights. Paterno’s response? “Bull****,” which in and of itself is actually, bull****.

“And to be frank with you, I don’t know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of, of, rape and a man,” Paterno said. Now that’s enough to take the happy out of Happy Valley. Long ago, I thought the game had passed Joe by; I was wrong, life had, too. But then I think about the mountain of money he donated to the school, living in the same modest home for decades, being an Army vet, and the boys who had the fortune of playing for JoPa who graduated four years later as leaders. And it makes me feel good. And then again, there are the other young boys, who had the misfortune of being abused under his watch, who will never have the chance to lead – only the chance to suffer a lifetime of, well – bull****. And it makes my heart ache.

Are we too quick to judge? Does one misstep in character define the total characterization of a man? I guess it does, but I sure hope it’s relative. Part of me feels sorry for the old man, but part of me knows this wouldn’t have happened if he had hung up his cleats, washed his white socks, and wasn’t so incredibly self-absorbed to think the school wouldn’t be better off if he transitioned to head emeritus rather than staying as head coach. Like many others, I don’t really have an answer to this, do ye? Tell me what you think, perhaps we can figure it out together.

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