Joe Paterno, rest in peace.
The full story of the scandal that collapsed his otherwise pristine reputation and legacy on this earth as a football coach and educator (or is it the other way around?) is still being written.
The possibility for further exoneration OR condemnation exists. Time and court proceedings will have the final say on all of that.
His mountain of "good" I believe outweighs the late breaking tsunami of "bad" associated with Sandusky the child predator. I need not go through the box score on all of that.
Joe Paterno BUILT Penn State.
Joe Paterno LOVED Penn State.
Joe Paterno RAN Penn State.
Joe Paterno WAS Penn State.
Things should have stopped after the first two.
Somewhere along the way to JoePa becoming so insanely BIG at that place, more people should have said: "Hey, it's only football."
Somehow, JoePa got big enough that apparently nobody really "had his ear" to serve as a balancing consigliere of sorts. When the AD comes and says after 54 years as coach "hey, how 'bout riding off into the sunset" and the coach tells you to stick it, well then, you no longer have a functional athletic department.
You have a benevolent dictator.
I know JoePa feared death after football, like what happened to Bear Bryant. I know Bobby Bowden felt the same way at Florida State.
But that kind of thinking is nuts. JoePa didn't want to retire, because he felt there was nothing after football but death? Really? Somebody should have had his ear to say: "You're wrong, Joe. There's another glorious, post-football chapter waiting to be written. You are nearly 80! Time to move on."
Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports has a very well constructed piece today about what is left...
Penn State as we know it has died as well.
In some ways, it needed to. The do-nothing university culture that allowed Sandusky to allegedly operate unimpeded certainly needed to die. The Paterno as emperor machinery, built to sustain an image and perpetuate a career beyond its rational boundaries, needed to die. The university’s disproportionate dependence on football for its identity needed to die.
But there are some other elements to this obit that are disheartening.
They’re burying an ideal alongside Paterno, an ideal most big-time football programs don’t even pretend to aspire to anymore. Paterno himself referred to it as “The Grand Experiment” – trying to win big while keeping winning in perspective. Those aspirations usually are mutually exclusive, but JoePa never believed it had to be that way.
They’re burying the uniqueness of Penn State football, where it was OK to be old-fashioned. They’re burying a place where commitment was unconditional between school and coach. A place that dared to be dull amid the Oregonization of college football. A place where the coach never strong-armed the school for a bigger salary, never hesitated to help the school’s educational mission, never sold out to the corner-cutting methods that felled other big names in the profession.
Amid the burials of both good and bad, one thing is sure: We will not see anything like the Paterno-Penn State dynamic ever again. It is a relic of a different era.Penn State, and Penn State football have a chance at beginning a new chapter, certainly in Joe Paterno's mold, with Joe Paterno's values, but stripped of the lunacy of letting one man act as a King. Let's hope they figure it out.
Reminding yourself: "It's only football..." every now and then, would be a good start.