Paterno is Not a Dirty Word
This may come as a surprise to you considering I write a blog about it, but I'm not really a big football fan. I can't stand professional football. So much showboating. Yes, you caught a ball. Big whoop. I only follow college football as far as it effects Penn State. I root for the Big Ten teams when we're not playing them (except Michigan!) I don't usually watch other games.
Oh, but I love our Nittany Lions. I plan my whole weekend around game time. By August I've looked at the schedule so often I have it memorized. Every fall I drive out to Happy Valley for that one of a kind game day experience. The drum major, the Nittany Lion, the alma mater. And the entire reason why I love Penn State Football is because I loved Joe Paterno. Yep, I said it. Paterno.
For most of my childhood I thought Joe Paterno was related to me. My dad talked about him as if he were an old uncle. I just assumed we knew him. There was rarely a mention of Penn State that didn't include JoePa. I did end up meeting Coach Paterno twice during my time as a Penn State student but that's a story for another day. Today's story is heavier. It's been weighing me down for some time now.
When I was in high school I was very involved in my church's youth group. I held a lot of leadership roles and had many friends there. Once my picture was put up on the church bulletin board. I walked past it a week later and someone had scratched my face out. Understandably upset, I asked the pastor why someone would have done that. He said that sometimes the more you are liked and respected the more some people dislike you. I've been thinking about that explanation recently.
There's a reason why we get accused of idolizing Joe Paterno. He was the Penn State ideal. In the midst of bad attitudes, poor sportsmanship, and entitlement, Coach Paterno was a steady ship of good character. He held academics above football. He saw the game as a means to mold high school boys into successful citizens. He developed people not players. He wasn't tempted by money or fame. He held true to his ideals. We're proud to be Penn Staters because our most visible Penn Stater was an outstanding human being.
Sometimes the more respected you are the more some people dislike you. It makes them feel better about themselves. It's hard to strive for high standards. Mediocrity is more comfortable when its the norm.
Is it better to live a lackluster life than it is to achieve greatness and lose it all?
I can’t help but feel that it didn't have to happen like this. I'm not placing blame and I'm not pointing out who should have done things differently, although I could write many blog posts on that subject. I am simply saying that one man didn't deserve to get thrown under the bus for the crimes of another. The honest-to-God true fact of this whole tragedy is that Joe Paterno did nothing wrong. He did exactly what he was supposed to do. Am I the only one who heard the prosecutors say that recently?
Don't you think it's weird that he's just not mentioned? That the statue is missing? That no tribute has been made to the man who built a successful program, a library, a university?
Instead we live in a bizarre world where our current football program is penalized based on assumptions about our past program. Really? Where an iniquitous organization is telling us that our athletic integrity is improving. Um, thanks?
Call me an apologist, a Paternobot, whatever. I have no agenda. I'm just tired of bracing for the reaction when I say Paterno. His name is not a dirty word.
Let's stop hesitating to recognize the man who built our stadium, our library, our ideals. There's no crime in publicly celebrating the many, many, many great things he did for our university.
I'll say "JoePa". You say "Terno".