Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It Wasn't Supposed To Happen This Way.....But They Finally Found Their Out

The end was supposed to be as storied as the career.  After 46 years at the helm of one of the greatest programs in college athletics, it appears this will be the end for Joe Paterno.  It appears, by all outward appearances, reports and stories, that this is the one they've been waiting for.  THIS is the way to finally remove Joe Paterno from those sidelines without making the institution appear as if they kicked the old man to the curb.  THIS is for cause.  But is it?  Let me begin by saying that, though I was born and raised in Pennsylvania, I was never one of the "Penn State Faithful."  I attended Temple University and, once a year when the Owls travelled to State College, I cheered for the decided underdog, knowing the score would most likely be a huge, overstated loss to the Nittany Lions.  Along the way, though, I always had respect for Coach Paterno.  I respected the fact that he had a program that was know simply as, "Linebacker U."  Then, as time passed and we all grew older, I came to respect what Joe Paterno represented.  I've said several times that, when I think of college coaches that "made a difference," and were, "the Class of the Field," the names that came to mind in my lifetime were Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden, and Joe Paterno.  It wasn't solely about the wins and losses  but, rather, molding boys into men.  It was teaching them right from wrong.  It was instilling in them that their grades and graduation were more important because football would one day be gone.  It was making them well-rounded individuals with a sense of decency and morals.  That, quite honestly, is what is so troubling about the current situation.

By now, I do not have to recount the stories or charges against Jerry Sandusky, Penn State's long-time defensive coordinator.  I don't have to go into the cover-up that was, apparently, perpetrated by the Athletic Director or a V-P at the school.  Suffice it to say that, when we are dealing with child abuse on these levels (ANY level, for that matter), they should be thrown into general population of the nearest prison.  How about we let them get what they gave?  They most certainly will.  Every story I've ever heard tells of inmates despising child-molesters more than anyone.  I'm fine with that, especially after hearing the stories told about what was witnessed in the locker room shower.  Here, however, is where it gets hazy for me.  Joe Paterno was told about what was seen....and reported it....yet nothing was done.  Now the calls are coming for Paterno to be gone because he should have done more.  Yes, he DID follow the letter of the law.  Yes, he DID report it as he was supposed to BUT he did not do enough which was morally wrong.  And there it is.  The reason I find this to be hazy at best.  Am I giving him the benfit of the doubt or being unfairly slanted toward keeping Joe Paterno at the helm?  Perhaps...but hear me out, please.  The reporter I listened to on the NBC Nightly News acknowledged that, "while Coach Paterno did what he was legally obligated to do, he fell short on moral grounds."  I understand the thought process, but.....don't we think anyone living in glass houses ought to seriously drop the rocks?  Isn't it questionable as to whether others fall short of going the extra mile when it comes to moral obligations?  Yes, yes.....we're going to say I am comparing apples to oranges, but...how many of us report things when we see a child with bruises on them?  How many of us fail to report spousal abuse?  How many of us go above and beyond in our willingness to get involved with what we perceive to be, "not our problem."?  True, we have no legal obligation to do so.  I understand that.  We're not talking about "legal" obligations, though.  We're talking morality, remember?  Before you think I have my head buried in the sand, know this - I agree that more could have been done.  If JoePa had never reported this to the university, I would be at the front of the line calling for his ouster.  I, and every die-hard PSU fan I know, would be calling for his firing today.  Personally, I think we will watch the Coach resign or retire because the university now has what they consider to be a just cause.  Not one of them, in my opinion, wanted to be the one "pulling the trigger," on his removal.  This situation, as sad, ugly and disgusting as it has become, is the "Perfect Storm," for Joe's removal.

 I look at the Coach and think about his being as old as my grandmother.  i think of how many lives he touched in those 46 years.  I think of the disgusting, blatant disregard Sandusky had, not only for those poor ,defenseless children, but for Coach Paterno and Penn State.  This school didn't get to be one of the few universities without a major scandal, ever, by chance.  Much of that....nay, the majority of that, was JoePa.  Even among the schools with none of the scandals, PSU was, by far, the biggest.  It is amazing, to anyone that follows college athletics, that is even possible.  No textbook scandals, no cheating scandals, no drug charges, no hit-and-run drunk drivers.  None of that.  He ran a clean program that was above reproach.  Now, because of one person that was a vile, disgusting freak, as well as two others that put the university above human dignity and innocence, that is gone.  All of it washed away in a moment...and it's heartbreaking.

Perhaps it's because many of my close friends are the PSU faithful I mentioned.  Maybe it's because I cannot imagine, at age 84, getting up and going to work every day as I had for the previous 60 or so years.  Maybe it's because he is the winningest coach...EVER...and has done it with style and class.  There is a saying the CEO of our company asks us to live by - "Do good by doing what's right."  I'm sorry, but Joe did what was right - he just didn't go above and beyond and do more.  I suppose that, when you live your life doing the right thing, more is expected.  At one crucial point, when more was expected of this great man (not just a great coach), he failed morally.  For that, he will always be remembered more for the scandal than the accomplishments.  I hope that is not true.  JoePa should have been able to ride off into the sunset, hoisted high above the crowd on the shoulders of his players, one last time.  During a season that has seen only one loss and the Nittany Lions headed toward a possible Big Ten Championship, it could have been the year for Joe to ride off on his own terms.  Now, so very sadly, that won't be the case.  My greatest fear is that, like Bear Bryant before him, Joe won't be able to take the solitude.  Bear Bryant died a mere four weeks after his retirement...and we pray that isn't what lies in Joe's future.  My personal opinion is that I want to see Coach Paterno continue to roam the sidelines.  I want to see him there until HE decides it's time to go.  I hope he is revered for the fact that he has done much for the school, the students, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  It might be time for the Coach to go...soon....but not like this. 

If I could have one wish for this man, it would be for him to have one more brilliant Saturday afternoon or Bowl Game.  Watching from the sidelines as it came down to the final seconds, only to see his team punch it in the end-zone for the winning score.  He deserves that.  he certainly doesn't deserve what we are heaping upon him right now.

Until next time..................

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