JoePa: The King is Dead, Long Live the King

… In essence, the institution and profession that Paterno has loved and been loyal toPaterno for close to half a century has issued him something akin to a death sentence. Something inside me believes that Coach Paterno has been dying a slow death since he received his first inkling that Jerry Sandusky had a problem. Quite assuredly now the coach realizes he should have acted more like the coach that annually cut his Division 1 roster to 105 players than the head coach that didn’t blow the whistle on an assistant. He will live with that lapse in judgment for the rest of his life.

I continue to be unsettled by the tragic events at Penn State; not only by the heinous acts committed by one very sick deviant but the aftermath and its long term implications as well. The aftermath includes not only how eight men and their families deal with their emotional scars but what it does to those involved on the periphery. Many would respond by saying – forget about those on the outside that did close to nothing to protect and prevent, and spend your time lamenting for the victims.

We have only learned as much as the media has given us. They reported certain elements of this tragic episode that gave us just enough information to piece together a narrative so that we could do what humans do; be satisfied with a little information, assess blame and demand rapid retribution. I suppose I’ve done that already. In my mind there will be a special place in hell for Jerry Sandusky.

What I don’t know is what will shape the rest of the aftermath. Who knew what, when did they know it, to whom and how did they convey that knowledge to others, and  most importantly, was it understood by others in the same context that it was communicated. This would apply to everyone up the chain of communication beginning with the janitor and the 24 year old grad student and ending with the university president. At some point we will know all of this and the remaining chips will fall.

I cannot help but concentrate my thoughts on Joe Paterno however. The victims will receive their rightful share of assistance and remuneration. Mr. Sandusky will likely spend the balance of his life in prison. After much questioning, the janitor will continue to janitor and the original witness will put his life together outside of Happy Valley and become a footnote in Penn State history.

But what about Coach Paterno? Was he complicit? Yes, probably. Did the board do the correct thing by firing him? Yes, based on what we think we know. So, what happens to Joe Paterno now?

In essence, the institution and profession that Paterno has loved and been loyal to for close to half a century has issued him something akin to a death sentence. Something inside me believes that Coach Paterno has been dying a slow death since he received his first inkling that Jerry Sandusky had a problem. Quite assuredly now the coach realizes he should have acted more like the coach that cut his Division 1 roster to 105 players every year than the head coach that didn’t blow the whistle on an assistant. He will live with that lapse in judgment for the rest of his life.

That life will be unlike the one he has lived for the last 46 years at Penn State. Yesterday he was the quiet, benevolent and humble king of Happy Valley living an old school existence in a one story ranch just off campus where every door in town was open to him. He was a throwback to the 60’s and the whole world of college football accepted, if not respected his name and his accomplishments. Today, he lives in ignominy. He no longer has any use for his training shoes or sweatshirts. There will be no more practices, training meals, recruiting trips, or stinky locker rooms for the Coach. My fear is that he will not adapt very well to this new life. Whatever lapse of judgment he rendered several years ago has put an asterisk on his legacy. The pundits liken this to a Shakespearean tragedy. That would be too high brow for Coach Paterno. He’d probably just say, …”it’s really sad”.

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