Monday, November 14, 2011

Joe

So it's with a heavy, heavy heart I write this post. While I am not excusing or condoning what has happened at Penn State, I am just offering up my opinion and my take on how this went down. Venting if you will.

I am very, very disappointed in the way the Paterno situation was handled. I think it was terribly disrespectful to a man who has given his life to that school, its students and its football program. Notice I put school and students before the football program. Having just returned from a visit to State College in October that's fresh in my mind, I can tell you Joe & his wife Sue are positively beloved and have made many contributions to academic life at Penn State.**

It's so easy for people to post their opinion on Facebook and Twitter and play Monday morning quarterback. How easy to say "he should have done more" or "Paterno should have done this or that." So easy to pass judgement. If he wasn't Joe Paterno, there would be no controversy. No discussion. If this happened at a low-profile school, it probably wouldn't even have come to light. There might have been a blurb about it on Sports Center but that would have been it. Joe Paterno is the most famous name associated with this disgrace, therefore he's garnering most of the attention and speculation. I mean, c'mon! This is Penn State we're talking about! This is the winningest coach in history. This is salacious. This is fodder for the sensationalized media outlets we've all come to know and love. Nancy Grace must be having a field day with this. Remember how she was one of the first news broadcasters to condemn the Duke lacrosse players way back in 2006? Once they were acquitted did she ever publicly apologize for maligning their character? Yeah. I didn't think so.

People are forgetting that Joe Paterno is from a different generation. A generation that didn't talk about their feelings or problems. There was no Prozac or Zoloft. There was no hugging it out and kumbya moments (case in point: my grandfather was a WWII POW, escaped from a German camp and, according to my father, rarely, if ever, spoke about it). Paterno was between a rock and a hard place. Sandusky worked for him for years. They had to have been friends or co-workers at the very least. McCreary witnessed something, went home and told his dad and went to Paterno the next day. Paterno went to the AD after McCreary's visit to his home. Joe is old school Italian. I think at this point in time he wiped his hands clean of Sandusky. I think he told the AD, the AD assured him it was being handled and, in Joe's mind, that was the end of it. If the AD told me he was handling it, I would have no reason to follow-up or question him. And, let's not forget, Joe didn't witness anything. He was supposed to tell authorities about something someone else witnessed? Something so horrible yet they didn't do anything about it. They (McCreary) ran out of the locker room. Didn't try to confront Sandusky, didn't even try to remove the child. Speaking of the child, where were his parents/guardians during all of this? Do they have any responsibility in this case? While I understand that these were children "at risk," what kind of parent allows their child to be alone with a strange man at night? According to the grand jury report, one of the mothers confronted Sandusky in a police sting operation at her home. He told her "I was wrong" and "I wish I was dead." Yet, she never filed charges. I also read somewhere that Sandusky even checked some of these kids out of school unbeknowst to their parents. Are those school officials responsible or have any guilt in this mess? I think it's safe to say that several people in various degrees of administration failed these children, not just Joe Paterno. I think the worst breakdown occurred when someone at Penn State decided to give Sandusky an office and a key to the facilities and the abuse continued. I guarantee you, once Paterno heard of the allegations from McCreary, Sandusky was dead to him. He distanced himself and let school officials do their job. Joe is a football coach. Not a lawyer, not an investigator, not a DHR official. Not a child-welfare specialist. Do you mean to tell me there was NO ONE at Penn State better qualified than your head football coach to handle this inquiry?? I really believe that Joe Paterno was so far removed from the day-to-day operations of the football program the last couple of years, that these events were totally out of his realm.

So, should Joe Paterno have been fired in the middle of the night? Officials couldn't let him coach his last home game with his senior players? For crying out loud, he hasn't been on the field in years. He couldn't sit in the press box like usual? This is a man who lives a simple life, in a modest home with his wife of umpteen years. They have 5 children and 17 grandchildren. Do you really think Paterno is the real villain here? And now we're hearing the Big Ten has taken Paterno's name off the Big Ten's football championship trophy. Why? There haven't been any charges field against JoePa. And if there had been, whatever happened to "innocent until proven guilty?" What a horrible rush to judgement.

And to all the jerks on Facebook and Twitter who post obnoxious things lumping ALL of Penn State together, please remember: there is not one PSU student (current or alumni) that isn't disgusted or upset by all of this. My brother is devastated. My brother is proud of his achievements at Penn State. He graduated from the engineering program. My sister-in-law is also a engineering alum. My cousin graduated from the nursing program and is a mid-wife. My other cousin is a high school ag teacher. Trust me. They had nothing to do with this and shouldn't be lumped in with pedophiles. Most of the students at Penn State are not privileged, entitled kids from snooty prep schools. Most of the kids are children of simple, hardworking farmers who deserve better treatment than social media is giving them.

**In the large city of Brooklyn, New York, on December 21, 1926, Angelo and Florence Paterno introduced to the world a man whom many people may call “the greatest college football coach of all time.” Coach Paterno is no stranger to adversity. Being raised during the Depression, he was almost forced to leave his high school, Brooklyn Prep, due to the hefty tuition. Through hard work and perseverance, Joe was able to graduate high school and to attend Brown University. While at Brown, Joe played quarterback and cornerback. With 14 interceptions, Joe shares the record for most interceptions in a career at Brown University. Despite not being a spectacular quarterback, Joe did not walk away from Brown empty-handed. It was here that he was able to develop and build upon his innate leadership skills, the skills that would propel Coach Paterno to become one of the most successful college football coaches.

After Brown, Joe Paterno became officially known as Coach Paterno, having accepted a position at Penn State University as an assistant football coach. Working underneath Hall of Fame head coach Rip Engle from 1950-1965, Coach Paterno was able to get vital experience under his belt before becoming head coach in 1966. Shortly after taking the reins of Penn State’s football team, Coach Paterno’s fame began to soar. Maybe it was the undefeated regular seasons in 1968, 1969, and 1973, maybe it was the first national championship in 1982, or maybe it was how he wore his famous thick glasses with hiked-up pants showing his white socks and tennis shoes. Whatever the reason, Coach Paterno was having an enormous impact on college football. As a result of the success and fame, Coach Paterno eventually acquired the legendary nickname of “Joe Pa.”

The question of what makes Coach Paterno so successful can easily be answered just by watching him. Like a true leader, Coach Paterno leads by example. Former Athletic Director Ed Czekaj once said that “Joe works so damn hard to get things done that he inspires the rest of us.” Combined with his work ethic, Coach Paterno’s ability to pay attention to meticulous details is another reason why he has obtained so much success. Joe Pa’s philosophy is that, “If you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.” With his tenacious and scrupulous work ethic, it becomes obvious why Coach Paterno has been a model for future generations. Even rival Ohio State coach, Jim Tressel acknowledges Paterno’s success when he was quoted saying, “It’s incredible to think about the commitment he’s had to Penn State, the growth he’s fostered and nurtured… Paterno’s legacy has made an impact on members of the younger generation as well.”

However, Coach Paterno’s actions on the field are not the only attributes that have made him the ideal role model. Claiming to live a simple life, modesty is the key to Paterno’s happiness; especially about money. George Paterno, Joe’s brother, once said that “Joe doesn’t think one should have a great quantity of money. And if you do, you should share it!” And sharing it is exactly what Coach Paterno has done. Throughout his career, Coach Paterno has contributed his time to numerous charities and events. He has done so by either donating money himself and/or by aiding in the fund raising process. Most of Coach Paterno’s efforts have gone to making Penn State a better university. Coach Paterno has stated that his dream is to “someday see Penn State number one in everything.” The most obvious contribution that Coach Paterno has made to Penn State is the expansion of Pattee Library. The new section named “Paterno Library” is just one of the many examples that display Coach Paterno’s humanity and dedication to Penn State University.

A Big Ten Championship and two bowl game appearances in the last two years indicates that Joe Pa still has what it takes to be successful, despite his age. His career has been so successful that recently in 2005 he was named AP Coach of the Year and then in 2006, Coach Paterno was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. The fact is Coach Paterno is more than a coach; he’s a dedicated teacher to anyone who is willing to learn from him. The lives he has impacted and continues to impact stretch way beyond the Penn State Football team. Coach Joseph Paterno is truly a national icon when it comes to coaching.

Way back in 1966, Paterno set out to conduct what he called a "Grand Experiment" in melding athletics and academics in the collegiate environment, an idea that he had learned during his years at Brown. As a result, Penn State's players have consistently demonstrated above-average academic success compared to Division I-A schools nationwide. According to the NCAA's 2008 Graduation Rates Report, Penn State's four-year Graduation Success Rate of 78% easily exceeds the 67% Division I average, second to only Northwestern among Big Ten institutions.

Paterno is also renowned for his charitable contributions to academics at Penn State. He and his wife Sue have contributed over $4 million towards various departments and colleges, including support for the Penn State All-Sports Museum, which opened in 2002, and the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, which opened in 2003. After helping raise over $13.5 million in funds for the 1997 expansion of Pattee Library, the University named the expansion Paterno Library in their honor.

In 2007, former player Franco Harris and his company R Super Foods honored Paterno for his contributions to Penn State by featuring his story and picture on boxes of Super Donuts and Super Buns in Central PA. A portion of the sales will be donated to an endowment fund for the university library that bears his name.

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