Paterna on Paterno
I can still remember watching the 1967 Gator Bowl and my father’s smile when he realized that the coach had the same name as us. Paterno. Joe Paterno. So we had an “a” at the end of our name. An Ellis Island gaff, no doubt.
From then on, we followed Joe’s career. We were proud. An Italian-American coach who would bring Penn State to football glory. And he did it the right way: Football players were students first, then athletes under Joe. He had one of the highest graduation rates among the nation’s football powers. No scandals. Ethics and morality were standout players on all of his teams…for almost five decades.
Joe was a beacon for how a person could achieve his or her dreams without being ruthless…without being unethical and with high moral courage. He was an inspiration for living the “right” way.
So what happened to Joe? How did this man, this shining light for good, become embroiled in the dark world created by Sandusky? How could Joe, who had shaped the lives of so many men, turn his head, close his eyes, to the acts of a man who destroyed the lives of children right under his nose?
Because Joe was blinded by what he created: His revered football program and what it meant for his legacy. So instead of protecting the children who desperately needed protection, he protected the monster.
So take down his statue. Don’t name the stadium after him. Remove him from the mural. Let the world know that all of his good works are not enough to condone his decision (for years) to do nothing when he could have done so much.