People are judged in life according to their worst actions. Usually, after they pass away, they’re remembered for their best, unless their worst is something worth a few years in jail. For whatever good Joe Paterno did in his life and especially his work with Penn State, it’ll be forever tainted by knowing and saying nothing about the heinous crimes committed by Jerry Sandusky against children.
The decision to take down Joe Paterno’s 7-foot, 900 pound bronze stature from campus is just another piece of some sort of justice that is delivered now upon the University and the men in charge of hiding evidence and allegations, built up over years of sexual abuse by the former defensive coordinator. What comes next might be the ‘Death Penalty’ to a College Football program, with the NCAA rumored to be preparing an unprecedented kind of punishment on one of the biggest names in the Big Ten and College Football.
Forget about Paterno’s 409 wins with the program during his 46 seasons as the Head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions at University Park. Forget about the two national titles, the conference titles, the win in the 2006 Orange Bowl and simply being a living legend on campus as long as his name wasn’t touched by the terrible scandal, which simply grew and grew into a monsterous and disastrous size. Paterno’s health deteriorated as it became clearer and clearer of how much he did know of what went down. He’s no longer around to see his legacy being torn to shreds.
Former FBI director Louis J. Freeh found that Paterno and others concealed allegations of child sexual abuse made against Jerry Sandusky. Why? To protect the University, the football program and the community from negative publicity. This puts Paterno’s words after getting fired from the life-time position, as he was walking into his home, hounded by the media and supporters, asking for people to pray for the children and the victims, in a whole different light. What was going through his mind when he made that plea, knowing what he knew at the time, probably guessing it’s only a matter of time before the hammer falls on him as well?
Whatever Penn State’s punishment may be, everything Paterno stood for is about to be erased. How will he be remembered in 20-30 years from now? As one of the biggest figures in the sport? A coaching legend? Or just as the man who tried to help a dangerous criminal who preyed on innocent children countless times and justified it by trying to help the university he gave his life to? In return, the university, or at least it’s College Football program, will now, in return, be giving away its life for an unknown period (a year? more?) because of everything Joe Paterno was and no one dared to believe.