I live in Philadelphia, Pistolvania, so I know and work with a lot of Penn State alums. For the most part I find them to be smart decent people. For the most part. One aspect of PSU alums that has always kind of creeped me out is their undying devotion to all things JoPa. Some of them, it seemed, literally worshiped the ground the man walked on. To say he was an icon in these neck of the woods is an understatement.
Which is why the latest news out of Penn State is so shocking. If you had told me ten years ago that Joe Paterno would be implicated in a scandal to cover up child sexual abuse, and his statue would be coming down in Happy Valley, I would have called 911 and asked them to have you committed. Joe Paterno was Penn State, and he was, in the eyes of many, everything that was right about college football. It's like hearing that Vince Lombardi gave the Packers steroids before every game.
This should be a lesson to all of us who devote our lives to worshiping others. We have to be careful, because no one is infallible and above the sins of the rest of us mortal men. Joe Paterno might have been a great football coach and motivator, but he was human and susceptible to human failings. From the looks of it he put the image of the program that he carefully and successfully built above the lives of innocent children, and that will forever be a stain on his legacy.
His legacy will now be viewed in the context of a still evolving scandal, and there is no doubt that it has been tarnished forever. Now all the good he did will be overshadowed by a scandal that might mean the "death penalty" for the proud program that he built.
This morning his statue was covered and removed under armed security. The surreal image that goes along with this post is a stark reminder of just how uncertain life can be. Who could have imagined that it would end like this? I am sure that the folks who love and admire Paterno certainly could not. The rest of us who are a little more cynical are not quite as surprised. This is what we have come to expect in a society where things are never as they seem. "Normal" ("clean cut") All American kids can become mass murderers, and men who claim to be messengers of God can harbor evil iniquitous secrets. You just never know.
"Losing a game is heartbreaking. Losing your sense of excellence and worth is a tragedy"
Sorry Joe, but not heeding your own words was an even bigger one.
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