Since some time has passed since the investigation at Penn State, possibly the feelings of hatred and disgust toward Joe Paterno have somewhat lessened. Toward Jerry Sandusky, no, but toward JoePa, . . . maybe.
From a personal standpoint, I had never met Joe Paterno. When I was in high school (Highland Park, NJ), the dream school for most Jersey kids was USC. I mean, every cereal box had contests with the grand prize a trip to Disneyland, or Universal Studios, or Paramount, wherever. At long as it was in California. Having lived the past 19 years in Fresno, a word to the wise back east: not everyplace in Cali is LA. Or SF. Or SD.
The more realistic goal, however, for the mecca of football for great NJ footballers was, hands down, Penn State. During my senior year, the head coach of the Nittany Lions was Rip Engle (yeah, I go back a ways). But his energetic assistant, Joe Paterno, was to be named the following season (1966) to lead Penn State. Paterno’s reputation as a football mind and a guy who was going to work his players so each would improve and succeed - if not on the field than off it after graduation (there was never talk of a kid going to Happy Valley and not coming away with at least a degree, and usually a good job).
People (naturally, Italians, of which there were no shortage of great ones) would walk to University Park if offered the opportunity to, not only play at Penn State but, more importantly, for JoePa himself. His style was a throw back - simple uniforms (blue and white), no names on the back, discipline, etc. and, even more than the prospects, the parents loved and would be honored to have Coach Paterno as their son’s leader for the next four years.
Fast forward 40 or so years, with the discovery of the horrific and immoral acts Sandusky had been committing, and who else goes down with the scandal but Joe Paterno. And, if his actions, or rather lack of them, as reported, are true, he certainly shared heavily in the blame. As is the case, though, with a good portion of today’s society, people absolutely reveled in piling on the “Joe Paterno is a terrible person bandwagon.”
My point, now that the smoke has cleared, is that, of course, JoePa should have done more. However, that lack of action, while reprehensible, should not negate all the good and positive acts of Joe Paterno’s legacy. From the thousands of lives he touched in a good way to the millions of dollars he raised for the university and all the accomplishments in between, not least of all his (yes, I truly think he was the catalyst) changing the school from an agricultural college into a world class institution. If your stance on Joe Paterno is that you can’t forgive him for what he failed to do in the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case, I sure hope your legacy is greater than “I never allowed a child to be raped during my entire career.”
Acting in such a manner, i.e. disregarding the overwhelming amount of true good he accomplished in comparison to the negligible amount of positive effect you can claim would be sinful and a perfect example of the late Stephen Covey’s famous line:
“We judge others by their actions; ourselves by our intentions.”