Joe Paterno: 1926-2012

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You can’t deny Joe Paterno’s impact on college football, on sports. Paterno, who died Sunday at age 85 after a brief battle with lung cancer, prided himself on success with honor and dignity — hallmarks our armed forces strive for daily.

Joe Paterno is shown prior to a game against Northwestern in October. (The Associated Press)

Of course the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal overshadowed much of this. But that shouldn’t wipe out the totality of the pre-November 2011 slate: his service to our country (briefly in the Army around the end of World War II), the thousands of men who graduated and later made great impacts on the sports world and other segments of society, the affection and dedication he showed to Penn State.

Paterno wasn’t a saint; he’d come off as dismissive if your question didn’t meet his liking. “That’s a dumb question” or “that’s a stupid question” were words you’d hear in his news conferences if you listened or watched frequently enough. His role in the Sandusky case, much debated, fell short of what many expected from this larger-than-life figure.

His teams went 17-3 against the service academies, with Air Force (0-2), Army (1-9) and Navy (2-8) occasional foils for the Lions, mostly in the early years. Penn State and Navy will renew their series this fall in State College after a 38-year hiatus.

With the Sandusky trial looming, the Paterno story isn’t complete. Much remains to be written, but one thing stands out today: Joe Paterno made a mark on many, for better or for worse.

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  1. Note: This comment is re-posted from my response to an announcement posted by the Vietnam Veterans FB page…

    For all those who were asking earlier, Paterno was in the army for the final year of WWII, hence he should not have been mentioned here.

    Nor, for that matter, should all of his accomplishments overshadow his failure for at the end of the day, as much as I love the sport, football IS just a game and thus is less than nothing compared to the damage his inactions inflicted on the helpless victims.

    I won’t presume to know or judge his motivations but I’ve seen the results of these sorts of decisions too often to give him any kind of free pass because his decision to look the other way IMO makes him as morally culpable for the crimes that were committed as if he himself had been in that shower alongside Sandusky.

    I’ve lost too many friends and seen too many people ultimately wind up dead (many of whom WERE actually in Vietnam, btw) because those responsible for oversight of the various institutions they represented to use the excuse of a potential loss to the integrity of said institution as a license to remain blind and deaf to the suffering their decision to maintain their silence facilitates.

    While I don’t presume to judge others, from what I’ve read of his views of the world Paterno was a failure and deserves to be remembered that way if only to be measured by the same strict standards he held everyone else to in his life while he was alive if it’s the only justice we can give to the victims who will have to live the rest of their lives with the scars resulting from his blatant hypocrisy…

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