When Joe Paterno was fired it was one of the biggest stories of 2011. Everyone was talking about it whether they were fans of college football or not. The Sandusky cover up, the scandal… it was too much to believe. Paterno took the fall for his failure to act. At the time at which he was fired I said on multiple occasions that I thought he would be dead within a year. I’m very sad that prediction has come to pass.
I don’t know what to believe about the scandal. There’s no question that the power Paterno wielded, that he could have done more. But I’m so far from the situation that I can’t understand or know what he knew, or what he thought he had accomplished with any action he had taken. Maybe I’m a sucker, but I tend to assume the best in people, and I want to believe that he did what he thought was right, and thought the problem had been taken care of. For years it had been said that he was too old and was somewhat of a figurehead in the program and didn’t know what was going on. That was applied to his coaching, but that view was never given in this situation. I don’t know what he knew, or what he tried to accomplish to stop it. But I do know one thing… he wasn’t the one who did it.
There is never a time to celebrate one’s death. And yet right now I see a split between those who want to celebrate, and the people who want to tribute a coach who spent 46 years roaming the sidelines of Penn State University’s football field and collecting a record 409 wins. He was a man that by all other accounts was seen as a good and honorable man. The mistake we learned of in the last few months of his life was a big one, by all accounts. And perhaps we all have moments that define a lifetime. No one can pretend that these past few months aren’t a major part of the story, but should it be the story? I just pray that my worst moments don’t end up defining my lifetime.