Monday, January 23, 2012

Death of Joe Paterno

I can't tell you what it was or why it struck such a cord with me, but the death of Joe Paterno on Sunday morning around 9:25 a.m. really hit me hard.  Now, I am not a Penn State University alumni, current student, or resident of State College, Pennsylvania.  Additionally, I am not a PSU football fan or even necessarily a supporter of Joe Paterno the coach.  But something about this story hit me hard.  To see a guy with so much success at the college level come to his death like this is just tragic (for lack of a better word).  Paterno invested his life into Penn State, and the community loved him and he loved the school with all of his heart.  I read an interesting fact yesterday that his name was still in the phone book in State College and you could call his home phone.  He was just a regular guy in that sense.  

It saddened me to see a guy with so much accomplishment and so much good done in his life essentially lose all of that in two short months.  The whole Sandusky fiasco is tragic and whatnot, but to see this man saying he wishes he could have done more to prevent what happened years ago just gives me the chills.  When I heard of his death, it gave me the chills and I nearly shed a tear.  The Paternos just lost a father, the rock of their family who they spent countless hours with them at home and on the field.  I don't want to look at the implications of his legacy right now because I feel that it is too soon and inappropriate to talk about that right now.  I think people just need to mourn the loss and remember all the good he did for that university.  People claim there was this evil other side of Paterno who was too loyal to those closest to them in order to protect them, but his former players and those who knew him best swear by his character and leadership.  

I listened to an interview done yesterday by Shane Conlan, a former All-American linebacker for PSU in the mid 1980's and a member of the team who beat Miami in the National Championship.  In this interview, Conlan just conveyed a deep sense of sorrow for the loss and he had last spoken to Paterno about two months back.  Conlan said Joe remembered his parents' names.  Now that may not seem like a big deal, but to Conlan and myself that really hit hard because Conlan went on to express just how remarkable that was considering all the players who had played for him.  Paterno asked him about his family and kids most importantly and did not even talk about himself at all.  This really caused me to sympathize with this loss to the sports world because it showed Paterno really cared about his players and wanted the best for them in molding them into men.  I also heard Tom Rinaldi on the radio, and he expressed the mood as very somber around State College.  Thousands came out yesterday to see his statue, and Rinaldi said that the name Jerry Sandusky had not been mentioned once among those who he had spoken to.  This showed me that at least humanity was being remembered here rather than dwelling on the scandal that has rocked State College in recent months.  Former and current students and their families came out to pay their respects to Joe, it is was heartwarming for me to see those pictures even though I have no true connection to Penn State.  

I plan on listening to more interviews from former players and people who knew him best to get an even better take on what they think about the passing of an icon.  After gathering that information, I will probably write another piece on this matter.  I deeply sympathize with the Paterno family on their loss, and my prayers are with them as they try to make sense of this all.

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