I don’t like football. I never really have. I went to Penn State. Go figure.
I don’t have anything… really, against it. I just don’t see the big draw. I went to a Penn State branch (Brandywine) my first two years and then transferred to Main Campus for my jr. and sr. years. I originally intended to transfer to St. Joe’s. In a million years, I never thought my parents would allow me to go away to school. But in my Freshman year I met my now Koumbara Valerie and over the course of those first two years she convinced me; main campus was the way to go, and that of course, we should room together. If it weren’t for the fact that my parents liked Val, I doubt I would have gone. But, off I went.
The first week in our dorm in East Halls is something I still remember pretty well. Which is pretty amazing for me! I needed to go to the bookstore to pick up some texts for class. I have the worse sense of direction. I mean I cannot find my way out of a paper bag. I was nervous to go by myself but, Val had something going on. So off I went again.
I entered the University Bookstore on Main St. There in front of me was a life size cardboard cutout of some dorky looking old guy with coke bottle glasses. I didn’t think much about it. As I roamed around the store, I saw several more of these but, did not find the books I needed. So I went on to the bookstore at the HUB. Where again, I was assaulted by these life size cutouts of this weird looking man with the glasses.
I went back to my dorm to find Val sprawled out on her bed on the phone talking to her brother. She said, “Did you find ‘em?” “Yeah”, I said. “Do you know who that guy is that they have the cardboard cutouts of all over all of the bookstores?” Val busted out laughing while of course relaying the story to her brother. I was annoyed. What the hell was so funny? I was not gonna like living with this bi@!h!
Of course I heard about it that day. And, in the coming years on campus, I figured out exactly who he was and how important he was and …why they had laughed at me.
So much so, that I kind of got on board that Joe Pa train! No, I never really learned to care about football, but seeing Joe Paterno on campus really was as exciting as celebrity watching in the airport. As a matter of fact in the 13 years that I worked at the Philadelphia Intl’ Airport after graduating, the only celebrity who’s boarding pass I ever asked for an autograph on, was Joe Paterno…How about that?! This, from a girl who sold her student tickets to the game so she could go shopping on Calder Way!
When news of the Sandusky Atrocities hit, I, like so many, was sick to my stomach. I immediately thought Joe Pa should be let go. The board of trustees did it, and I supported their decision. I still saw Coach Paterno as a great man who made an egregious error in judgment. My thought was that this man had done so much good in his lifetime for the University and, that those contributions should be acknowledged and remain honored on campus. After all, If this had happened earlier in his life and career, he might have paid his due to society. He may have gone on to do great things for the University, and then who would be talking about removing his name from the Library? Look at Michael Vick. He is fortunate enough to be able to try to redeem himself in the court of public opinion.
I am absolutely certain that Joe PA died of a broken heart and with a guilt-ridden conscience. Joe Paterno’s penance and fate lies in the hands of The Lord. May he rest in peace.
With the release of the Freeh Report the sadness I felt when the whole calamity broke has been stirred up again. Listening to the talking heads on radio talk shows and TV made me feel defensive. They think Paterno’s name should be removed from the Library, and his statue in front of Bever Stadium, removed as well. Even if you’re not a football head, PSU and Joe Paterno’s great TEAM spirit is his legacy and it somehow becomes part of each and every Alumni’s personal relationship with this great institution.
Maybe it was Joe Pa’s ideology that brought him down. Too much team spirit, with no regard for anyone else. Like a parent who tries to protect their child from all bad news. It would have been so much better if he had just outed Sandusky from the very beginning 14 years ago. He would have been a REAL hero, instead of a “sports legend kind of hero”. I’m not trying to defend his actions. I’m trying to figure out in my head what influenced this seemingly kind man to be so callous.
Last night on the phone with Val, I voiced my disapproval for any plans to remove Joe Pa’s legacy from the campus. To my great surprise, Val vehemently disagreed! “Na,” she said “Take it down, take it all down. He knew for 14 years and still let him (Sandusky) get on the plane with him (Paterno) and his young victims to travel to bowl games. No way.”
The question still begs to be answered; Do we continue to honor the man in our earthly ways? Do we take the statue down? Do we take his name off of the Library? I’m thinking Our Lord probably didn’t like that statue in the first place. God doesn’t like statues. You remember the Commandment; “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” Exodus 20:4 It seems like a lot of people really do worship that statue.
So now I’ve seen the light, the way I wish Paterno would have. Now the brass figure seems to me, like an ugly reminder. I say to those who want to keep the statue up, go get yourselves a life size cardboard cutout of the man.
Michael Pilato, the State College artist who painted the now infamous mural that included the likeness of Jerry Sandusky, has made his statement. Early on in this debacle he removed Sandusky, leaving an empty chair where he once was seated. After Paterno died, he painted a halo over his head. He recently removed that halo and said, “When I took the halo off of Joe, it was kind of saying that he’s a human being…. A lot of people are calling for me to take him off of the mural – I won’t do that, that would be changing history, but I also believe that we can’t erase that mistake that he made towards the end of his life which was devastating of course to so many young men,” Pilato added. He also added a blue ribbon to Joe Pa’s lapel. The artist is still trying to decide what to do with the image he painted of Graham Spanier. A decision that is literally keeping him awake at night. He’s considering the idea of putting a blindfold over Spanier’s eyes. I think that might be an appropriate treatment and statement.
Perhaps this is our problem. Our crazy American football culture inadvertently elevated Joe Pa to Sainthood. Culture is created by many people. It exists because of combined values, principles and traditions of many in a community. It is cultivated through a community’s words and actions. It is bigger than one person, or four people for that matter. And so to some extent there is enough guilt to be shared by the Penn State community, and the American college football community. When someone is so embedded in a culture it is human to loose sight of what is most important, even one’s own most personal values. Not right, but human.
Ah well, the man is dead. His problems on this planet are over. He lived a great and flawed life. He will be remembered, by those who wish to remember him, with or without the statue. Sadly for Joe Pa, his actions changed his legacy. Hopefully they also changed the greater culture of American Football. Let the rest go. Penn State remains a great institution. Four people cannot determine the culture at our great University. But, everyone else can. We Are!