Monday, January 23, 2012

Joe Paterno

The lead sports story is -- has to be -- that Joe Paterno is dead.

I don't know about that whole idea that getting forced out at Penn State killed him.  I couldn't tell you it was so, and I couldn't tell you it wasn't so.  He was fired, he had lung cancer, he died.  One could reasonably connect the dots, but we don't really know for sure.  Let's say there was no Sandusky scandal.  Do we know for certain that he doesn't get diagnosed with cancer?  We do not.

I do know that he was a football coach at Penn State University (the school that never got around to designing football uniforms or a helmet logo) for 46 seasons and 409 wins, and I know too that he was fired amid Jerry Sandusky fallout.

There are two opposite reactions to his death:  praising his legacy and his strength, and excoriating the reasons that led to end.  Unfortunately, folks have generally chosen one or the other.

People are complicated, which means that their legacies should be complicated.  But we don't like complications, as a rule, so we choose to simplify matters down to their essence.  Good or bad.  Great or tarnished.  He can be both, you know.  It's not an either/or situation.

There's no need to ignore JoePa's unique accomplishments, same as there's no need to close one's eyes to the fact that a serial child abuser was sheltered under the auspices of his football program.  One does not mean that the other never occurred.

These are sad days in Happy Valley, and it's a full spectrum of sadness.

Spencer Hall is on point.

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