21.1.12

Day 328. The Nittany One.

I'm kicking myself right now. I'm kicking myself because the point of this blog is to recognize people NOW, in the present for being and/or doing good - not to wait until its too late. And, unfortunately, this post is triggered by reports of the subject being in poor health and potentially near death (implied).

I want to recognize Joe Paterno.

If that hasn't already triggered an emotional reaction in you - one way or another - I'd be surprised. And that's why I shied away from this post before. The past few months have been too charged with horrible, unforgivable allegations involving many people - a lot of which have yet to be definitely sorted out. And ALL of which are of those most non-defensible nature.

In the spirit of full disclosure, my husband is a Penn State graduate and, through him, I have met many Penn State alumni. But that is part of what informs this post. One of my husband's most prized possession is a photo of him with JoePa during his undergraduate years. For years, the Penn State alumni I have known have hung their hats - and moral compass - not on a football record, but on values of integrity, reputation and education. They have revered JoePa not because of how many football games he won or lost, they revered him because of the challenge he laid out in terms of who a person should be.

JoePa has inspired countless alumni in a similar manner - even those who did not like him at all during their college years. LaVar Arrington, whose issues with JoePa were long and well documented, has hailed the man's character and impact on people.

You see, JoePa came to Penn State in the 50's (yes you read that right) and never left. He had offers from the NFL, other premiere college programs and he remained with Penn State. Loyalty. JoePa never once succumbed to materialism - living in the same house he lived in with his wife since the day he moved. With all the money he made, JoePa donated MILLIONS (and that is not an exaggeration) to academics. Libraries and an education foundation were the main recipients of his hard earned dollars. Similarly, the Penn State football team boasts the highest graduation rate in all of college football. Not the Big Ten, not division I-A, all of college football. JoePa always looked to tradition and standards before "wins" or "fame". And, in this day and age, JoePa stayed with the same job, the same wife, and the same focus on what matters for decades.

I could rattle of stats to you all day long about his coaching prowess, BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT THIS IS ABOUT. JoePa made a difference in how tens of thousands of young men and women lived their lives. JoePa set standards that far superseded the game. I honestly don't have words to articulate the impact this man has had on people I admire today for who they are, not for what they do (or how many games they won.)

Sadly - many never knew all this or never paid attention. To my husband's credit, when the awful allegations surfaced this fall he scoured all the reports, all the media, all the articles. He took the time to see what was proven, and what was not. He was responsible enough to inform himself - and believe me that was painful enough - and even he said "JoePa has to step down". But what JoePa didn't deserve was to have the media beatdown that ensued by so many who never knew the man, and didn't take the time to do so. I will not debate this case. I will not mention the jackface whose actions permanently soiled Penn State and proved many men to be of lesser character than we thought. I will simply say that i am saddened tonight to see so many who were vehement in their condemnation of JoePa suddenly turn with thoughts of concern for him...only because reports are surfacing that his health has failed.

We knew this would happen - Stephen has said for years that JoePa feared he'd end up like Bear Bryant - one of his dear friends - who died January 26th after retiring from the game at season's end. What's sad about it, is that he dies hearing only the worst of what he might have done. He dies hearing only negative about a career that spans decades.

I know many of you may have valid and strong reactions to any sort of praise going towards JoePa. And I respect that. I've had a ton of conversations about this - and noone comes out looking good, that's for sure. This is what I'm writing about: the fact that tonight I am saddened to see people only look to consider him as a complete man (and not just a man of three months of media reports) and a complete life only in his supposedly final days. I once again renew my request to you to look at those in your life and find the positive ways they impact you every day. Then tell them. Perhaps that would have helped our society temper the evaluation of these horrible acts in all of Happy Valley fairly, and it would have let JoePa know that, even if the numbers have dwindled, he is still loved.

Disclaimer: again, I recognize the horrific acts that have been alleged. This post in no way absolves, or accuses, JoePa. It is almost impossible to articulate one's opinions on this case once you read how many people let down these children. I simply note tonight one man who did a lot of good. Charges and *proof* are still forthcoming - as acknowledged by many.

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