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01/26/2012

The complex case of Joe Paterno: To celebrate, or to abhor

Just in case you have not heard, Joe Paterno is dead. Not kidding. Seriously. The legendary Penn State coach recently died. It's been on the radio. Hop on The Google and click on nearly every single website with the possible exception of maybe E-Bay to see for yourself that indeed Joe Paterno has passed.

Click here for a link to the story from State College, Pa. about today's memorial service about the man who forever will be remembered as JoePa.

Joe-paterno-memorialJoePa has been receiving the Death Treatment these days, which I hope I receive when I am told to get out of the pool. The Death Treatment usually consists of: What a great guy. 

JoePa's many, many achievements are being remembered, and the so many people whose lives he assisted recall him with great fondness. His flaws? Not so much.

History can be funny. In life, we are now oh so very quick to condemn, convict and hang. In immediate death, we can quickly be oh so very forgiving. It's not until some time has passed are the good and bad weighed equally and we realize this or that person was ultimately very human, too.

Yet this man's death asks us to confront a very difficult question - Should we feel guilty for celebrating a man's life that helped so many others because one reported inaction is just so public, glaring and painfully inadequate?

Even though the case of former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has not been played in a court of law, it does appear that at the very least JoePa buried his head in the sand and went back to work rather than confront this issue.
Considering the alleged scope and age of the many minors Sandusky may have assaulted, what JoePa did not do in this case was not only not enough, it was appalling and inconsistent with the perception of his character.

Does it make him a bad man? Look at statues of men that decorate the National Mall in Washington D.C. and you will see men who did great achievements, but were greatly flawed.

Abe Lincoln was the freer of slaves, yet history says this man wanted to deport most of them, and he often used language that suggested he himself was a racist.
George Washington was a slave owner. So was Thomas Jefferson. 
Franklin D. Roosevelt was known to partake in relationships outside of his marriage.

Do these sins tarnish their contributions and many achievements, and act to erase what they did and who they were? Do they even compare to JoePa's final act?  

Those are individual judgements. There is no way around this sad fact: What JoePa and a handful of others didn't do in this Sandusky case is a big one.

Some people do great things in certain areas, and some people do not yet we are all a collection of screwups who all secretly regret, and all wish we could have done more before it is our time. 

@MacEngelProf
tengel@star-telegram.com
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