paterno

Some Thoughts on Joe Paterno
by Peter Herman

Before the recent Jerry Sandusky hoopla, I had never given any thought to Joe Paterno. Organized sports has never been an interest of mine, and I will not win many fans when I add that I intensely dislike American football. It is an ugly sport that damages young bodies and sometimes even kills its youthful participants. The damage, over time, to maturing bodies can be devastating.

In the past few months of inane hysteria, I have learned that Paterno was no ordinary coach focused solely on winning. It appears he was not willing to compromise education for the sake of victory on the field. He insisted that his players succeed in the academic field as well. That, I can respect. We might call Joe Paterno the "jock whisperer".

Now that he is dead, the talk of his "tainted" legacy has diminished as the memory of his accomplishments has renewed the love. Nevertheless, the intense visceral reaction to Jerry Sandusky's alleged improprieties keep bringing up the issue that this coach should have reported his assistant directly to the police instead of the college authorities. And the latter action was exactly what had been required of Paterno.

There is another good reason why Paterno may have acted as he did. One only needs to recall his age. Before approximately forty years ago, the behavior alleged to his assistant was usually considered eccentric and not worth making much fuss about. "Funny uncle" was a risible term often used to describe men who were particularly fond of boys. Paterno was probably torn between the notion of what once viewed as innocuous if offbeat behavior from an otherwise likeable assistant coach and the more recent attitudes that consider showering with boys to be satanic at best.

It is to be hoped that the disconnect in perception regarding the actions of a decent man, as Paterno appears to have been, and the blind hysteria regarding the alleged actions of his assistant will bring about a more reasonable perspective.



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