Written by guest blogger Le Duke de Fromage
I must clarify the idea that I am a fan of the late Joe Paterno. My personal feelings for the man, coach and at times living legend has never been favorable. I always felt that in deifying a man a counter balance must take place. Yet thousands of fans felt and would strongly defend the thought that Joe Pa was such a person. “Blasphemy,” they cried when criticism was leveled at their coach, and for 50 odd years, this myth held sway. Yet there were always signs that Joe Pa was human, always loath for criticism Joe would not tolerate those who would question his decisions. If you were not an unquestioning supporter then you were an enemy. He built a power base second to none in college athletics. An empire that will probably never be duplicated again. His domination of the university was so complete that at one point he dismissed the president and his staff from his home when they came to ask him to step down. How many college coaches have amassed that much power?
Yet he was a giving man and in today’s inflated salaries of sports coaches he was not at the top level of salaries. His contributions to Penn State are well documented with both monies given and always-promoting Penn State’s attributes. He lived modestly on campus in a small ranch for his entire tenure. Alternately, he also owned a $3.5 million dollar beach house at the shore, a statue was erected on campus in his honor, and a library for which he donated the money bears his name. No small accomplishments. Then came the fall, the “esteemed” board of trustees is being pressured to remove the statue and take his name from the library. Why? Because Joe Pa was human after all? Because he didn’t live up to the myth that they helped perpetuate? Was it because at a critical moment he did not react the way the image so carefully constructed was supposed to act? Or is it just another knee jerk reaction from a group of people who are still trying to maintain the myth that it is Penn State proud?
Many former players stoutly defend that the guidance, leadership, and council he gave them were unparalleled in their careers both on and off the playing field. It is also possible that this was just a man who stayed far too long on the job because he had nothing else.
Recently the halo surrounding Joe Pa’s statue was painted over. Why a living man was given a halo highlighting his figure remains questionable, but such was the power of the myth. Ultimately, history will decide which Paterno will be remembered. Removing his statue or renaming his library will not be Penn State’s proudest moment nor will it erase the injustices that the university has allowed.
The evil that men do lives after them
the good is oft interred with their bones