"After all the cheers have died down and the stadium is empty, after the headlines have been written… after all the pomp and fanfare have faded, the enduring thing that is left is the dedication to doing with our lives the very best we can to make the world a better place in which to live." – Vince Lombardi
The past few days have been a rollercoaster of emotion for many Nittany Lions. We are obviously grieving the loss of the living embodiment of our beloved University, but we are also struggling with the concept of Joseph V. Paterno's place in history. At this point in time it is obviously too early to make any lasting judgments, the historiography is nowhere near complete, the facts have not completely come out. Many writers in the days since his death have been unable to come to grips with his legacy. As many have pointed out a life that was previously black and white has become smeared to the point of hazy grey. How could a man with such wit, such sharpness for minute detail seem as aloof about something as vile and corrupt as child abuse? How could a man with the ability to discipline and mold young men into successful members of society, be so unsuccessful in protecting the weakest of society?
At this point in time there is nothing we can do or say that will add or subtract to the legacy of Coach Paterno. That it might change in the coming years is possible, and hopeful. But right now we are where we are: stuck with a complicated debate. But does it ultimately matter? Do we have to feel, as the national pundits would lead us to believe, that everything Paterno is tarnished? That his impact on the lives of thousands of young men is any less cheapened by the sins of omission? That his ability to take a university on his back and transform it is negated by his inability to keep his university from failing in a time of moral obligation? I would say it does not, and it should not. We need to recognize that this man was no "Saint Joe". His transgressions have been laid bare on the altar of public opinion, and we have been made aware of his human failings.
But we also need to remember that he had to endure the sickening fall that accompanies the usurping of a moral throne, and when it became apparent to him that he had failed he had the fortitude to publicly admit his shortcomings. In a society where accountability and responsibility are becoming something as antiquated as punchcards, Joe's final chapter is both disappointing and encouraging. We all fail, but the best of us acknowledge our failures in the hope that we, and others can learn from them. As for now the pomp and fanfare are far from over, they will be roused again in a few months when the next court date occurs. But in a few years and with the perspective of time I think that the enduring story that will be left is that life of Joeseph V. Paterno made this world a better place in which to live.
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