Editorial: Remembering Joe Paterno: a teacher for all

By Laura Hancq
January 25, 2012


Joseph Vincent Paterno.  We could not call ourselves a newspaper in Pennsylvania if we did not write about him this week. However, formulating an opinion on this man is not easy. How do you judge a person who did so many positive things for an institution but then also possibly helped deface it?

We could say that we do not have to  judge him because he is with the Lord now, the only judge who truly matters. But that only works if you believe in God and many do not. We could say that the coach is a legend and is as much of a father to so many men and students as their own flesh and blood. But then we would be ignoring all the innocent children who were harmed. We could say that it doesn’t matter all the good he did if he didn’t stop the abuse. But then we would be wrong in saying that he didn’t represent and enforce all that is good in college athletics until he was 75- years-old. You can see how this is impossible.

Paterno did so much right. It has been said that he was one of the most influential people in the transformation of Penn State from an agricultural school to an accredited university. He is known for holding his players to real academic standards. There are so many stories of how he made recruits be tutored by his wife Suzanne and turn in assignments to her before starting practice, how he supported his injured players, how he taught accountability and responsibility but despised vanity; to this day PSU players never don  their last name on a jersey.

People also can’t help but admire his modest home and car as well as his marriage and commitment to his wife. JoePa is old time football and reminds us all of the simpler days, our grandparents and the values of this country.

Victor Fiorillo wrote for the Philly Post, that a portion of Paterno’s defense, “I never heard of, of rape and a man,” has to be false because he was a self-declared devout Catholic and in 2002, at age 75, the sex-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church was the issue at large. We all know Happy Valley is a bubble but it’s not a rock, and he wasn’t living under it. He had to have heard about it but he definitely never imagined having to deal with it, just like many of us think we are invincible. He admitted that he wished he had done more. This is how he teaches us the greatest lesson.

We all need to shift our concentration from judging him to realizing what he taught us. Life is not black and white, or blue and white in this case. Our lives are a series of choices and he reminds us that we can make all the right ones but will be judged by the one wrong choice or the time where we don’t act because we are too afraid. What can we do? We can prepare ourselves. Just like an athlete, we always have to keep our heads up in a big hit. Never let the guard down.

The coach teaches us to never let anyone ruin your legacy. You are building yours everyday. Some people may try directly and some may do it inadvertently but we have to protect ourselves from others by preparing for the worst. In this generation of technology and social media, it can happen in the amount of time it takes to send a text message. We cannot prepare for everything but we can have a game plan to always do enough; to do the absolute most we can.

As the famous saying goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Our responsibility is to always do enough so we do not have to be 85-years-old standing on the porch, after an incredible life, saying we wish we had done more.

He was a true teacher until the end.

Rest in Peace.

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Laura Hancq

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