Open Letter to anyone who loved Joe Paterno

Dear Anyone who ever loved Joe Paterno,

This letter comes from a place of love.  I grew up as a Penn State fan.  In the past I shared my history with Penn State.  I could understand why people loved Joe Paterno.  It was not just football fans who loved him.  For years he was something larger than just a football coach.

If you ever loved Joe Paterno, please stop defending him.  You are not preserving his memory.  You are just making this worst.  You are confirming what everyone already things about Joe Paterno and Penn State.  You are giving more ammunition to the people who think the Penn State should be wiped off the map.   

Twenty year ago, when I was in college I met a girl who was a Penn State alumni.  She told me a story of meeting Joe Paterno.  She was sitting on a bench crying.  Her mother was in the hospital in Harrisburg but she did not have enough money to catch the Greyhound back.  Joe Paterno stopped and asked her what was wrong.  She told him and he sincerely listened, comforting her.  Joe Paterno pulled money out of his pocket and gave it to her.  I could tell this act really made an impression on her.  Lot of people have these kinds of stories about Joe Paterno.

This morning I watched the Freed report press conference.  It was heart breaking to see.  I knew that it was all true.  Louis Freed is a former FBI Director.  I think there is no reason that everything in the report is not true.

 While I watched this I thought about one of my high school coaches who loved Joe Paterno.  He liked to make fun of the kind on our team who where Miami fans.  He compared the players who graduated from Penn State to those who just left Miami. 

After the Freed report press conference I watched SportsCenter coverage of the even.  I felt bad when I Matt Millen on Sportcenter defend Joe Paterno.  I don't know what I wanted, but I did not want to see Matt Millen try to blame someone else and say that Joe Paterno answered to someone else at Penn State.

When I watched, I could see Cognitive Dissonance in the eyes of Matt Millen.  Matt Millen has done well for himself, three time Superbowl Winner, two time All Pro, a 12 year NFL vet. Joe Paterno was a big part of his success.  He has always known for being close to Joe Paterno.  I can see how it is hard for him to make sense of the man he shaped his life and the man in the report.

In his 46 years as Penn State head football coach, Joe Paterno coached over 1100 players.  Lets say he made a positive impact on every one of them.   That does not make up for the victims and the lives ruined.  You cannot point to the good works Joe Paterno did.  No one would pay for those good works with the ruined lives of Jerry Sandusky's victims.

If you love Joe Paterno, you have two choices, either be quite or admit that Joe Paterno was wrong.  If you do anything else, you are just increasing the tarnish on the image.  I think you can say, "I loved Joe Paterno and he was wrong to not take action."  You can admit, "He was one of the most important people in my life, but that does not excuse him covering up for Jerry Sandusky."  You can say, "He did lots of good, but what drove him to do that good also drove him to not take the right actions."  You cannot say he was not responsible for what happened. 

If you love Penn State, you will realize to heal all the hurt you cannot deny what happened.  Please keep this in mind when you try to defend Joe Paterno. 


Stephen Mack said…
Well put, Rich. I agree.

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