My personal opinions about Joe Paterno’s role in the Jerry Sandusky case aren’t important right now. We have lost a man who meant quite a lot to individuals around the world both in and out of the Penn State community, and it’s time for all of us to say goodbye. Everybody deals with death in his/her own way. My oldest brother lost his battle with cancer at the young age of 20 (I was 7 at the time). My wife’s father passed away in a here one minute, gone the next moment that devastated an entire family. I’ve lost two grandparents in the past couple of years, one less than a year before my wedding day. As I grow older, I find myself immune from experiencing a flood of emotions whenever such events occur.
Everybody’s different, however, and many individuals flocking to State College, PA for public viewings and/or Thursday’s Joe Paterno memorial service are struggling to deal with the death of the Penn State icon who was, for us in the PSU family, more than an old man who coached a football team. While heading home to Centre County this week just isn’t for me, I understand why some are choosing to take time off from work or school to say one final farewell to Paterno. I have just one request for the people planning to be in or around Penn State over the next few days.
Let’s all make Joe Pa proud.
That means no bowing before the Joe Paterno statue located outside of Beaver Stadium, and no touching the statue before blessing yourself (yes, I’ve seen videos of both). Regardless of the Sandusky case, Paterno never was, nor is he, after his passing, an actual saint or religious icon. I think it’s great that the statue has become a makeshift memorial and tribute since Saturday evening. Treating it as Catholics treat the Eucharist is something straight out of Exodus, and does nothing to purge that whole “Penn State is a cult” thing that’s been going around since November.
That means giving if you haven’t already done so. THON and ProudPSUforRainn are both great causes. Paterno loyalists should also remember Special Olympics Pennsylvania, an organization Joe Pa supported for two decades. Truth is Joe Paterno wouldn’t want hours of nightly vigils following his passing. He’d much rather we all spend some time trying to make things better for the less fortunate.
That means keeping your emotions in check. The Westboro Baptist Church will be returning to Happy Valley sometime this week, and I’m willing to bet it’s not for a quiet tour of the campus. I’ve seen and heard plenty of ideas for how Penn State students and local residents can handle the will-be protesters. I like one scenario that includes PSU students circling around the WBC loons with signs of their own, a peaceful Penn State anti-protest of sorts that drowns out those spewing hate. Things got more than a bit out of hand in State College immediately after Paterno was fired, and that riot shamed all of us in the Penn State community. Let’s prevent any such actions this time around.
That means remembering those who remain the true victims in all of this. If Joe Paterno could speak to us from beyond the grave, he would tell you that he’s still not the victim here. He’d tell you he lived a full life, and that it was just his time. The allegations made against Jerry Sandusky, if true, are about as heinous as they come, and I’ll forever have more sympathy for all victims of child sex abuse than I will for Coach Paterno. I’m willing to bet that, if he could, Joe Pa would tell everybody to feel the same way. Let’s all make Paterno proud by rebuilding our shattered yet beloved Dear Old State one block at a time.