I have to say that I have been a bit bothered about the Joe Paterno situation since the Sandusky scandal broke. With his passing this week, I wanted to put my thoughts out there. I understand those who do not agree, but allow me my opinion as a coach and someone who is partially responsible for young people's lives.
In an era where we celebrate men like Bobby Bowden, Tom Izzo, Jim Tressel and Jim Calhoun for their coaching prowess despite the fact that each has had major recruiting violations, we have vilified men like Paterno. The violations of others directly teach the young people in our country that if you are good enough at something the rules do not apply to you. That with athletic prowess comes a lessened commitment to the rules. However, their success on the field is enough for us to overlook their moral flexibility. A flexibility that benefits these coaches primarily, both in terms of money and prowess. I am not saying they are bad people or that they are intentionally breaking the rules even, but how many of these men have we heard say that they are sorry, that they made a mistake and that they needed to do better.
We as coaches and or teachers are part educators, part motivators, part parent and part guardian, but we are often taught that there are things that are "above our pay grade." In other words, we are not counselors and that some subjects are best turned over to others that know more than us. Many out there have faith that they would have done more in the situation that Paterno was in and I hope that I would have as well. However, if I put myself in his black Nikes, I can see why he did not. He was uncomfortable with his ability to handle the situation, with his knowledge and with his expertise. He turned to the people who should know more than him. He should have followed up and he should have been in that office asking why Sandusky was still on campus. He admits as much and himself has apologized and called it the biggest mistake of his life.
I myself as a coach strive to be as much like Paterno as I can. A man who cared about his athletes and that cared more about them as people than he cared about them as football players. A man who welcome his athletes not only into his home, but into his life. I could go on and on about the stories of kindness and support that have been passed about in the days after Joe's passing, but we have all heard them. He was a great man who could have done better, but couldn't we all do better?
I do understand that many people will not agree with me and I respect that, I truly do. I just feel that a man's legacy should be judged by his intentions. Each of us have our failing and weaknesses. I just wonder if, while on death beds, this is what people will speak of when they speak of us.