Joe Paterno died on January 22, 2012. The Joe Paterno I thought I knew died today, July 12, 2012.
The Freeh Report, as widely expected, told a damning tale of the efforts to protect Jerry Sandusky's public profile, and thus the brand of Penn State football. In doing so the tarred imaged of Paterno was finally feathered, as we learned that Paterno in fact knew of the 1998 investigation in to Jerry Sandusky, a man found guilty of 45 out of 48 counts related to child and sexual abuse.
According to the findings within the Freeh Report, Paterno not only knew of the 1998 Sandusky incident, a fact he disputed during previous testimony, but he also took part in determining how Sandusky was allowed to retire as defensive coordinator a year later. I have no doubt there is more information linked to this incident, and I look forward to seeing what else comes out through the judicial process with Tim Curley and Gary Schultz. Paterno also, according to the report, was provided updates on the 1998 investigation until it was considered to be all squared away.
Before I continue, please allow me to remind you the point of view and background I am coming from. Hopefully it will show that even someone who grew up within the Penn State football culture can come to grips with the dark and harsh reality of today's latest revelations.
I learned just about everything I know about college football by attending and watching Penn State football games. Many families place a star or angel on top of their Christmas trees. My family alternated between a greeting card-sized image of Snoopy on top of his dog house and Joe Paterno (this is not even an exaggeration). Paterno's turn in the Christmas tree rotation happened on odd years but a special exception was made in 1994 in my family.
My mother spent 12 years of night classes at a satellite campus getting a Penn State nursing degree, which she started pursuing as I was an infant. My father attended a state school but followed Penn State football and bought a membership to the alumni foundation. My sister went to Penn State. So did my cousin. So did half of my high school. To put it simply, the Penn State football culture surrounded my childhood, adolescence and through the early stages of my adult life.
But I did not attend Penn State. While I continued to follow and support the Nittany Lions, I have made every attempt possible to remove myself from being "a Penn Stater" when it came to assessing the football program. The first time I was approved for a media credential at Penn State there was a part of me that could not have been happier. Being in the same room as Paterno was a thrill for me on the inside, but I ever felt any ingrained bias clouded my views on the program on and off the field, though some would suggest otherwise (I get it).
Joe Paterno was my hero, I will not be ashamed to say. I admired him for his charity and simple-way of living. For his devotion to his craft. For his old stories he would repeat annually. For his disgust with certain reporters. For his vision of a playoff. For his
For his "Success With Honor," mantra.
You will notice I typed that phrase in the past-tense.
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