Don’t be sad for former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno. A bit strange to say and type “former Penn State head football coach” when referring to JoePa.
He’s lived a charmed life in the entertainment field that is sports in one place for six decades.
Paterno patrolled the Penn State football sidelines, first as an assistant coach and 46 years as head coach, since 1950, when he was just 23 years old until his dismissal this past Wednesday night at the age of 84.
What a tremendous run considering coaches get hired and fired in the college and pro ranks like it’s going out of style.
By now you know Paterno’s story. Worth revisiting.
After serving in the Army the final year of World War II, he went to Brown University on an athletic scholarship where he played quarterback for head coach Charles “Rip” Engle. He was to go to law school after graduation in 1950 but instead accepted an assistant coaching position at Penn State when Engle became the head coach of the Nittany Lions.
After 16 seasons, Engle retired and Paterno succeeded him.
Coaching football at Penn State is the ONLY career job Paterno’s ever known. It was HIS REALITY.
Paterno’s job description always was to win football games and make Penn State athletics relevant thus making the university globally renowned from a little place called “Happy Valley.”
In 46 years as the Nittany Lions head coach, Paterno holds the record for most wins in division one college football with 409. He’s tied for the most games coached with Amos Alonzo Stagg (548). Paterno’s coached in a record 37 bowl games winning a record 24 of them, two of those being national championships.
Based on those numbers alone. Mission accomplished. Job well done.
Paterno’s life is Penn State football.
Paterno’s paychecks have been issued by the Penn State Board of Trustees for six decades.
He’s from a generation that didn’t have to worry about labor compliance legal notices posted by employees for employers regarding things like sexual harassment or violence towards others in the workplace.
This is significant.
Albeit a few years younger than Paterno, I have a very close friend who’s from that generation.
My friend was in the competitive field of radio sales selling advertising time beginning in the late 60s. He’s told me that it wasn’t uncommon for sales reps almost coming to blows with threats of violence back in the day because one was traversing into another’s “territory.”
Threats of violence are an obvious grounds for termination of both parties, in this day and age, with labor compliance notices posted everywhere in the workplace but swept under the rug back then where no labor compliance notices posted. Things were “worked out” between the two parties by going to a superior usually without involving law enforcement.
It also wasn’t uncommon back then for “casual flirting or sexual advances” in the workplace to occur, wanted or unwanted (see a Mad Men or Pan Am episode), between parties. Another obvious grounds for termination, in this day and age, with labor compliance notices posted everywhere in the workplace but swept under the rug back then where no labor compliance notices were posted. Things were “worked out” between the parties by going to a superior usually without involving law enforcement.
After leaving the field in the late 90s, my friend was back in the radio sales business about 10 years later. Something occurred between him and another younger sales rep where threats were exchanged initiated by my friend who felt his territory was violated by the younger rep.
Mind you, Department of Labor Laws of Compliance notices were posted everywhere in that workplace. The younger rep went to the sales supervisor alerting him of threats made by my “old school” friend. My friend was immediately terminated.
After telling me this story, I asked my friend if he would consider going back into that field. His reply, “Nah. I’m from a different generation. Today, you innocently smile at someone the wrong way and you get canned.”
Brings me to this.
All the Penn State principles in this tragedy are a product of that “old school” generation where indiscretions were kept hush-hush, in the house amongst each other, swept under the rug.
Taking a look at the 23 page grand jury report detailing the absolutely disgusting and unimaginable alleged acts done to young boys by former Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky, that “old school” mindset is obvious.
Why? Here’s why. All the parties who could’ve stopped what was going on lived in a “fantasy world” where football ruled over anything that’s morally and ethically right because that is a world where everyone in a small, irrelevant town without Penn State football, prospered financially.
A bit like organized crime.
All parties sold their souls in the best interest of “The Family” a.k.a. Penn State Football. Nothing was done in the best interest of all those young kids whose innocence was stolen and lives ruined forever.
Had Paterno, assistant Mike McQueary, who allegedly witnessed Sandusky raping a 10 year old boy in the athletic department showers in 2002 and did nothing to stop it, McQueary’s father, athletic director Tim Curley, former Penn State president Graham Spanier, a victim’s mother, the campus police and so on and so forth IMMEDIATELY told the proper authorities of Sandusky’s deplorable acts, so many young lives would‘ve been spared indignities forced upon them by Sandusky.
Because they didn’t, all became accomplices in the alleged crimes because they did nothing except protect their personal interests.
In Paterno’s case, the only job he’s ever known.
So, instead of turning in Sandusky nine years ago the “old school guys” Spanier, Curley and Paterno did what they know best. Keep the ugly incident hush-hush, in the house amongst each other, swept under the rug.
Why ruin the shine in their “Football Camelot.”
Paterno’s “old school way of doing things” worked fine in his football world. In the real world, sadly, it‘s rendered his football records extremely tarnished.
Quite honestly, Paterno, and the rest of his Penn State “old boy network,” should’ve been gone a long time ago.
Photo courtesy: AP, LIFE, Sports Illustrated