Living in Infamy: Joe Paterno the Latest to Join the Unheralded Group

Alex Giobbi@@alexgiobbiAnalyst IJuly 25, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA - JULY 22: A man stares at the site where the statue of former Penn State University football coach Joe Paterno once stood outside Beaver Stadium on July 22, 2012 in State College, The statue was removed by workers after Pennsylvania. Penn State's president Rodney Erickson made the decision Sunday in the wake of the child sex scandal of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. According to an FBI report, it is believed that Paterno had detailed knowledge of Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing children before and after Sandusky retired from coaching at Penn State. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The controversy surrounding the Penn State sexual abuse scandal has left a large black cumulonimbus cloud over Happy Valley, in particular, the late Joe Paterno, who was recently found guilty of concealing information.

The scandal, which has grown like a metastasizing cancer, has brought irreparable shame to Penn State football, a longstanding pillar of the university.

Once heralded as possibly the greatest football coach in the history of college football, for anyone who isn't a diehard Penn State football fan, Paterno is now associated with the likes of Richard Nixon, Kenneth Lay, Jim Tressel, basically anyone who covered up a heinous crime.

Joe Paterno isn't the first to have his head forcibly bowed in shame, and he certainly won't be the last. Many sports heroes have had their entire careers overshadowed by one incident, and are thus known as "the guy who did this."  With that, we will look at the many who have come and gone, those who have had to bow their head in shame because of one incident.

One of the more (in)famous examples is the 1919 Chicago White Sox, who consorted with gamblers to throw the World Series. Blindsided by cheap owner Charles Comiskey, the team, led by otherwise Hall of Fame starter Ed Cicotte, threw the series.

As a result, the Sox were brought to trial, where eight members of the team, including the supposedly innocent Shoeless Joe Jackson, were found guilty, and thus banned from baseball.

For 86 years, the White Sox were under the shadow of the "curse of the Black Sox," being unable to win the World Series until 2005. Today, all eight members are still banned, although evidence has shown that Jackson was not involved in the scandal (as detailed by People).

Another well-known example in professional football just happened recently: the Bountygate scandal, which involved several New Orleans Saints players, their defensive coordinator, and the higher ups in their coaching staff.

Once known for their inspirational 2009 season which brought hope to the City of New Orleans, which four years before had been decimated by Hurricane Katrina, they are now considered cheats by the rest of the NFL.

Another example is Pete Rose. Considered by many to be the greatest hitter of all time, Rose shocked the baseball world when it was found that he had bet on baseball. Rose was subsequently banned for life from baseball with no chance of election to the Hall of Fame.

To this day, anybody outside of Cincinnati, when asked about Pete Rose, will probably call him a disgrace to the game.

Sometimes the pain never fully goes away. In the case of college football. Penn State, which just an hour ago was dealt some of the harshest sanctions short of the death penalty, may take years to recover.

They may relegate to their 2002-2004 state, when they were, some say, at their lowest point. They wouldn't be the first.

Southern Methodist University, which was once known for their prized football team that included stars like Eric Dickerson, was handed the death penalty after several severe booster scandals came to light. Needless to say, it didn't end well.

SMU, then a premier powerhouse in the then Southwest conference, lost its football team for the year. Its best players transferred, and the team had to play with walk-ons and freshmen when it came back onto the field.

Since then, SMU has not been able to replicate its dominance, and is one of the middling teams in Conference USA. Although the program has managed to crawl back, it is not playing at the level it used to, and has to settle for the pre-New Year's Day bowls.

Joe Paterno may be one of the best coaches in history, but his association with Penn State will forever tarnish his legacy.

Any casual football fan, when asked about JoePa will probably say that he enabled Jerry Sandusky to molest several children, and it may take years, possibly decades to heal, if it does.

It's tragic that a man of such accomplishment has to take the fall for another's indiscretions, but in this dog-eat-dog world, the bad guys will usually win.


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