One Year After Joe Paterno's Death, What Is His Legacy?
A year after his passing, Joe Paterno's legacy is, in the grand scheme of things, exactly what you want it to be.
That's right, you get to pick. Truth be told, I never gave a thought to Joe Paterno during most of my years on the planet. Then the scandal broke and ultimately resulted in disappointment that Paterno, along with so many other people in power, did not do more to help kids. However, it did not tarnish the legacy or change my mind on a guy I did not particularly care much about.
If you came here to find an article celebrating his greatness?
Hats off to him for the two national titles and five undefeated and untied seasons. Certainly the people whose lives he legitimately impacted will celebrate that impact, as they should. The players he helped grow into men and the folks who he touched in small ways throughout his life. He's the guy that helped Adam Taliaferro make it through his tragic injury, and set so many others up for a life of success.
If you came here to get the scathing "tear it all down" piece?
He was a guy that preached "Success with Honor" but then failed to truly speak up when he had a chance to do some real good. He's also the guy who had 46 players charged with crimes in a six-year span from 2002 to 2008.
If you're looking for the football stuff?
He is a guy that piled up wins. Stayed at his job for a long time and was able to help Penn State stand the test of time. He is also the guy who was further removed from a national championship than pre-2012 Notre Dame. The guy who had the four losing seasons in his last 11 years and who, for all his greatness, never actually brought any true, lasting innovations to the game of college football.
What is Joe Paterno's legacy, in your mind?
You see, folks, there is evidence to back up whatever side you fall on. Hell, if you are feeling adventurous you can even mix and match elements to create the legacy you need in your mind. That's what legacies are all about: People remembering someone in the way that they need to remember them.
For me? A 28-year-old guy from the South whose role models are not sports heroes, just people he knows, I don't need to remember Paterno in any special way. I know the facts and that's about all that matters. There is no lasting offensive or defensive scheme to study. No timeless approach to player evaluations to breakdown.
However, for others? You all pick the legacy that you need. Do you need him to be a football deity? Then so be it. Do you need to tear him all the way down to make him a devil? You go for it. Does he need to be your bastion of "Success and Honor" in the modern world? Knock yourself out.
The way you choose to remember Joe Paterno is all your own. All folks like me ask is that you not force your celebration, or denigration, of JoePa on us.
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