Joe Paterno's Statue: A View from the Inside

Adam Kramer@kegsneggsNational College Football Lead WriterJuly 17, 2012

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - NOVEMBER 08:  A statue of  Penn State University head football coach Joe Paterno is seen outside of Beaver Stadium on November 8, 2011 in University Park, Pennsylvania. Amid allegations that former assistant Jerry Sandusky was involved with child sex abuse, Joe Paterno's weekly news conference was canceled about an hour before it was scheduled to occur. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

When it rains, the raindrops collect in the crevices of my sport coat before tumbling downwards. They trickle down my crooked tie, which is supposed to suggest movement, and they eventually drop to the surface below. I don’t feel them hitting my bronze shell, but I can hear them. It creates a dull flapping thud that reminds me what I’m made of.

I’m just a statue.

My finger points upward, and when the sky rumbles, it’s almost as if I’m signaling what’s above. Some assume I’m proclaiming my legacy. I guess you’ll have to ask my creators what this is supposed to mean. I’ve had no say in my construction or the responses that followed. If I had any input, I would have tightened up my chin and made my glasses a little less pronounced. Far too accurate.

When the rain comes, my finger stays pointing to the sky. The crowd usually disperses. Lately, however, there’s always a crowd.

Day or night, rain or shine, people surround me and place miscellaneous items at my feet. Lights, candles and blue and white clothing are scattered about, although nothing compares to the madness that came in late January. You couldn’t see the concrete or past the wall of shoulders that encased me.

There were tears, cameras, voices, faces—many new faces—and an eeriness that I’ve never been a part of before. It’s hard to describe what I felt because truthfully I don’t know much about emotions. The thousands of times I’ve been hugged in the past year, however, have been oddly difficult. I’ve wanted to hug back and I’m not sure why.

I’m just a statue.

Since January, however, that love-thing has morphed into something strange. I can just feel it. The sparkling eyes that once looked upon me with joy now feel unresponsive, perhaps even angry at times. There are no longer any smiles around, but instead an invisible barrier between us. If I could talk, I would ask why.

There’s a real barrier, too. Police officers are in frequent attendance. Come to think of it, there was a long period when they never left my side. Much like the faces they stood in front of, they too were as rigid as the creases above my kneecaps. They look like they’re waiting for something.

Is it no longer safe here? What have I done? I’m merely a seven-foot structure, a thousand pounds of bronze rooted to the ground with steel pipes. Yet, somehow, I feel like my presence here is no longer wanted, despite the fact that I’ve just been standing here all along.

I’m just a statue.

Recently, I heard a father convey to his son that my time could soon be coming to an end. The son asked why, and the father struggled to find the appropriate words to describe it. The boy couldn’t have been older than five, and there was life in his eyes.

I listened in, hoping to gather important information about my future. The father struggled, and the boy persisted with his questions. A tear fell down from the father’s left eye. It glided across his cheek and splashed down on his dark blue polo.

“Why are you crying, Daddy?” the son asked, and all the dad could do was put his arm around his shoulder. We locked eyes then. There was life in those eyes but a different kind of life.

Silently, the father guided him away. As I watched them leave, more bystanders filled in the now empty space. I didn’t truly understand, but somehow I knew. They turned a final corner and like that they were gone.

But I’m just a statue.

I don’t like the spectacle I’ve become. A year ago I was the centerpiece of family photos, now I’m a burden. A castaway. A giant nuisance that still draws a crowd, but a much different group.

Nothing’s changed on my end. I’ve been here all along.

It’s always raining now, even when it’s not. The weight I feel on my shoulders isn’t from the standing water, but instead the uneasiness of being the focus of something larger. Something terrifying. Something that can bring grown men to tears in front of their children. It’s a heavy burden to carry, and one I might not have to live with much longer.

Tear me down. Forget about what you want; do it for me. I don’t like what I’ve become or how you view me. Don’t think about my role in this and put me out of my misery.

Take me away. Tuck me somewhere deep out of mind and out of sight. Melt me down if you like. Never speak of me again. We’ll always have the good times, despite what they mean right now.

Your eyes have said it all.

I’m no longer a statue.

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