Joe Paterno Statue: Penn State Was Smart to Remove Memories from Their Campus

Bryan Kalbrosky@@BryanKalbroskyCorrespondent IJuly 23, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA - JULY 21:  The statue of former Penn State University football coach Joe Paterno stands outside Beaver Stadium July 21, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania. Penn State's president Rodney Erickson is expected to make a decision on whether or not to remove the statue in the wake of the child sex scandal of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. It's believed that Paterno had detailed knowledge of Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing children before and after Sandusky retired from coaching at Penn State.  (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Officials from Penn State tore down the famous statue of Joe Paterno hours before the NCAA cracked down on football penalties for the school.

The statue was built in 2001 after former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno set the Division I coaching record with 324 total victories. A statue, as is often the case with Roman Emperors, is erected in commemorative honor of an individual who has achieved greatness within the designated institution of its display.  At one point in time, Joe Paterno did exactly that with Penn State University.

Occasionally affiliated with religious symbolism and purity (e.g. “Christ The Redeemer” in Brazil) or political significance and greatness (“Mount Rushmore” in South Dakota), these statues exist to display honor and admiration to what once was, inspiring those around to appreciate the beauty of not only the artist, but also the subject in question. The statue is expected to stand for something bigger, acting largely as a metaphor for the location where it exists.

The David (1501 – 1504) statue, for instance, is known as a canon of its form in the Renaissance Period in Italy. Esteemed for the physical impeccabilities and crafting brilliance of artist Michelangelo, Italian tourists and citizens pay patronage and visit the work of art to this day, creating a constant hustle and buzz around the city that it rests in.

When creating the statue, however, David was also supposed to act as a symbol for the nation-state of Italy. Made as a representation of the biblical underdog King, depicted ready for slingshot combat with the weightier and heavy favorite Goliath, he is shown before battle. David is said to have won the match due to his extreme cleverness and not his size.

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Italy was a terrifically young nation-state at the time of the inception of David, and the city of Florence is said to have identified with the statue because it was used to acting as the wartime victor over more powerful local neighbors. When city goers of Florence saw the statue in the Palazzo del Signoria, they viewed the piece with extreme exhortation. Most importantly, they saw themselves when they saw the statue.

The fact of the matter is that if there exists a statue on a college campus, it will be seen.

I attend the University of Oregon, of which every prospective student tour group walks by the Pioneer Father statue. Without missing a beat, every forty-or-fifty-something parent gawks at the fact that this bronze man was featured in National Lampoon’s Animal House film.

On the campus of Penn State University, the inevitability of the Former Joe Paterno Statue “getting noticed” is to be considered a statistical lock.

More so, a statue of that kind of prominence is to be considered with great reverence and regard. This is the exact reason why a piece of this kind would be commissioned in the first place at this kind of established university. Clearly, at some point, JoePa was doing something right.

It’s a shame for everyone involved, without fail, but let us speak for the victims of the unforeseen and unforgivable circumstances when we admit that this time of celebration is now a figment of the past.

Moments that feature Joe Paterno are no longer memories to be shared or renowned in any public discourse whatsoever.

Instead, the shame and horror of the events that transpired at Penn State University are to be buried with the hatchet that got the institution here in the first place. If the school is unwilling to accept the “Death Penalty” on Monday because they fear that it is unfair to current and future generations of student-athletes and fans, then grant them the courtesy of a tabula rasa: a clean slate on the black mark that the institution is currently facing.

As we would expect, the last thing that a school like this one needs is a constant reminder of the black mark that once infected the waters at the school, and the only thing more awful than that would be the statue getting removed by accord outside of their own hands (i.e. trespassers who may have bypassed the security on place guarding the statue) and potentially causing a riotous scene not worth the risk of another commotion-driven gathering on their campus.

There is a riff in public opinion on whether or not the campus should have removed the statue of Joe Paterno and both sides of the spectrum had extremities laced within their prose.

One of the more prominent problems with “King Football,” as the process of placing the competitive sport ahead of the morals and ethics of the context of the outer world in which it exists, is that it considers a victory in football to be a great “contribution to the school,” and that becomes more important than any of the other things that may block the victories.

Perhaps this was the exact reason why Paterno never called the police on his colleague; he never wanted to know what would happen to the winning nature of his football program if the public discovered what happened.

Any contribution to the school that former Penn State coach Joe Paterno once had is undeniable, but now his contributions have been far outweighed by notes that absolutely transcend the game itself.

Regardless of what your opinions on how Joe Paterno handled all situations with his former colleague, Jerry Sandusky, may actually be are irrelevant. Indeed, a need for the campus to be a necessary host of this kind of statue is now irrelevant as well. A more logical solution would be to rid the campus of the statue altogether.

“I now believe that, contrary to its original intention, Coach Paterno's statue has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing in our University and beyond,” said Penn State President Rodney Erickson. “For that reason, I have decided that it is in the best interest of our university and public safety to remove the statue and store it in a secure location. I believe that, were it to remain, the statue will be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse.”

Paterno’s statue was inscribed with the words Educator, Coach, Humanitarian and was a prominent feature of Penn State football. Reading these words after knowing the full story would make even the most disinterested individual exuberantly uncomfortable.

My father was coming home from a road trip the other day and gave me a call to pass the time on the road. He asked how I felt about the removal of the statue from Penn State’s campus.

I told him that it was frankly not my decision due to the fact that I would never see it as I don’t go to their school, and it wasn’t up to me because I wasn’t the one being affected by this.

Upon more reflection, however, I realized what it would be like to attend a school that supported a statue of Joe Paterno. As much as winning sports of any kind is a rewarding experience for any institution, there are things much bigger than these games. Coming from a sports fanatic who is obsessed with the world of sports, I can also recognize that there are bigger things to think about. Staples Center hosts a Magic Johnson statue and a Wayne Gretzky statue because of the good that they did for the city and the sport. What the implications of keeping Paterno’s statue there would be are not things that I would like to worry about as a student.

Walking by and seeing the word “Humanitarian” followed by his name would be a disheartening journey.

This is not an issue about Joe Paterno the man. This is not my place for insertion of my opinion on how he handled the events at his school. Instead, this is about Joe Paterno, the statue. Whatever the outcome of the NCAA penalty sanctions may be, it should be seen as a good thing that the statue was removed . . . for the sake of the victims and for the sake of the university. 


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