Inside the Newsroom @ A2 Journal

Welcome to Inside the Newsroom @ A2 Journal, a blog written by the newspaper's staff at A2 Journal, a new, weekly, community newspaper covering Ann Arbor. This blog is a place for members of the newspaper's staff to write their thoughts, observations, opinions and other informative pieces they put together while covering the rich history, interesting people, institutions and traditions that make Ann Arbor such a unique community.

Monday, January 23, 2012

How should we remember Joe Paterno?

Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. (Flickr photo courtesy of acaben)
It's a concept I've been struggling with since Saturday night when the news was reported (falsely) that former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno had died:

How should I remember Joe Paterno?

He led the Nittany Lions to 409 wins during his tenure, good for the most of any coach of all time. He was also fired from his job in November for not doing enough to prevent alleged child molester Jerry Sandusky from abusing young boys.

Since his death, I've discovered and read all the statements and columns left by coaches and writers, including Brady Hoke's statement. ESPN had several pieces, including one from Ivan Maisel, saying the coaching icon should be remembered for his achievements and not just what transpired the last 12 weeks. Locally, a similar column appeared from The Detroit News, saying very similar things.

But then I read the comments, and it gets me thinking.
Like it or not, the story centers on the rape of 10 kids and cover up over a decade. Football and "legacy" are outright disrespectful to even discuss, and discussing it in comparison and even as greater than the issue at hand is downright depraved.
When young children are around, you protect them from harm. Where was the protection? Penn State what were you thinking? Joe where were you, these kids were molested in your home. Yea, the campus area they were molested in was his responsibility. 
Of course Sandusky is innocent until proven guilty, and he could be acquitted for everything. But the Penn State Board of Trustees saw enough reason to fire him for his role and not allow him to finish the season.

So, how should we remember him? As a man who was a coaching and statewide icon in Pennsylvania? Or as someone who was fired for not doing the right thing? Can we remember him as both?

The closest example I've been able to think about is Richard Nixon. Nixon did several positive things, such as opening the doors to China during his tenure. But, to most Americans, Nixon will always be known as the president who resigned because of the Watergate scandal.

It will take some time for history to decide Paterno's fate. It could take me even longer to figure out how I should remember him.

How will you remember Joe Paterno?

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