JoePa: a tiny man.
Several factors were important to me as I chose my college. It had to have no greek life, and be close to home in case my mother’s kidneys failed again. Somehow, this also meant my school didn’t have an amazing sports reputation either, go figure. A football team, ha!
When I dated, What’s his face, I learned what college football was alllll about. He grew up in State College, went to Penn State and coughed up blue and white. I’m pretty sure he shouted, “WE ARE PENN STATE!” in his wet dreams. Not long after our relationship began he took me to my first college football game. Go Nittany Lions! I had no idea what I was about to experience.
I’m a sports person. I love them and am naturally athletically inclined. The only comparison in my brain at the first game was akin to an ancient ritual. State College turns into something like Pennsylvania’s 3rd largest city when football games are played. Everyone screams and yells, and frankly, loses their minds for the day. And yes, it’s an entire day. I saw how much What’s his face and everyone else for that matter, loved Penn State. Hell, take that is raise it to the power of infinite and you’ll understand how much those crazy cats (pun intended) loved JoePa.
When I heard about the scandal my body does what it usually does when grief farts in my face. My clothes get too tight, I start to sweat, and my stomach hurts. It was hard for me to believe that this man, whose octogenarian legs supported an entire culture, whose values imprinted barcodes on every enrollee, would hear what he heard and do what he did. He actions were unlike Joe and yet very much like Joe: they were small.
This morning I logged onto the computer shortly after I awoke to find a little headline stating US Football Coach Joe Paterno dies. That’s it, and it’s enough. If the Jerry “I’m going straight to every hell there is” Sandusky allegations came to light a year later, or not at all, I’m sure the headlines would be different; they’re not. They are where he is in my heart; in a small corner, in a small room soon to be forgotten.
My relationship with JoePa and Penn State is nothing compared to others. I’m in enrolled in a Headstart Program in the ‘hood while they are 12 time doctoral candidates at Oxford. I’m okay with that. I don’t worship at the throne of Joe Paterno. I’m glad he was able to influence the lives he did. College football is different because of him. Still, he should of done better and that’s how I’ll remember him. A tiny man with a big heart who made a mistake. An enormous unforgivable, legacy questioning mistake.