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JOE PATERNO – A PERSPECTIVE

UM Football Playbook Cover vs. Penn State, Nov. 1976
Courtesy: Roger Wachnicki

OP-ED

I happen to find callous Tyler Huey’s story last Friday in the Nisqually Valley News titled:
“Joe Paterno got what he deserved”

Huey’s timing was perfect though, with the newspaper on the street two days before Paterno’s death.

While Huey’s points were consistent with what has been voiced in the sports media nationwide, I can’t help but think about the Joe Paterno with whom I became familiar in the early 70’s.

I was the Football Manager of the University of Miami (FL) Hurricanes as an undergraduate during the 1972-1975 seasons, Graduate Manager in the 1976-1977 seasons and Team Logistics Specialist during the 1978 season, in conjunction with my tenure at Eastern Airlines, the official charter airline of UM Football. I traveled twice on UM Football teams to “Happy Valley” for games during my 7 seasons. The amazing vision of an Autumn day in the Pennsylvania mountains with so many fans descending on this little town will always be fondly remembered. One of my best college friends was Mike Archer, who hailed from State College, PA. Archer is a former LSU Head Football Coach and currently NC State Defensive Coordinator. Former WSU Head Football Coach Jim Walden was a UM Assistant Coach and coordinator during the 1973-1976 seasons and was my mentor and very close friend to this day.

Huey’s acrimony was evident when he said “Joe Paterno got what he deserved” and that’s his opinion, yet his attitude might have been tempered if he were on a college football team or covered Penn State.

Michael Ventre of NBC Sports called it absolutely correct:
“Men who have achieved greatness and Paterno certainly is one of them are often remembered fondly, even if they left a stench. Thats just the way success usually goes in America the achievements stand out, the warts vanish.

With Paterno, it wont be that way. There will be images of him on the sidelines, with white shirt and black tie, barking orders. There will be clips of him accepting hugs from his players after his two national titles. There will be memories of a raucous rally the night he was fired, with irate students pledging undying support.”

Genaro C. Armas reported this for The Associated Press:
You can die of heartbreak. Im sure Joe had some heartbreak, too, said 82-year-old Bobby Bowden, the former Florida State [FSU] coach who retired two years ago after 34 seasons in Tallahassee.

Ed. Note: I agree with Bowden! I first encountered Bowden when Miami played at West Virginia in the mid 1970’s, where Bowden was the head football coach and I would be on fields with him in subsequent years for several games against FSU.

Yet, I will remember my experiences at Penn State on a visiting team – being on the field with JoPa 35+ years ago, the Fall leaves in their golden hues surrounding the stadium, the aromas from the grills at the tail-gate parties, exchanging team mementos with Penn State’s Managers, coming out of that tunnel to the visitor’s sideline amidst a sea of Nittany Lions and the 90 mile drive on a winding mountain road back to Harrisburg Airport to board that gleaming Boeing 727-200 team-plane back to a warm 80 degree Miami campus, all before innocence was lost.

This is not to deny what Paterno should & could have done, however to use a football metaphor, Huey’s “piling-on” in the timing and sharpness of his story as Paterno lay critically ill “was not handled well”!

Huey’s “Monday morning quarter-backing” was nothing more than just hype from the “side-lines”, from one who has not walked in those moccasins!

UPDATE:
Greg Couch wrote this excellent story for Fox Sports.
Read more

Posted by Steve on January 23, 2012 at 12:14 am | Permalink

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One comment

  1. Beautifully expressed, Steve. Thank you for helping create a different kind of memory.

    Comment by Kathleen on January 23, 2012 at 10:20 am

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