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Joe Paterno – Can One Serious Mistake Ruin a Man’s Legacy?

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When I read about the passing of Joe Paterno, I couldn’t help but stop to read some of the comments that followed most of the articles on the major news sites.  Facebook was also a source of many mixed feelings about recent incidents preceding his death.

I’m not a sports writer.  Most of you have more knowledge of sports and coaching in your little toe than I have in my entire head.  With that in mind, I cannot help but wonder what sports has to do with any of it?   If you separate Joe Paterno from his career and focus on the incident itsself, it becomes clear to me that we’re dealing with a man who made a serious mistake. (It’s an understatement but I can’t find words to describe it.)  Pretend this story was about a convenience store clerk who failed to report sexual abuse of a child to the police.  What  does his contribution to college athletics have to do with the fact that he was aware of the suspicoius actions of Sandusky and didn’t report it to the authorities?   Yes, he did report to his superiors and there’s no doubt that they dropped the ball.  But why would anyone stop at telling their boss?  There is no justification for not reporting to the police.

Joe Paterno did great things for his college and his community and he is considered by most to be one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game.   Can a single mistake ruin the legacy of an otherwise “great man?” Yes.  I think it can.  And in this case, I think it does.  It’s not like he looked the other way while someone stole a pack of gum.  Innocent children were harmed and more should have been done… more COULD have been done to protect them.

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