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Posts Tagged → Joe Paterno

People we’ve lost, then and now, still shape us

Days ago, my next door neighbor was riding bikes with his son, and he had an accident. The trauma to his head was so significant that he died yesterday, never waking up from his injury.

Doctor Jerry Luck was a hell of a nice man, and I’m very sorry he is gone. Planet Earth is a much poorer place without Jerry among us. Our condolences to his wife Kathi and their two children.

Tonight I attended a regular meeting at the Duncannon Sportsmen’s Association, where club president Carl Fox pours his endless love, energy, and devotion to recruiting new hunters, fishermen, and outdoor enthusiasts. Sitting next to me was an elderly Mr. Foultz, a name I dimly recalled.

Turns out, Mr. Foultz is from Pine Grove Mills, a small village near where I grew up. Many summer days I walked barefoot from the deep farm country across the semi-developed farm country closer to State College, to play with friends in Pine Grove Mills.

Sitting on his porch there, forty years ago, was a grumpy, quiet old man we knew as Indian Joe. He was reputed to be an actual Indian, he certainly looked dark skinned and “ethnic,” and in a location as rural and frontier-like as that area was back then, he was as good and as real and as exciting as a person could be. Indian Joe was a touchstone for the old frontier days that we could still feel and see and touch, like when someone’s dad would find an old 1790s or 1820s flintlock rifle stashed away in a barn, and people would come to see it and hold it.

Indian Joe was a central feature of many Penn State homecoming parades on College Avenue, often dressed in a nice suit and a Plains Indian feather bonnet, riding in a convertible Cadillac behind Coach Joe Paterno. Indian Joe would grumble at me when I was a kid pestering him on his porch for stories of the old frontier days.

When I asked Mr. Foultz tonight if he knew Indian Joe, and what his real last name was, I received a long and flattering description of Indian Joe.

No, he was not Shawnee, nor Delaware, nor Conestoga, nor Onandaga, nor any other local tribe. Joe was Menominee, from Wisconsin.

Turns out, Old Joe had served in the American Armed Forces, met a young woman in Baltimore, married, and moved back to her home town of Pine Grove Mills. His real last name was something like Gonfer, as it sounded to me.

Pine Grove Mills was also the location of the first girl I had a crush on, Billy Jo. We hunted together as kids, and even then she was beautiful to look at, and kind. She was a hell of a shot, too, and killed deer sooner and faster than I did.

So elderly Mr. Foultz and I went on a memory spree tonight, naming places and people from decades ago. The Artz’s Arco, where I bought my hunting licenses from age twelve through twenty, was where he worked Saturdays as a teenager. And so on. Mind you, dear reader, Pine Grove Mills had a total population of about 250 people back then, and probably a bit more today. Still surrounded by farms and State Forest, it is the epitome of Small Town Pennsylvania, something I regularly celebrate.

So, kind thoughts to old Indian Joe, long gone from his porch and from Joe Paterno PSU homecoming parades down the middle of our quaint town, and sad but good thoughts to Doctor Jerry, whose kind and gentle demeanor will be hugely missed today and for decades to come.

Takeaway? People shape us constantly, from our earliest days to our hoary old age of fifty. It’s good and proper that we should be shaped, and honed, sharper and better, by the people around us, as time marches on.

409+

Last week, under pressure to perform at an adult, professional level, the senior staff at the NCAA folded right before appearing in court.

The discovery phase of a lawsuit brought against the NCAA for its disproportionate over-correction of Penn State University was about to begin, and with a handful of damning NCAA emails already in hand, the meaty part of discovery would have exposed the heavy handed NCAA overlords for what they are: Incompetent, vacuous bullies.

The fictional Louis Freeh “report” aka Hit Piece and Flaming Bomb Meant to Humble Penn State has gradually yielded to the collective bits of disbelief and basic deductive logic surrounding the Joe Paterno Assassination aka The Oxbow Incident.

Knowing now what we already knew two years ago, the NCAA storm trooper and tactical nuke assault on one of the very few pristine colleges in the nation has blown up in the NCAA’s own face.

Yes, we got our 409 wins back, but we deserve so much more.

And to have undergone so much knee-jerk reaction injustice…..Penn State deserves compensation, to be made whole, to get back what we lost, if it’s remotely possible.

I want blood.

I want guts.

I want a shred of public justice for Joe Paterno and Penn State, and for the student athletes immorally saddled with faux guilt from the sick, distant actions of a man they’d never met, let alone heard of (Jerry Sandusky).

To begin with, the Joe Paterno statue immediately goes back to its original prominent place on campus.

Then, every member of the PSU board involved in the debacle issues a personal, hand written apology. And then each resigns. I’ve got a few names to go with that demand.

Then each NCAA staff member associated with the debacle issues a hand written apology, and then resigns.

That’s what real leaders do when they fail badly.

And for those folks who really want to demonstrate their earnest attitude, I’ve got some old Japanese swords you can fall on. I’m tempted to serve as your second….to ensure a clean ending, of course.

A clean ending to a tragedy, a failure to protect little boys, a failure to act like grown men and women and apply justice carefully, a failure to protect the grown boys on the team and the many professional educators and students unfairly tarnished by the NCAA’s hasty, shoot-first-ask-questions-never attitude.

And then there’s the scholarships, the bowl money PSU lost. The opportunities unfairly crushed. How do we get all that back?

And Mr Louis Freeh, you may be ex-FBI, but I’m ex-Penn State Nittany Lion. Don’t meet me in a dark alley.

409

Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno won 409 genuine college games.  No one can take that away from him, the players, the team staff, or the proud PSU alumni, like me.

Child molester Jerry Sandusky is a scumbag, but the football program had zero to do with his crimes.  But it was the football program the NCAA punished, disproportionately to any other football program in American history.  Using Sandusky’s association (not employment) with the PSU football program, and Louis Freeh’s horrendously unprofessional report (analyzed in detail on this site) to support its blitzkrieg assault on Penn State, the NCAA coerced PSU trustees and incompetent, spineless top PSU staff to sign the consent decree that unfairly punished the football program.

Enter the courts, where facts actually can matter.  And thus we have courts that are correctly beginning to cast doubts on the entire NCAA punishment of PSU football.  This week a court held that further inquiry is necessary to determine if the NCAA not only operated consistent with its own charter, but also consistent with the facts of the Sandusky case vis-a-vis PSU football.

Daylight is seeping in, and I do not believe that the NCAA will survive the exposure, or the application of basic logic and rules of fairness.

Joe Paterno, my hero, had 409 Wins to his credit.  Those wins remain, no matter what, but hopefully they will soon be reinstated after basic due process for ALL of the victims of Sandusky’s crimes.

Joe Paterno Dies of a Broken Heart

One of America’s greatest idols and sports leaders has died today. The immediate cause was cancer. We all know that the real cause was the unfair firing he experienced from the Penn State board of trustees.

Given how much Joe loved Penn State, the college students there, the State College community, and setting the high standards that most Americans quietly sought to emulate, Joe was broken hearted after receiving a scribbled note to make a call, and after making the call, being fired 40 seconds later, when he was hung up on.

Joe Paterno did not abuse the kids who Jerry Sandusky abused. He did not stand idly by while the horrors continued. Joe Paterno reported what he was told, within 24 hours, to his superiors, and was not responsible for what happened afterwards. He was one of the only people, maybe the only person who knew something, who actually acted on the information about Sandusky to someone in a position of power.  Since last November, Joe has been shouldering the entire incident, as though child and family services, The Second Mile, Curley and Shultz, the 1998 police investigation and unwillingness by the Centre County district attorney to press charges, and others are exonerated of what they knew and their failures to act over the years.  Blaming Joe is a dis-service.

Lots of people attacking Joe as though he was responsible demonstrates the failure of a large segment of American culture.

In the spirit of modern America, the faster a hero dies, the better we all feel about our own weaknesses and failings, as though our heroes weren’t really so superior after all.

Sure, Joe could have done more. Can’t we all say or do the same for something we have witnessed, like a car stalled by the side of the road that we pass by? A person struggling with heavy groceries, or bills? Someone engaged in nefarious behavior, but we look the other way because we “don’t want to get involved”?

Lots of arm chair sheriffs and would-be vigilantes have been spawned by the Sandusky scandal. Lots of “Why, I woulda socked him in the jaw, and then thrown him down, and then handcuffed him and led him to the police myself, if only I had been there…” Lots of that phony cyber hero crap, and that’s what it is, crap, has been written, not only out of frustration with Penn State’s failure to snag Sandusky early, but with Joe’s “moral failing” to do more.

Sure he could have done more. But so could the PSU board of trustees, long ago, when the first reports came out about Sandusky in 2002. By tearing down one of America’s great icons, the trustees enveloped themselves in a mantle of superiority…more crap.

Joe Paterno died of a broken heart because his one awww shucks destroyed an incredible 60-year career filled with nothing but atta-boys, with generous giving and building that set the highest standard for loyalty and commitment.

Joe deserved better than he got in the end, and he died from having his will to live broken. I will miss you, Joe, we all will miss you.

Rest in peace, hero.