There is a statue of Joe Paterno outside the football stadium at Penn State. His
name is engraved on the school's library. The student body used to bow to him
as he walked through campus. Sportscasters and journalists everywhere always
put the word "legendary" before his name when talking or writing about him.
Almost as soon as Joe Paterno was fired at Penn State, those in the media were
pontificating whether or not the salacious scandal would tarnish the legend of
the all-time winningest coach in NCAA. In the scheme of things and the reality that
a boy was sexually abused in his football facility and many others fell
pray to a man whom he coached with for nearly 30 years, I found it repulsive that this
subject was even being broached. It's unfortunate that the media spends so much
time building up and breaking down Paterno's "legacy".
Perhaps, with the exposure of Paterno's character flaws, which included trying
to cover-up for a sexual predator, people, specifically, those in the media and hero
worshippers everywhere can see coaches for what they are: just coaches. They
don't try to cure cancer, fix the economy, work with mentally disabled children,
or put their lives on the line every day like all our troops do over in Afghanistan
and Iraq. They coach sports, which contrary to popular belief, are not life and death.
Yet, they are paid millions of dollars and have statues of themselves planted on
campus, and are deified because they can coach a game. Heck, why should
anyone in the student body try to get a teaching certificate and make $40,000
a year or go to medical school and pay three times that to get a degree. You can
be a coach, make millions and be called a legend for winning a couple of national
Joe Paterno might be the last coach the good folks at the major sports networks
and media outlets deify and tag with "legendary" status, but I doubt it. When Duke's
Mike Krzyzewski breaks Bobby Knight's record for all-time wins, Dick Vitale,
ESPN's basketball cheerleader who celebrates every alley-oop dunk as if he just
scratched the number off a lottery ticket that put $100 million dollars in his pocket,
will wax poetic how Coach K is a legend who won the "right" way, graduated
players, and was a brilliant educator, molding young kids into great people.
(Isn't that what they said about Paterno?) Years ago, he was saying the same
things about Knight and Rick Pitino? How'd those guys turn out as "legends".
I've always found it laughable how those in the media tagged Paterno and others
as great "educators", as if they were professors in medical school giving students
the knowledge on how to jumpstart the heart of a person who has flatlined or
remove a blood cot that saves a persons life. Paterno, the great educator, was
more focused on saving his job, his reputation, and "legacy" that he couldn't
see that a child needed to be saved.
It's insulting to parents everywhere when they hear the experts say the likes of
Paterno, Knight, Coach K, and others "mold kids into great people". Parents spend
18 years nurturing, protecting, educating, and advising their kids who have been
blessed with great athletic skills, and then they go off to college for four years and
these "legendary" coaches are credited with "molding" them into great men. What
a joke. Did Jim Harbaugh mold Andrew Luck into a well-rounded, well-mannered
person? Did Steve Spurrier make Danny Weurffel the man that he is today?
Did Bobby Bowden turn Warrick Dunn into a caring, generous, selfless man? Not
a chance. These kidswere "molded" by their parents long before they ever
stepped foot on campus.
With Paterno gone, I'm sure there will be polls on sports websites that ask, "Who
will be the next coaching legend?" The answer is simple. Nobody. Coaches shouldn't
be viewed as legends just because they win GAMES. It's not life or death. They are
just games and they are just coaches.