As college football over the last decades morphed from normal sized boys playing with leather helmets before small crowds into the behemoth of billion dollar – prime time TV funded gladitorial spectacles, it was inevitable that the sad end for Joe Paterno would become a giant story that millions had strong opinion.
I have long been critical of Paterno for the simple reason that he needed to retire. As a young lawyer in a big firm I was very familiar with the senior partner whose ego, arrogance and greed caused him to stay too long.
Sports is very cruel to those who hang on too long. I remember Willie Mays trying to do the basket catch for the Mets in his 40’s , and the magnificient Ali bring pummeled by Larry Holmes at the sad end of his career. Even the mighty Jordan probably came back one too many times. It must be difficult to release the reins of power and fame.
So for me the fact that Joe didn’t really know what was going on while children were being molested by his old friend and coach over a number of years was more predictable than surprising. Joe just hung on too long. Had he abdicated the Penn State throne maybe it all could have been avoided. But he didn’t.
No one can deny his record-setting football victories, his fund-raising successes or his positive influence on the lives of his players. But it is ironic, even tragic that in his last days Mr. Paterno came to know that the legacy of which he was so proud would be forever stained by the simple fact that he just couldn’t walk away. I feel kind of sad for him.
Hubris is a cruel master.