After reading the recent MillersTime post of Sally Jenkins’ articles on Joe Paterno, friend and Penn State grad David Stang wrote a letter to Sally.
No reply from Sally, but if you have one or thoughts about what Dave wrote, please feel free to add your thoughts in the Comments’ section.
January 23, 2012
Your interview and obit of Joe Paterno were powerful acts of both reporting and compassion.
I graduated from Penn State in 1961 when Joe Paterno was freshman coach, and Rip Engles was head coach of the football team. I worked my way through school waiting on tables at the Nittany Lion Inn and occasionally waited the football training table. When the giant athletes my own age would see me coming through the swinging door with a large tray on my shoulder piled high with pint sized Dixie cups of ice cream, those hungry jocks would often come at me and snatch four or five cups a piece from the tray.
I’d go back to the kitchen and tell the chef I needed another tray full. He’d ask why.
“They grab the Dixie cups off my tray, four or five at a time, before I can even set the tray down. There’s nothing I can do to stop them.”
“Well, go back in there and tell them that they each get only one dessert.”
“If I told then the, they’d knock me on my butt. You go tell them.”
“Screw it. Give those apes some more ice cream. Take as much as you think they’ll eat. No sense our becoming homicide victims over a few gallons of ice cream.”
A few years later, when I returned to campus for homecoming weekend, I made a point to visit with the chef. I asked him if the football team was still savaging ice cream and acting like pigs. The chef said, “No. Since Joe Paterno became head coach, he’s turned those jocks into gentlemen. No names on the jerseys. No big mouth trash talk. No cocky, wise ass, trouble-making nonsense. Joe Pa’s taught them manners, dignity, responsibility, and gracious, self-sacrifice, team work, and honor. Those jocks are still hungry and often ask for second helpings — but they do so politiely and not like animals.”
Not only was the chef aware of coach Paterno’s influence and example. So too were hundreds of thousands of Penn Staters over the years and millions more who learned from the media about Jo Pa’s life philosophy.
What bothers me in all this uproar – and undoubtedly bothered the thousands of rioting Penn Staters a fw weeks ago – is that they knew that Joe Pa was indisuptedly a male Mother Teresa whose personal example, compassion , and moral authority rank him with the great warrior saints.
How many of the 3000 or more football players at Penn State that Paterno coached did he transform from potential bullies, potential thugs, potential alcoholics or junkies into self-disciplined gentleman?
And when Joe Paterno stands at the Pearly Gates, is it really like that his Maker is going to say,
“Coach, those hundreds of individual lost athlete lives you transformed into lifelong good men and the hundreds of thousands of Penn States and multitudes of others who character was appreciably shaped by you don’t amount to diddly squat. Instead of merely informing your boss, you should have called the cops and acted like a self-appointed prosecutor until Sandusky was hung by is neck. Accordingly, you are not welcome here. We’re sending you South.”
Not a chance.