The end of Paterno

I’ve been wrecked the last week. Writing a book comes from the soul. It consumes you — mentally, emotionally, spiritually, all of it. I have thought about Joe Paterno, his strengths, his flaws, his triumphs, his failures, his core, pretty much nonstop for months now. I have talked to hundreds of people about him in all walks of life. I have read 25 or 30 books about him, countless articles. I’m not saying I know Joe Paterno. I’m saying I know a whole lot about him.

And what I know is complicated. But, beyond complications — and I really believe this with all my heart — there’s this, and this is exclusively my opinion: Joe Paterno has lived a profoundly decent life.

Nobody has really wanted to say this lately, and I grasp that. The last week has obviously shed a new light on him and his program — a horrible new light — and if you have any questions about how I feel about all that, please scroll back up to my two points at the top.

But I have seen some things in the last few days that have felt rotten, utterly wrong — a piling on that goes even beyond excessive, a dancing on the grave that makes me ill. Joe Paterno has lived a whole life. He has improved the lives of countless people. I know — I’ve talked to hundreds of them. Almost every day I walk by the library that he and his wife, Sue, built. I walk by the religious center that tries to bring people together, and his name is on the list of major donors. I hear the stories, the countless stories, of the kindnesses that came naturally to him, of the way he stuck with people in their worst moments, of the belief he had that everybody could do a little bit better — as a football player, as a student, as a human being. I’m not going to tell you these stories now, because you can’t hear them. Nobody can hear them in the howling.

But I will say that I am sickened, absolutely sickened, that some of those people whose lives were fundamentally inspired and galvanized by Joe Paterno have not stepped forward to stand up for him this week, have stood back and allowed him to be painted as an inhuman monster who was only interested in his legacy, even at the cost of the most heinous crimes against children imaginable.