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Story Archives: Paterno dropped the ball
|Paterno dropped the ball|
The nation owes a big thank you to Joe Paterno.
I didn't say look over a monumental lack of judgment, I said thank you.
Because of Joe Paterno, the next time (yes, I hate to say it but there will be a next time) when a head coach hears even a little rumbling about improper behavior between someone on his staff and a minor, he will certainly not let it go away so easily.
My guess is that the first sign of something so awful going on in an athletic program now will come under great scrutiny and be followed up until they know for sure it was just a rumor or they will proceed to alert the proper authorities and make sure it is followed all the way through.
It's a shame Paterno is the one giving the lesson instead of learning from someone else's mistake.
And, yes, you can say a bigger thank you would have been if Paterno would have taken care of business when he learned about it. That certainly would have made a horrible situation maybe a wee bit better. Unfortunately, I doubt that have gotten the same amount of press.
Joe-Pa caught and surpassed Eddie Robinson for the all-time wins in FBS this season.
Then he got caught in a big mess.
There are good people and players around the Penn State football program, university, and athletic department who are unfairly going to be lumped into this mess. But I have a hard time believing there wasn't a lot of whispering going on around the program.
We're not talking tattoos, selling merchandise or receiving benefits. These are pedophilia and perjury indictments, and there's nothing that can be said that can make this look better if it all plays out the way it looks. And Paterno should have been further away than the press box for blowing the whistle.
I would rather remember the Paterno I grew to admire in the 1978 book "Something for Joey" about former Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti and his little brother, Joey.
The book, which became a television movie, told the story of Joey Cappelletti fighting leukemia during Cappelletti's senior season.
In a game against West Virginia, John asked Joey what he wanted for his birthday. Joey answered, "Four touchdowns."
Cappelletti scored three touchdowns as Penn State was blowing West Virginia out and Paterno pulled him from the game.
Defensive co-captain Eddie O'Neill spotted a disconsolate Cappelletti on the sidelines and found out about the promise.
He walked up to Paterno and explained the circumstances. Paterno, fighting against his never running up the score creed, called, "Cappy, go on back in."
With Joey holding three fingers against his chest, John led the Nittany Lions to the 2-yard line where he delivered on his promise.
Paterno then sent a package to the Cappelletti home for Joey's birthday.
It was a scale-model Penn State football jersey, navy blue, with the white numerals 22 on the back below CAPPELETTI.
Cappelletti's 1973 Heisman acceptance speech, where he dedicated his award to Joey, is one of the most memorable in the history of college sports.
Paterno was a big part of that ceremony, as well.
I'll remember that Joe Paterno. But I certainly will not forget the other one.
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