General Interest

What Really Killed Joe Paterno

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For 46 seasons Joe Paterno was THE coach at Penn State, racking up a Division I Football coaching record of 409 wins. Then, in mid-season, the child sex-abuse scandal involving Paterno’s former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky broke into the public’s eye. Sandusky was accused of molesting at least 10 boys over a 15-year time span. And during that period, then graduate assistant Mike McQueary reported to Paterno that he had seen Sandusky attack a child. Paterno, in turn, reported the event to his superior. And that was that. Supposedly.

Paterno continued winning not only football games, but the hearts and souls of the entire Penn State community. Mr. Ethics. Mr. Do-It-The-Right-Way. And, he thought he had done just that. So when the Sandusky scandal broke, Paterno seemed almost perplexed by the actions of the Penn State Trustees who decided to hand him his walking papers.

Joe got fired. Unceremoniously, without regard to past achievements, Paterno got axed.

Being fired or let go from your job is one of the really big, life-altering, heart-stressing events one can experience. It’s in the same group of “stressors” that includes experiencing the death of your child. Those who have been there know what I speak of. Did he seethe with brimming, raw anger underneath his calm exterior? He must have. He was human – even though in so many ways he seemed bigger than life. Shortly after his firing, he said, “Right now, I’m not the coach. And I’ve got to get used to that.” But how many people can really, really, really get “used to” the insult, the humiliation of being a scape-goat.

Joe was diagnosed quickly thereafter with lung cancer and in about 2-month’s time, he died. Doctors say it was the result of complications of the cancer. But those in his world know the truth. Joe was axed-to-death.

Some will say that the boys who suffered abuse by Sandusky were traumatized also. Of course they were. Absolutely. And that’s what’s difficult about this story. �There are no winners. None.

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