Goodbye, Joe.

I have been struggling mightily as to what I want to say about Joe Paterno. He passed away due to complications from lung cancer one week ago (January 22, 2012).

Most people, I feel, are still chewing on the former coach’s role in the Jerry Sandusky horror story, the fact that Paterno didn’t go to the police when a confession of witnessing an act of child abuse was brought to his attention. I am still chewing on it myself. I am chewing on the fact that Mike McQueary, the aforementioned direct witness, did not call the police himself, passing the information to Paterno instead. I am chewing on the fact that had Paterno reported what McQueary told him to the (State College) police, Paterno would have been giving the police hearsay information. I am chewing on the fact that Paterno did report McQueary’s confession to Gary Schultz, the head of University Police, which has jurisdiction over all crimes committed on campus. I am chewing on the fact that when Schultz failed in his duty to investigate, Joe never followed up.

There are so many foggy, intertwined emotions swirling in my gut regarding Joe Paterno’s connection to his undoing as a coach. I’m not sure how long it will take for me to find a place to land, or if I ever will. But apart from these unresolved feelings, I do know that Paterno was a man who so deeply loved Penn State, and more importantly, the people who passed through it. He cared about people. He valued academics in a culture that quite often puts athletics first, and on a pedestal. He and Sue, his wife, donated over $4 million to the university, which included funding for the library on campus as well as for the erection of a non-denominational spiritual center. He was part of one of the first major college programs in the US to embrace black players, a program that fought for all of its players to be on the field in segregation-era games. He left this program with the number one academic ranking among the top 25 teams in the country in 2011, as graded by the New America Foundation (which also showed no achievement gap between black and white Penn State players – a rare feat in Division I-A football).

And he wanted all of that to be his legacy. Joe was not a hero, but Joe wasn’t a villain either. He was a human.

Goodbye, Joe.

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The Good, The Bad, The Fugly – November 16 Edition

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I’ve been silent for long enough. As a Penn State alumna, surrounded by Penn State friends all over New York City and digitally connected to many others, I’ve struggled to know what to say publicly about everything surrounding the Jerry Sandusky affair. From the bottom of my being, I have felt so sickened by everything I’ve read and come to understand about the case – from the alleged sexual abuse of minors by Jerry Sandusky to the moral failings of many of Penn State’s faculty, most notably Joe Paterno. I, along with all of my Nittany Lion closest, have been wildly ashamed, angry, confused, distraught, heartbroken.. there aren’t enough potent words. After the extremist media flurry (sound reporting was very nearly nonexistent), in which the victims and the alleged perpetrator were pushed out of the spotlight (when I started reading Facebook posts about Joe Paterno, not Jerry Sandusky, molesting young boys, I nearly lost it), I finally feel like I have regained some footing. I have a mite of perspective. This horrible time is not over, but there are some bits of light in all the darkness. If I could name one, it would be the outpouring of support by the Penn State community for RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization. This is the kind of thing that Penn State needs to focus on. For the thousands upon thousands of us who were not involved in any way with what happened, we can do something to help educate and, more importantly, help prevent sexual assault.

THE GOOD
– In a unanimous vote, Detroit Tigers Pitcher Justin Verlander was declared the AL Cy Young Award winner on Tuesday and is in consideration for the AL MVP (which will be announced next Monday). Verlander, with an MLB-leading record of 24-5 this season, struck out 250 batters and carried an ERA of just 2.40. Verlander also tossed his second career no-hitter and was an integral part of the Tigers winning the AL Central.
THE BAD
-On Tuesday, the Associated Press was granted access to an email sent last week to an unidentified source by Penn State Wide Receivers Coach Mike McQueary (who the grand jury report identifies as the then-graduate assistant who walked in on Sandusky allegedly sodomizing a young boy in a locker room shower). In contradiction with the grand jury report, McQueary writes in the email that he made sure what was happening in the shower was stopped and also that he spoke with police about what he witnessed. Speaking to the police was never part of the original statement, which was part of what fed the public fury. Per McQueary’s testimony, he spoke with his father about what happened, then spoke with Paterno, and finally spoke with AD Tim Curley and senior VP Gary Schultz – but never went to the police. This awful story continues to get murkier.
THE FUGLY
-It’s very possible there isn’t going to be an NBA season this year. On Monday, NBA players rejected the league’s latest offer, which boils down most importantly to a 50-50 split of basketball-related income. NBA players also began disbanding the union and are reportedly preparing to file an antitrust suit against the NBA. Does it seem like anything but greedy at this point? Does anyone even care if there isn’t a season? This is a HOT mess.

Finding a Way.

Sweet God. The Penn State-Illinois game was making me nauseous in a way only sports can. I clenched consciously and unconsciously as neither offense could do ANYTHING (the first points on the board came in the third quarter on an Illinois TD), and both defenses forced turnovers and three-and-outs like crazy. It was frustrating and painful, and I fully felt that Penn State was going to face its first loss since Alabama, and first conference loss altogether. Somehow, they didn’t, giving Joe Paterno his 409th win (now the Division I all-time leader) with an ugly final score of 10-7.

Everything came down to the final minutes of the game. Nittany Lion WR Derek Moye trotted onto the field (likely because despite broken foot, he was tired of seeing the offense look pathetic) and QB Matt McGloin got the ball to him multiple times, moving the chains (for what seemed like the first time all day) and marching the PSU offense down the field to allow for a 3-yard Silas Redd TD run with 1:08 left in regulation. The score was 10-7 Penn State. The Illini offense woke up for its final drive as well, moving all the way from the Illinois 17 yard line to the Penn State 25 to attempt a 42 yard tying field goal as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Illinois K Derek Dimke’s kick was high enough and long enough – and then thwacked the right upright as the clock hit 0:00.

Nope.

Penn State again, eeks out a win and again, the defense carries the team. AGAIN, the quarterbacks looked very bad (Rob Bolden has no vision and his internal time clock is warped. I think he’s done; Matt McGloin can occasionally complete a pass but is not much better – I was shouting at him/my TV for most of the game). Each and every member of the offense (minus Silas Redd, who had ANOTHER +100 yard rushing game) should personally thank the defensive squad for keeping their asses in the game and giving them chance after chance to score. NO style points awarded, but somehow Penn State sits alone at the top of the Big Ten Leaders Division and remains the only unbeaten-in-conference-play Big Ten team.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES:
-Speaking of Big Ten teams, #11 Michigan State, fresh off their big-time win against Wisconsin last week, falls hard to #14 Nebraska, 24-3.
-#15 Wisconsin, looking to regain its footing after losing to Michigan State on an end-of-game Hail Mary last week (see above), lost for the second straight week on a late TD, but this time to Ohio State, 33-29.
-#9 Oklahoma played with a chip on its collective shoulder after falling from the top spot in the NCAA last week after losing to Texas Tech. They rolled over #8 Kansas State, 58-17.
-Texas Tech must have been all out of juice after that primetime win over Oklahoma last week. They couldn’t do much of anything against Iowa State, losing 41-7.
-Unranked Georgia Tech upset visiting #5 Clemson (who had previously been upsetting teams all over the place and climbing the rankings) 31-17.
-Unranked Missouri took #16 Texas A&M to OT and beat them, 38-31.