Joe Paterno's Legacy Should Reflect Both His Victories & Mistakes

joe paterno statue penn stateFalse reports of Joe Paterno's death were swirling last night, but this morning, the former Penn State football coach's family confirmed his passing from complications related to lung cancer. In the statement, they say Paterno "died as he lived ... fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been."

Although we could see it coming -- especially given all the stress 85-year-old Paterno had been under in the past few months -- this is certainly a serious blow to Penn State fans and fans of college football everywhere. Of course, many people respected Paterno for his life's work and want to honor and pay tribute to his achievements. Still, the coach's death shouldn't mean the man gets to become a saint overnight.

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You know what I'm talking about, because it happens all the time! Celebrity or public figure lives a charmed life, is beloved by many, but makes some questionable judgment calls (aka screws up royally) ... But when they die, sometimes, it's like reality gets distorted in a flash. Suddenly, that poor judgment or serious misstep is brushed under the rug, and we end up putting the deceased idol on a pedestal. Even if we were distraught by the guy's actions only a couple of months ago, his death triggers slews of sappy "RIP JoePa" status updates on Facebook. It's all sorts of wrong, because passing away shouldn't get anyone "off the hook" from the life they lead or the mistakes they made.

How Joe Paterno handled the Jerry Sandusky scandal should alter his legacy as a famous, beloved, winning football coach known for his integrity. Not that he should be remembered as villain or only for his failure to prevent Sandusky from allegedly molesting young boys, but let's just be honest, real, and fair with his legacy. Let's remember JoePa as a three-dimensional human being who had grand accomplishments ... as well as a huge unforgettable, unforgivable slip-up. It's fine if he goes down as "the greatest football coach in the history of the game" ... as long as we don't forget that he was also a flawed man.

How do you think Joe Paterno should be remembered? Do you agree that it's wrong to put a flawed public figure on a pedestal as soon as they pass away?

 

Image via Tom Nguyen/Flickr

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