Lawrence Taylor is a registered sex offender who pled guilty to sexual misconduct with a 16-year-old girl. He twice left the scenes of accidents he caused, has been arrested three times for selling drugs and once for IRS tax evasion.
Ty Cobb was a known racist who was convicted for assault on a black construction worker. According to a 1907 New York Times article he also slashed a black hotel manager with a knife, went into the stands to fight a heckler and once choked a groundskeeper’s wife during a spring training argument.
Charles Barkley spit on a female fan, was arrested for throwing a 20-year-old through a restaurant window, convicted of drunk driving, sued by the Wynn Casino for an unpaid $400,000 gambling debt and said that “20 percent of NBA fans need to be shot.”
And Mike Tyson spent 3 years in prison for raping a Miss America contestant.
Joe Paterno? Never arrested, much less charged. The biggest crime of his life? Inaction.
But while Taylor and Cobb have their legacies locked securely in their respective Halls of Fame and Barkley and Tyson are regarded as “colorful characters” and sought-after speakers in Las Vegas, on TV and in movies, Paterno’s reputation is getting the death penalty.
From living legend … to deceased demon.
I’m not defending Joe Paterno’s egregious omission. He could’ve helped stop assistant coach Jerry Sandusky from sexually molesting 10 boys. He lied about what he knew, and what he didn’t do. He’s an accessory to heinous crimes. And he knows it.
In the wake of the scandal last November Paterno himself said “I wish I would’ve done more.”
His job is gone. His life is gone. Penn State removed his 7-foot, 900-pound statue over the weekend. And this morning the NCAA vacated all of his wins from ’98-’11, in an attempt to remove Paterno as college football’s winningest coach. Here’s betting the officials involved will somehow stop short of leveling the Paterno Library that his personal donation of $4 million help build. If you’re so disgusted, why not raze the bitch and give the family their money back?
Hall of Fames and statues are built for great players and icons, not necessarily great humans. While Paterno’s bronze likeness should be headed for the College Football Hall of Fame to rest alongside his ’07 induction, 46 years at Penn State, 24 bowl wins, 5 Coach of the Year awards and two National Championships, the NCAA wants you to ignore the 111 wins after ’98. Ridiculous, because while it turns out that Paterno was certainly no saint, he also was never a cheater. None of what he did gave Penn State any sort of competitive advantage on the field.
Like Taylor and Cobb and Barkley and Tyson, Paterno was one of the best ever between the lines. Nothing he did or didn’t do will change that, or the fact that his teams won a record 409 games. He’s one of the greatest coaches in college football history.
In the face of this tsunami of condemnation presently drowning Joe Paterno’s grave, here’s hoping the rest of us aren’t judged merely on the worst things we’ve done.
We Are Were Penn State.
(© Copyright 2012 CBSDFW.COM, CBS Local Media a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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