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Bad sports, good sports: Joe Paterno dies at 85

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I am going to preface this column by saying that I understand that there are people out there for whom the recently revealed events at Penn State involving Jerry Sandusky, children from The Second Mile, and the leadership of the university and the football program completely invalidate the incredible career and contribution to the school of Joe Paterno. I am not one of those people. I am not here to debate this point or to belittle the opinion of others. Rather, I would like to simply express my feelings about the passing of Joseph Vincent Paterno on Sunday.

I have admired Joe for as long as I can remember. As a college freshman at Penn State’s University Park campus, I remember being in awe of him and everything else that went along with that football program: the players, Beaver Stadium, and the sea of people and RVs that surrounded the stadium on gameday. The man himself, though, was the main attraction for me. The rolled up pants, the black shoes, the coke bottle glasses, and the squeaky voice all combined to make a man that was simply larger than life. The town of State College was filled with pictures of Joe, from posters to cardboard stand-ups, to t-shirts. He was everywhere. Several times, I saw him walking around campus, chatting with anyone who made a point to talk to him. When the choir I was in was preparing to perform on the Beaver Stadium field before a football game, Joe addressed us and told us how much he appreciated our contribution to the festivities. Although I had always liked Penn State football, I was not a huge fan of the team until I got there. I was such a huge sports fan, though, that I was ripe for a complete conversion to wild Nittany Lion fandom when I arrived on campus. The fact that the team went undefeated and won the national championship that season simply cemented it all as a core part of my being. 25 years later, I am an even bigger fan than I was then, if that is possible. Joe had so much to do with that.

I can’t tell you the number of people to whom I have talked about Paterno over the years. The way he ran that program, graduating more of his players than anyone else while still putting great teams on the field on a regular basis, was astonishing. Joe would quote Shakespeare during press conferences, lead pep rallies with the enthusiasm of a student, and pace the sidelines like a caged (Nittany) lion. He arrived at Penn State as a young man who just graduated from Brown in 1950, planning to be an assistant coach for a year before going to law school. He never left. His longevity will never be matched, especially when you consider that he spent all 60+ years of his coaching career at the same school. He won more games as a head coach than anyone in major college football history, and he did it without ever compromising his belief that the players were students first and athletes second.

My Twitter and Facebook feeds were absolutely dominated by talk of Joe on Sunday. The outpouring of grief and admiration from current and former players, other coaches, and various other sports dignitaries, was amazing to see. I read statements by Mack Brown (Texas football), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke basketball), Urban Meyer (Ohio State football), and even Dick Vitale (college basketball commentator). There were so many others too, each one talking about the amazing impact Joe had on the world of sports and on the lives of countless people. One theme that I saw over and over again, especially from his former players but also from many fans, was the feeling that people had lost a member of their family. I share that feeling as well. I did not know Joe Paterno, but I feel like I did.

Again, I know there are people who can only see the mistakes Joe made. He was far from perfect, just like the rest of us. I do know that there will never be another one like him, and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience his incredible career as a student and as a fan.

Good sports, continued:

2) Before Friday, Amy Rodriguez was a solid, if unspectacular, member of the U.S. Women’s Soccer team. That all changed in less than a half against the Dominican Republic, when she scored an amazing five goals to help the Americans to a 14-0 victory. She became only the fifth American woman to score five goals in a match.

3) Continuing the theme of great soccer performances by Americans, Clint Dempsey, who plays for Fulham of the English Premier League, scored a hat trick to help his team to a victory over Newcastle on Saturday.

Bad sports:

1) Roy Williams embarrassed himself, his team, and his team’s fans last weekend at the end of the Tar Heels massive loss to Florida State. North Carolina, who entered the game ranked third in the country, was crushed by the unranked Seminoles, 90-57. Not content to simply get blown out, Williams pulled his team off the bench and into the locker room to try to avoid the inevitable students-rushing-the-court scene that was about to happen, since the game was at Florida State. The problem was that there were still 14 seconds left in the game, and five reserve Tar Heel players were still on the court. I guess Williams made it clear how much those guys meant to the team.

2) Orlando Magic forward Glen Davis, known as “Big Baby,” responded to a foul call in very odd fashion on Wednesday during a game against the San Antonio Spurs. During an argument with an official, Davis decided it was time to drop his pants. A technical foul immediately followed, as you might have guessed.

3) As I have said before, social media can be a dangerous thing, especially for people with little common sense. Charles Mainor, a politician in North Jersey, was trying to show his support for the New York Giants by posting this on his Facebook page:

“We are not going to just lay down, we come to play. Who the hell do you think we are the DALLAS COWGIRLS OR THOSE GAYBIRDS FROM PHILLY . . . NO WE ARE THE NEW YORK GIANTS.”

Oops. That wasn’t so smart. He then apologized and busted out the “I have friends that are gay” line that always works so well.

4) The Texas Rangers just spent over 100 million dollars to sign a pitcher who has never thrown a pitch in a Major League game. Yu Darvish, a star in Japan, will be joining the Rangers and making a whole lot of money.

5) Sarah Burke, a freestyle skier who made her name in the X Games, died this week after a recent crash while training. She was 29.

6) If you didn’t see that pathetic rendition of the National Anthem forced upon us by Steven Tyler before the Patriots-Ravens game on Sunday, consider yourself lucky. If you are a masochist, watch it here.

Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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2 Responses to “Bad sports, good sports: Joe Paterno dies at 85”

  1. Steven Tyler was very bad.

  2. I posted on Facebook that Steven Tyler should kick himself off of American Idol for that performance.

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