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Paterno Remembered in Emotional Ceremony

Sue Paterno, widow of Joe Paterno, consoles her grandson following a public memorial for former Penn State Football coach Joe Paterno. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Nearly 12,000 people packed the Bryce Jordan Center on the campus of Penn State to pay tribute to the man affectionately known as ‘JoePa.’  Undoubtedly, millions more watched on television.

Former players, colleagues, and friends shared stories, laughs, and tears.  It was every bit as emotional as one would expect.

I couldn’t have been any farther from the location or situation, but I was almost moved to tears on several occasions as I watching on an elliptical machine at the gym.

The dean of the liberal arts college talked about how much the old coach valued education and wanted to ensure the classics would not be forgotten.

Former Paterno player and present day broadcaster Jimmy Cefalo reminded the audience about Paterno’s ‘Grand Experiment.’  Paterno envisioned an environment at Penn State that perfectly melded academics and athletics.  Was it a utopia, of course not.  Paterno had to deal with his fair share of disciplinary issues and players who didn’t live up to his lofty academic standards.

About three speakers in, something clicked.  Maybe it was the endorphins kicking in from my workout, but I had a realization.  Joe Paterno was an idealist.  Joe Paterno wasn’t different from many of the professors he interacted with on a daily basis.  The only difference was that Paterno was entrusted with a major football program that gave him a larger platform and stature.

There were delicate mentions of the recent scandal that led to Paterno’s termination as head football coach.  Everyone who mentioned the scandal was quick to point out that Paterno was not and should never be considered the villain.

I understand that there will be a certain segment of society that will never be able to separate all the good Paterno did from the Sandusky scandal.

However, after hearing all the people from different walks of life speak at Paterno’s memorial one thing became evident; Joe Paterno’s ‘Grand Experiment’ was a resounding success.

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