The cocktail wieners started smoking when I heard Paterno died. Apparently I was using too much heat or not enough sauce or wasn’t really stirring them. I dunno. The point being that I didn’t even bother to glance up from “ma cookin” when I heard he had passed. Paterno was dead and dead people don’t care about burnt cocktail wieners.
That Sunday I drank and watched football. I cursed several times for not betting on the Giants, I ate wieners and pizza, and I thought how ugly I’d look sporting Ed Reed’s man-face hairs. I cheered, I yelled, I indulged. But in the midst of it all, a tweet brought me out of my football cloud. It was only a simple peck, but it still rattled my mood and left me creeping into the thorny patch of my mind where Penn State had stained itself.
The Paterno hashtag was already rumbling at a torrent pace when I started sifting through it. It seemed like guilt and raw-emotions were piling onto the closure side of the scale, while others still fumed and radiated bile and puss. Surprisingly though, it was a one-sided battle. People still loved Joe. It seemed that decades of football and inspiration were outweighing disgrace and dismissal. I didn’t need to add to the rushing waters, but I did. I couldn’t help it. I needed to say something.
I thought it’d be simple to quickly blurt out my distaste, that I could return to my bbq sauce, processed meat and television. But it wasn’t. My thoughts quickly tangled and I couldn’t fully grasp how I felt about his death. Did I mourn for his for his legacy? No. Did I sympathize for his family over their loss? Yes. Was I still appalled about the whole mess? Yes. Didn’t I feel bad that Joe wasn’t able to truly tell his side of the story? Yes.
It was confusing. Sandusky is the real villain, but how much did the emperor really know about the kingdom he built?
I was momentarily too wrapped up in the empathy I had for his family to really see the situation for what it was. But then I snapped out of it.
I realized that Joe had spent decades trying to affect young peoples’ lives, but that he failed to act for the kids that needed him most.
Penn State had caught Sandusky in a sexually explicit act with a minor, and Joe Paterno did nothing. It was his show, his house, his program, and he chose to ignore it for a game. Or he at least let others push him into ignoring it.
The simple truth was that children were being hurt. It didn’t matter what Joe had built, he brought it all down when he turned his back to that.
And so I tweeted: Joe Paterno was and will always be a piece of shit. It didn’t add anything to the discussion, but it was enough for me to put the matter to rest and get back to my cocktail weiners.