Paterno’s Passing Not the End

It seemed like just a matter of time.  The passing of Joe Paterno is sad, especially under the cloud which his career ended.  Cancer ended his life, but in essence, it ended on November 9th.

November 9th is the day Paterno was fired as head football coach at Penn State.  At that time a life he had dedicated to the game, basically was over.  Paterno had nothing left to prove.  He had made his mark.  Now history will dictate his legacy.

Doctors announced Saturday Paterno’s condition had become ”serious” because of complications from lung cancer.  He was pronounced dead early Sunday morning.

Paterno left the game with 409 victories and two national titles.  The cancer was diagnosed shortly after Penn State’s Board of Trustees fired him on November 9 following the child sex-abuse charges against Jerry Sandusky, his former assistant and longtime friend.

Paterno’s legacy is one that will be debated for years to come.  It’s quite possible he will be remembered more for coaching too long and the Sandusky debacle, rather than being the winningest coach in College Football history. That is unfortunate, however expected in the way it ended.

He was 85 years old when he passed, and eerily his life ended much like Bear Bryant’s years ago.  Bryant died almost 6 months after he retired.  Many that knew Bryant say he died so quickly because he had lost what was driving him all those years.  He lost the game, the competition, the dedication and discipline.  Bryant knew of no other way to live.  Saturday’s were his church, his sanctuary.  Bryant’s retirement ended that and later in the subsequent months, so was his life.

The same could be said about Paterno.  When he took the phone call on November 9th from the Penn State board telling him his career was done, his passion was swept from him.  Sure it was cancer that was the cause.  But the firing took his breath away, as certain as the cancer did.

As pictures show, Paterno went downhill in the following weeks and 3 months.  One could argue he lost his drive, discipline and dedication.  Much like Bryant.

Paterno took the Nittany Lions to 37 bowl games.  He last won the National Championship in the 1986 season. More than 250 of the players he coached went on to the NFL.  Paterno’s career was predicated on helping his players after football.  He made time, calls and visits for them anytime they needed him.  And today they stand behind him and honor him.

Yes cancer may officially be the reason for his death, but the game of football was his reason for life and his death.

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