For many years I worried that it might be necessary to put John Elway down, in the way that crippled or terminal animals are dispatched. I was concerned that he might keep playing football until a force within the game that he loved finally made it impossible to continue. Happily, John finally won two Super Bowls and he was able to shamble away in that prontated way he had. There was a happy ending. Not so much with Brett Favre. Brett needed to be carted away from the NFL on a stretcher, embarrassing his family and friends on the way out with his tawdry personal life that got heaped on top of his legacy. Going out a winner is so much better.
Not everyone gets to win their last game. Such is the sad case of Joe Paterno. There is a reason why the Penn State campus erupted in chaos when it was announced that he had been fired after forty-six years as head football coach there. While at Penn State, Paterno led the Nittany Lions to seven undefeated seasons and two NCAA championships, had only five losing seasons, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007. He was even nominated for a Presidential Medal of Freedom, but that nomination was revoked, however, after the scandal broke.
The scandal. This one made Brett Favre's texting his privates seem like a schoolboy prank. It wasn't a lack of football knowledge that did Joe Pa in, it was naivete in the real world. A real world where children were abused in his teams auspices, on his watch. "I didn't know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was," he said. "So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn't work out that way."
History will tell of a great coach who stressed academics among his student athletes, who was respected and beloved by those who played for him and those who watched his teams play. It will end with his death, at the age of eighty-five, of lung cancer. What we might forget his the vortex he fell into once the scaffold of college football was taken away. What a pity that Joe Pa couldn't have gone out a winner.