Judging Joe Pa

Legendary coach was much more than the scandal at the end of his career

Even a colossal, mammoth, thundering, monster-truck-sized mistake is just that – a mistake. And mistakes can and should be forgiven.

Moreover, it’s not mere spectators that forgiveness is asked of.

In the case of Joe Paterno, the legendary Penn State football coach who even kicked himself for not doing more to report and prevent alleged child molestations under his nose, it’s no longer up to us to judge him. Never was, really.

And, as stunning as his failure to take the allegations more seriously was, the man was so much more than that. No one, particularly an 85-year-old who was revered and beloved, should be defined solely by his mistakes, however consequential.

“His lasting memory should dig deeper than our last memory of his career,” is how Chronicle columnist Scott Michaux put it Monday.

Paterno coached there for 62 seasons, 46 as head coach, Michaux noted – and set an academic standard that became what is now a quaint model for student-athletes.

“He lived his life more admirably than most,” Michaux wrote.

Yes, he let down the alleged victims of the apparently predatory assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, in ways he probably never would’ve forgiven himself – had he not succumbed this past weekend, only months after his retirement, to complications from lung cancer and, most likely, deep sorrow. But heaven knows how many young lives he forged and fortified over all those years.

And only heaven can judge him.

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